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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Management series: Show them you care

Chris Lane reports on the link between good management and customer care

Published in Health Club Management 2014 issue 8
In my experience, the way people are mostly managed in the health and fitness industry does not lead to, or support, a customer-focused culture

For the purposes of this article, let’s define customer service as meeting customers’ expectations, and customer care as exceeding them. Customer service, no matter how good it is, does not make you money – largely because people expect it. Customer care, on the other hand, does make money.

You’d think that at the heart of customer care you’d find, well, the customer – and you’d be right. But it’s probably not the customer you’re thinking of. Counter-intuitive though it may seem, the external customer actually comes second in this process. It’s only by caring about your internal customers – ie your staff – that you will develop a culture that delivers customer care to your paying customers.

Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks, summed it up when he said: “You cannot expect your team to exceed the expectations of your customer if you do not exceed their expectations of how they should be managed.”

Humans have two fundamental needs. Firstly, they need to feel part of something bigger than themselves, something that adds to the meaning of their lives. Secondly, they need to be recognised and appreciated for their own contribution. An organisation that fulfils these needs in its people will invariably exceed the expectations of its customers.

Anita Roddick, late founder of Body Shop, said: “l wanted to work for a company that contributes to and is part of the community. I want something not just to invest in, but to believe in and give me a reason for getting out of bed.”

So the message to managers is clear. Before you can even begin to look after your customers, you must look after your staff: understanding their need to be individuals and giving them opportunity to be so; asking their opinion and acting on it; and recognising and rewarding the behaviours you want to cultivate.

Top down…
In my experience, the way people are mostly managed in the health and fitness industry does not lead to, or support, a customer-focused culture.

The million-dollar question is: What style of management ignites the service flame in people? Because whatever it is, it has to start at the top: every company that delivers great customer care must have a commitment to excellence from the CEO downwards. What chance does a caring culture have to grow if the CEO walks past people and ignores them, if he doesn’t greet his management team by name, if he doesn’t know what challenges they’re facing in both their business and private lives; who treats his employees simply as a resource rather than the key to the success of the business?

Here are some steps to consider. Firstly, have a strong, clear vision of how your organisation should be run, and how it can contribute to the lives of both your internal and external customers. Have a clearly visible mission statement that makes it obvious to customers and staff what you’re about. Have strong values and operating principles that bring the mission statement to life and are adhered to every day, by everyone from the CEO to the cleaner.

When I held my weekly management meetings, which would often last the entire morning, I would ask every head of department beforehand what they would like to see on the agenda, and I expected every one of them to make a relevant contribution on every topic. When they ran their own departmental meetings, I would have them stick to the same principle of team involvement.

Whenever a new GM came in, they always thought they could cut back on the length of the management meeting, only to find that after three or four weeks the team became twitchy and grumpy. They felt they were no longer being involved and kept in the loop. Invariably the meetings were, by public demand, reinstated back to their normal format.

… or bottom-up?
In his book The Practice of Management, Peter Drucker says: “What we call management often consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done, with little consideration towards helping them be good at it.”

So having said that it all starts at the top, arguably the real work in developing a caring culture starts from the bottom up. That’s the style of management we advocate. It’s a management mindset which recognises that people work with you, not just for you; that they’re the greatest asset of the company. It’s a style that believes in challenging and empowering people.

A bottom-up manager selects (not hires) the right people – those who love to serve others – and de-selects the wrong ones quickly. She sells the company’s dream and walks the talk herself. She creates opportunities, sets challenges and gives the opportunity for everyone to get involved. She delegates effectively, with appropriate authority, but without abdicating herself of responsibility. She creates structures that facilitate and encourage maximum individual and team performance. She recognises, rewards and reinforces behaviour throughout the company, turning ordinary team members into ‘heroes’ who, in turn, inspire others to extraordinary performance. She commits to helping her team develop and maximise its capabilities. She shows empathy by listening to others’ feelings and perspectives. She’s aware of her own strengths and weaknesses. And she always shows integrity, acting in a fair and transparent manner.

