We know that member satisfaction is key to the success of any membership driven business. However, there is a fine line between member satisfaction and members dictating how the business is ran.
Setting the Precedence
When a gym bends the rules for one member, an expectation is set that the behavior will repeat. Perhaps you open up the doors fifteen minutes early, or let a member stay late to get in a few extra sets. While this seems harmless and falls in line with the member satisfaction mindset, you must also think of the long term impact of bending your own rules.
The next day, the member will expect the same thing. This can create a customer service issue if you no longer offer that above and beyond treatment. It also puts other employees in an awkward position, hearing from the member that the owner let them stay while knowing that they are not supposed to allow this themselves.
Any precedence that is set, especially in the beginning days of operating a new fitness studio, will be expected going forward. Ask any gym owner or general manager of a high-growth franchise that has a towel service if they have ever tried to get rid of it later on in order to cut costs. Once that towel service is established, it is hard to stop offering it later. People get used to having that fresh warm linen available when they arrive for their workout, and as consumers, they will find it difficult to understand why that would change.
Being Firm on Billing Policies
Another example is billing. Be firm on your billing policies, but kind and patient in explaining them. Prepare an explanation as to why you require banking information for monthly drafts and do not to waiver. Avoid telling people they can pay cash prior to their billing date to avoid charges. Botched payment collection can create a slew of customer service issues. What if the billing had already started and it still hits their account? Some gyms have a strict no cash policy from the beginning to avoid putting their staff in awkward positions, and also to create a safety net to prevent potential theft.
In addition to billing policies and hours of operation, standardizing guest policies will also stave off possible issues. If Customer Service Rep Randy let Member Melissa bring her second cousin visiting from Minnesota to class 3 times already and you stop her on the fourth, you look like the bad guy. Have your guest policies posted and train your staff. Role play during training for enhanced execution. Perhaps you allow members to bring an out of town guest up to 5 times per year free of charge, or maybe only local guests receive a one time free visit with proof of local residency. Whatever you feel is fair for your particular gym must be established and held firmly across the board for all members.
Striking the Balance
“So what is the big deal? Maybe I want to let someone bring an extra guest, or pay cash one month. Maybe I want to try towel service for just a couple months.”
As simple as these things sound, they can quickly spiral. You may lose control unless you set strong policies from the beginning. A simple favor may lead to more in an effort to be fair to all. This can ultimately lead to unrealistic expectations and bad reviews. In this way even good intentions can cause negative customer service experiences.
A better approach is to set your policies, train your staff to enforce them politely, and find a balance. It is also important to listen to member feedback. Make a note of any demands and inform members that their feedback is important. If you have several members with the same request, carefully examine the feasibility of each request. Chances are, they are going to respect this approach. Consider the extra payroll you will be adding for the entire year, and any other costs involved. Add the class and mention to members it that it is temporary and based on attendance. Make it known that all classes require a set attendance level to keep their place on the calendar.
All in all, you want happy, satisfied members. Strike a balance between giving members what they want while still thinking of the overall good of the business. Remember, delivery is everything. If you have clearly written out policies, and you and your team have practiced how to enforce these kindly but firmly, you will be on track to a perfect balance of member satisfaction and business success.