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You Got Served: Hospitality in the Fitness Industry

This is my pop culture side coming out again. You know the phrase well: "You got served!" Most times this statement is preceded by some extraordinary insult, sports play or high energy dance performance. The bottom line is somebody does something super amazing to showcase their talents and abilities and lets the world know about it- especially their opponent.

While I am NOT suggesting that everyone go out and try getting in someones face and saying this, I am suggesting that there is a lesson here. Extraordinary experiences should be celebrated. And honestly, when I walk into a health club, gym or any fitness business, I better get served!

Why do I say that? It's not because I have a superiority complex- but because as a customer, I expect to have a extraordinary experience. This is what bothers me about the health and fitness industry. We look at ourselves as a stand alone industry when we are really just a small but strong branch under the bigger hospitality industry. Need proof?

Hospitality is the relationship between the guest and the host, or the act or practice of being hospitable. This includes the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt describes hospitality in the Encyclopédie as the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity (wikipedia)

Or as Miriam Webster's online dictionary defines it: the generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests.

And there you have it. As a fitness business, we serve people. They pay a fee, large or small, and expect to be taken care of. I can't tell you the number of clubs I have been in around the world where my initial customer experience was sub par. That really sets the tone for the rest of the visit. So with that said, do you call it a "front desk" or a "reception desk"? Are your people considered "desk attendants" or "hospitality staff"? Little things like this can go a long way to how everything is perceived, including your attitude toward this critical component of reaching and sustaining maximum profitability.

To help drive this point home, lets go out of the fitness world for a moment and into another branch of the hospitality industry.

Danny Meyer, best known for being the founder of Shake Shack had some great observations on this very same topic.

His definition: "Service is just a measure of whether product delivers on its promise"

Interesting. Does your fitness business deliver on its promises- especially those you put out in all of your marketing campaigns?

"Hospitality is how you make the customers feel when they are receiving this service. 100% of people who receive hospitality believe the people behind the business are on their side."

Oh snap. Customers have feelings?! Yikes..better start taking that into account.

Here are 3 of his suggestions on how to do this:

1. Put your Employees First.

The first step in creating an extraordinary member experience is by focusing on your employees. Since your employees are the primary source of interaction with your members and potential members, it is essential that your team is taken care of.

If you have unhappy employees how can you expect them to create an extraordinary experience for your members?

2. Set your business apart by how you make people feel..

Once your staff becomes empowered and motivated by the work that they do, have them focus on the THOUGHTFUL things. What things can you and your team do that would appeal to the members feelings?

Fresh flowers in the ladies locker room? Consideration for seniors or moms by giving them priority parking spaces? What can you do in this regard?

3. Do what you said you were going to do.

Meyer thinks that the one consistent aspect of service is that there should be a level of expectation both on the part of management and on the part of your guests that you’re going to do what you said you were going to do, timing wise, delivery wise, et cetera.

Bingo. You must deliver, 100% of the time. I tell my clients that you don't have to be perfect right away, but just be consistent. This requires an owner and management team that are truly committed to remarkable customer experiences and are willing to create, modify or implement a system for delivering that outstanding experience.

Just remember, if you don't do it, or don't do it good enough- somebody else in your market will. I just hope that the next time I or anyone else walks into your club we get served! And you know what? You won't have to do the bragging about it, because all of us who had the remarkable experience will do it for you.

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