Member concerns may be something you dread dealing with — an angry customer on the phone or ready to charge into your office to demand something be fixed. No matter how smooth of an operation you run, member concerns are unavoidable.
Rather than viewing member issues as a low point of the day, think of them as an opportunity. This member cared enough about wanting things to go right with their membership that they took the time to seek out you or one of your managers to discuss it. You have a chance to correct their concern and win them over as lifelong members.
Are your policies customer first?
If you feel you are experiencing a higher-than-average amount of member concerns, you may want to take a hard look at your policies and make sure they are putting the needs of your customers first. Think about this. If you required members to fill out a liability waiver each and every time they worked out, this would be seen as tedious and frustrating. “Don’t you have this information on file already? Why do I have to stop and fill out something new every time I work out?” These are some of the obvious questions you would get daily if you had this ridiculous, antiquated policy.
While that is a highly unlikely scenario, you may have existing policies that could be improved to benefit your members. For example, if a member is owed a refund, can you fix this quickly and electronically with minimal effort required from the member? Believe it or not, some health clubs require members to come into the facility and collect cash when due a refund. Not only is this approach inconvenient for your members, keeping large amounts of cash on site is not the safest for your staff either.
Turning it around
The true art of handling member concerns is when you can flip the scenario into a positive one. Here are some steps to take to make lemonade out of a sour member situation:
- Bring them into a calmer environment. If in-person, take them into your office. Offer them a seat. If on the phone, ask them to hold on for a brief moment so you can move to your office and give them your undivided attention.
- Listen, listen, then listen some more. Before you ever address anything, give the member a chance to let it all out. Show care and concern. You can reassure them that you will do whatever you can to fix the situation if there is a pause, but give them a chance to fully express their frustrations with your full attention. The interesting thing about customer service issues is that there is usually an underlying cause that set them off, and sometimes, it may not even have much to do with your business. If you give them a chance to talk through how they are feeling, they may even realize this on their own.
- Listen for underlying causes that you CAN help with and strive to make a deeper connection. Is your member really mad about a piece of equipment being broken, or is their real frustration trouble losing weight despite their constant efforts? If you get the chance to connect with this person on a deeper level, they might open up to you. What a great opportunity to truly help someone change their life through fitness, which is why you are in this business after all! Start thinking of what you can offer to help with their true concern.
- Thank them for coming to you. This is a chance to let your member know how much you appreciate their business and their time. The fact that they care enough about being a member to come talk to someone, and not just cancel and leave a nasty review, speaks volumes to how they feel about your health club! Genuinely thank them for coming in and giving you a chance to make it right.
- Once they have fully vented, you can now offer a solution. A downfall of trying to provide a solution too quickly before they have a chance to relay all their concerns, is that you may not know enough to provide the best possible solution. You have now taken the time to listen and provide a solution.
- If it is a policy problem, explain what you plan to do to work on the policy. At this point, you should have built a great rapport with this person, so be as honest as you can and try to get them to empathize with you. For example: “I understand how frustrating it is to have to show up 10 minutes before class to get a spin bike, especially when you are dealing with rush hour traffic to make it to class at all. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, as I’m sure there are other members experiencing the same frustrations. The reason we do this is to give every member a fair chance to take the class. What I can do is present this in our next leader’s meeting. We will put our heads together to see if we can come up with something that works better for everyone.”
- Offer up something great. Think back to where you had an opportunity to dig deeper and find out what was really bothering them. Is the class time available not working well with their schedule and they are struggling to reach their fitness goals? “What I’d like to do is offer you two complimentary personal training sessions with one of our best trainers. We can schedule these 15 minutes later than the class you are trying to attend. The trainer will show you some pointers to meet your goals even faster.” Would they enjoy the facility more with a friend? Another option is to offer a free one month pass to their spouse or friend.
- Don’t make promises you cannot keep. Yes, you want to make the member happy, but you also have the rest of your membership base to consider. The worst thing you can do is promise to make drastic changes that you cannot follow through with. Instead, explain what you can and cannot change and that you will consider modifications to the existing policy.
- Follow through. If you have ridiculous policies like requiring members to come get cash for refunds, these may require more urgent changes. Follow through and make changes to antiquated policies like these before the next complaint arises.
- Follow up. Want to really win this member over? Give them a call in a couple days to thank them once more and that you hope all is well. Make small talk and make it known that you care about them. That is how you win over a lifelong member!
Taking a closer look at your policies that are causing multiple-member concerns should be an ongoing self-evaluation. Technologies change and advance every day, and businesses should be making strides to keep up with them. If you have a policy that needs changing, think of how you can alter it and put the member first. In the meantime, if you get the opportunity to take on a member concern, don’t take it lightly.