Recently, a survey by the Customer Care Institute (CCI) found that what employees are looking for from their employers is, in order of priority:
1. To feel a sense of purpose in what they do
2. To be kept in the loop at all times
3. To be set challenging goals and given responsibility
4. To see genuine transparency and commitment from management
5. To feel genuinely appreciated

In a similar survey run to find out what employers thought employees wanted from them, the top five were:
1. Good wages and bonus system
2. Job security
3. Promotional opportunities
4. Good working conditions

Interesting work
This discrepancy does not surprise me. In fact I believe it’s the very essence of the matter. It’s absolutely true to say that a person’s commitment and engagement to a project is directly proportional to the input they’re allowed to have. The solution is to give real ownership to your club managers, who then pass on that challenge to their heads of department, who in turn pass it on to those on the shop floor. Managers need to have systems in place that constantly ask for input from operational staff and club members alike – input which is listened to and implemented where appropriate.

For example, in the Ritz Carlton Group, each under-performing area or aspect of the hotel was allocated a small group of frontline/operational staff. It was their responsibility to diagnose and solve the challenges that were being faced and report their findings and solutions back to the general manager, who would then either implement their findings or else discuss it further with them. Either way, the team knew their opinion was important and listened to.

This builds team engagement like nothing else. How many clubs have asked club members to be part of a customer focus group in exchange for a small reduction in their subscription? They become your biggest and most vocal supporters, simply because you’re listening to them. Success is about implementing a genuine customer-orientated culture that totally engages both staff and customers.

Exceeding expectations
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, once said: “The goal as a company is to not just to have customer service that is the best, but to have customer care that is legendary.”

Let me give you an example. A friend of mine recently took his Lexus car in for a service. His car was booked in efficiently by a friendly receptionist who urged him to ‘have a good day’ as she put the phone down. The car was serviced properly, ready on time and all for the price quoted. That’s customer service.

When he got home he realised he’d left his briefcase in the reception area, so he rang the garage to ask whether they had found it, which they had. Without hesitation, the duty manager immediately dispatched a courtesy car, at no cost to my friend, to return his briefcase. That’s customer care.

What do you think he was telling his friends about the next day? The efficiency of the car service or the fact that they dispatched a car to do a 20-mile round trip to return his briefcase at no charge? That’s priceless.

I’ll give you a favourite from our club. A female member came rushing to the front desk to check in one of her children for a kids’ class. She had to take her other eight-year-old child to Guildford, about 10 miles away, for a piano lesson – but her car had a puncture and she asked if we could call a taxi to take the child to the piano lesson.

My duty manager, Charles, felt her child was too young to be put in a taxi on her own, so asked a female colleague to deliver the member’s daughter to Guildford herself. He then asked our maintenance fellow to change the member’s tyre. What was that member talking about the next time she met up with her friends?

When we talked about customer care and exceeding expectations, every team member – full or part-time – knew that, in the event of a customer being dissatisfied with any aspect of our service or product, they could spend up to £25 to recover the situation without consulting anyone. They were expected to take ownership of any situation on the spot and that was the level of engagement I expected from the entire team.

As a manager, you have to create the mindset among your team to actively look for opportunities to show that, as a company, you genuinely care. The ‘showing you care’ list (see above) offers just a few simple suggestions.

Exceeding expectations
Your company needs to be like a stick of rock. No matter which way you cut it, and no matter who cuts it – your team or your customers – it must simply say: “We care.”

If companies put their energies into what really matters, they create a culture focused on the internal customer, and this will ultimately engender a spirit of genuine care towards the external customer, which in turn will contribute significantly to the bottom line.

Showing you care

How do you say ‘we care’ on the gym floor? Here are a few options for you to discuss with your team:

* Never pass any member without acknowledging them
* Choose to work out with a member in a quieter, off-peak time at no charge
* Contact one of the 60 per cent that no one recognises each day
* Fill the member’s water bottle
* Take fresh or dried fruit or mints around unexpectedly and for no reason
* Go up and ask a member for their opinion of the gym
* Do a free ‘Ab Attack’ to 10 members every hour – listen for the whistle!
* Track members’ participation and, when they don’t use the gym for more than 10 days, send them a ‘we miss you’ card
* Check members’ pulse rates at random to show you’re interested
* Publicly recognise members’ achievements
* Acknowledge members’ birthdays and membership anniversaries
* Say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to everyone, regardless of how busy you are

Chris Lane
Chris Lane

Chris Lane built the award-winning Chris Lane Tennis and Health Club, which he sold in 2002 to Whitbread, then owner of the David Lloyd Leisure clubs.

He has recently launched a consultancy, Chris Lane Consulting, which aims to help companies offer an outstanding customer experience by developing their awareness of the link between customer care, bottom-up management and the customer experience.

Email: [email protected] Web: www.chrislaneconsulting.com

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Work out with a member at no charge during off-peak times / Photo: shutterstock.com
Work out with a member at no charge during off-peak times / Photo: shutterstock.com
Little details like filling a member’s water bottle can make all the difference and turn them into vocal fans of your club / Photo: shutterstock.com
Little details like filling a member’s water bottle can make all the difference and turn them into vocal fans of your club / Photo: shutterstock.com
Members expect good customer service – customer care is about exceeding those expectations / Photo: shutterstock.com/Alex Gontar
Members expect good customer service – customer care is about exceeding those expectations / Photo: shutterstock.com/Alex Gontar
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/HCM2014_8Mseries.jpg
Chris Lane reports on the link between good management and customer care, outlining how a focus on staff satisfaction can translate into huge benefits for end customers
Chris Lane,Customer care, customer service
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features

Management series: Show them you care

Chris Lane reports on the link between good management and customer care

Published in Health Club Management 2014 issue 8
In my experience, the way people are mostly managed in the health and fitness industry does not lead to, or support, a customer-focused culture

For the purposes of this article, let’s define customer service as meeting customers’ expectations, and customer care as exceeding them. Customer service, no matter how good it is, does not make you money – largely because people expect it. Customer care, on the other hand, does make money.

You’d think that at the heart of customer care you’d find, well, the customer – and you’d be right. But it’s probably not the customer you’re thinking of. Counter-intuitive though it may seem, the external customer actually comes second in this process. It’s only by caring about your internal customers – ie your staff – that you will develop a culture that delivers customer care to your paying customers.

Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks, summed it up when he said: “You cannot expect your team to exceed the expectations of your customer if you do not exceed their expectations of how they should be managed.”

Humans have two fundamental needs. Firstly, they need to feel part of something bigger than themselves, something that adds to the meaning of their lives. Secondly, they need to be recognised and appreciated for their own contribution. An organisation that fulfils these needs in its people will invariably exceed the expectations of its customers.

Anita Roddick, late founder of Body Shop, said: “l wanted to work for a company that contributes to and is part of the community. I want something not just to invest in, but to believe in and give me a reason for getting out of bed.”

So the message to managers is clear. Before you can even begin to look after your customers, you must look after your staff: understanding their need to be individuals and giving them opportunity to be so; asking their opinion and acting on it; and recognising and rewarding the behaviours you want to cultivate.

Top down…
In my experience, the way people are mostly managed in the health and fitness industry does not lead to, or support, a customer-focused culture.

The million-dollar question is: What style of management ignites the service flame in people? Because whatever it is, it has to start at the top: every company that delivers great customer care must have a commitment to excellence from the CEO downwards. What chance does a caring culture have to grow if the CEO walks past people and ignores them, if he doesn’t greet his management team by name, if he doesn’t know what challenges they’re facing in both their business and private lives; who treats his employees simply as a resource rather than the key to the success of the business?

Here are some steps to consider. Firstly, have a strong, clear vision of how your organisation should be run, and how it can contribute to the lives of both your internal and external customers. Have a clearly visible mission statement that makes it obvious to customers and staff what you’re about. Have strong values and operating principles that bring the mission statement to life and are adhered to every day, by everyone from the CEO to the cleaner.

When I held my weekly management meetings, which would often last the entire morning, I would ask every head of department beforehand what they would like to see on the agenda, and I expected every one of them to make a relevant contribution on every topic. When they ran their own departmental meetings, I would have them stick to the same principle of team involvement.

Whenever a new GM came in, they always thought they could cut back on the length of the management meeting, only to find that after three or four weeks the team became twitchy and grumpy. They felt they were no longer being involved and kept in the loop. Invariably the meetings were, by public demand, reinstated back to their normal format.

… or bottom-up?
In his book The Practice of Management, Peter Drucker says: “What we call management often consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done, with little consideration towards helping them be good at it.”

So having said that it all starts at the top, arguably the real work in developing a caring culture starts from the bottom up. That’s the style of management we advocate. It’s a management mindset which recognises that people work with you, not just for you; that they’re the greatest asset of the company. It’s a style that believes in challenging and empowering people.

A bottom-up manager selects (not hires) the right people – those who love to serve others – and de-selects the wrong ones quickly. She sells the company’s dream and walks the talk herself. She creates opportunities, sets challenges and gives the opportunity for everyone to get involved. She delegates effectively, with appropriate authority, but without abdicating herself of responsibility. She creates structures that facilitate and encourage maximum individual and team performance. She recognises, rewards and reinforces behaviour throughout the company, turning ordinary team members into ‘heroes’ who, in turn, inspire others to extraordinary performance. She commits to helping her team develop and maximise its capabilities. She shows empathy by listening to others’ feelings and perspectives. She’s aware of her own strengths and weaknesses. And she always shows integrity, acting in a fair and transparent manner.

Recently, a survey by the Customer Care Institute (CCI) found that what employees are looking for from their employers is, in order of priority:
1. To feel a sense of purpose in what they do
2. To be kept in the loop at all times
3. To be set challenging goals and given responsibility
4. To see genuine transparency and commitment from management
5. To feel genuinely appreciated

In a similar survey run to find out what employers thought employees wanted from them, the top five were:
1. Good wages and bonus system
2. Job security
3. Promotional opportunities
4. Good working conditions

Interesting work
This discrepancy does not surprise me. In fact I believe it’s the very essence of the matter. It’s absolutely true to say that a person’s commitment and engagement to a project is directly proportional to the input they’re allowed to have. The solution is to give real ownership to your club managers, who then pass on that challenge to their heads of department, who in turn pass it on to those on the shop floor. Managers need to have systems in place that constantly ask for input from operational staff and club members alike – input which is listened to and implemented where appropriate.

For example, in the Ritz Carlton Group, each under-performing area or aspect of the hotel was allocated a small group of frontline/operational staff. It was their responsibility to diagnose and solve the challenges that were being faced and report their findings and solutions back to the general manager, who would then either implement their findings or else discuss it further with them. Either way, the team knew their opinion was important and listened to.

This builds team engagement like nothing else. How many clubs have asked club members to be part of a customer focus group in exchange for a small reduction in their subscription? They become your biggest and most vocal supporters, simply because you’re listening to them. Success is about implementing a genuine customer-orientated culture that totally engages both staff and customers.

Exceeding expectations
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, once said: “The goal as a company is to not just to have customer service that is the best, but to have customer care that is legendary.”

Let me give you an example. A friend of mine recently took his Lexus car in for a service. His car was booked in efficiently by a friendly receptionist who urged him to ‘have a good day’ as she put the phone down. The car was serviced properly, ready on time and all for the price quoted. That’s customer service.

When he got home he realised he’d left his briefcase in the reception area, so he rang the garage to ask whether they had found it, which they had. Without hesitation, the duty manager immediately dispatched a courtesy car, at no cost to my friend, to return his briefcase. That’s customer care.

What do you think he was telling his friends about the next day? The efficiency of the car service or the fact that they dispatched a car to do a 20-mile round trip to return his briefcase at no charge? That’s priceless.

I’ll give you a favourite from our club. A female member came rushing to the front desk to check in one of her children for a kids’ class. She had to take her other eight-year-old child to Guildford, about 10 miles away, for a piano lesson – but her car had a puncture and she asked if we could call a taxi to take the child to the piano lesson.

My duty manager, Charles, felt her child was too young to be put in a taxi on her own, so asked a female colleague to deliver the member’s daughter to Guildford herself. He then asked our maintenance fellow to change the member’s tyre. What was that member talking about the next time she met up with her friends?

When we talked about customer care and exceeding expectations, every team member – full or part-time – knew that, in the event of a customer being dissatisfied with any aspect of our service or product, they could spend up to £25 to recover the situation without consulting anyone. They were expected to take ownership of any situation on the spot and that was the level of engagement I expected from the entire team.

As a manager, you have to create the mindset among your team to actively look for opportunities to show that, as a company, you genuinely care. The ‘showing you care’ list (see above) offers just a few simple suggestions.

Exceeding expectations
Your company needs to be like a stick of rock. No matter which way you cut it, and no matter who cuts it – your team or your customers – it must simply say: “We care.”

If companies put their energies into what really matters, they create a culture focused on the internal customer, and this will ultimately engender a spirit of genuine care towards the external customer, which in turn will contribute significantly to the bottom line.

Showing you care

How do you say ‘we care’ on the gym floor? Here are a few options for you to discuss with your team:

* Never pass any member without acknowledging them
* Choose to work out with a member in a quieter, off-peak time at no charge
* Contact one of the 60 per cent that no one recognises each day
* Fill the member’s water bottle
* Take fresh or dried fruit or mints around unexpectedly and for no reason
* Go up and ask a member for their opinion of the gym
* Do a free ‘Ab Attack’ to 10 members every hour – listen for the whistle!
* Track members’ participation and, when they don’t use the gym for more than 10 days, send them a ‘we miss you’ card
* Check members’ pulse rates at random to show you’re interested
* Publicly recognise members’ achievements
* Acknowledge members’ birthdays and membership anniversaries
* Say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to everyone, regardless of how busy you are

Chris Lane
Chris Lane

Chris Lane built the award-winning Chris Lane Tennis and Health Club, which he sold in 2002 to Whitbread, then owner of the David Lloyd Leisure clubs.

He has recently launched a consultancy, Chris Lane Consulting, which aims to help companies offer an outstanding customer experience by developing their awareness of the link between customer care, bottom-up management and the customer experience.

Email: [email protected] Web: www.chrislaneconsulting.com

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Work out with a member at no charge during off-peak times / Photo: shutterstock.com
Work out with a member at no charge during off-peak times / Photo: shutterstock.com
Little details like filling a member’s water bottle can make all the difference and turn them into vocal fans of your club / Photo: shutterstock.com
Little details like filling a member’s water bottle can make all the difference and turn them into vocal fans of your club / Photo: shutterstock.com
Members expect good customer service – customer care is about exceeding those expectations / Photo: shutterstock.com/Alex Gontar
Members expect good customer service – customer care is about exceeding those expectations / Photo: shutterstock.com/Alex Gontar
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/HCM2014_8Mseries.jpg
Chris Lane reports on the link between good management and customer care, outlining how a focus on staff satisfaction can translate into huge benefits for end customers
Chris Lane,Customer care, customer service
Latest News
Music service provider Rehegoo (pronounced Reg-go) has launched a streaming service for health clubs, gyms, ...
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The best in the business from across the physical activity sector were honoured last night ...
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Featured supplier news: It’s nearly time for Elevate 2022!
It’s now just days to go until your leading trade show for the fitness, physical activity and sports therapy industry kicks off in London!
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: How wearables-driven gamification will boost your business
It’s a known fact that gamification is an effective method to make everyday activities and work more fun.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: New £42m Moorways Sports Village to open on 21 May
Everyone Active will open Moorways Sports Village to the public on Saturday 21 May with a grand opening weekend – in time for the half term holidays.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active to launch new exercise classes to reduce gender gap
As part of their work to break down the barriers that deter women and girls from participating in sport and physical activity, Everyone Active has teamed up with EMD UK to launch new exercise classes linked to the This Girl Can campaign.
Video Gallery
Mindbody, Inc
Sport Alliance GmbH
Total Vibration Solutions / Floors 4 Gyms / TVS Sports Surfaces
Company profiles
Company profile: REGUPOL BSW GmbH
REGUPOL is one of the leading suppliers of sports and safety flooring, anti-slip mats for ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Les Mills UK
For over 50 years Les Mills has been leading the way in fitness to inspire ...
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Click on a catalogue to view it online
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