From surprising to mundane, what a lot of wellness customers wish you’d do differently in your health club, fitness center or employee wellness and healthy lifestyle programs
1. Tell customers about your staff and their credentials.
We heard several gripes about staff who don’t wear name tags. Several folks also complained about fitness centers that don’t post their staff pictures with a brief bio and list of educational accomplishments and credentials. One person bragged on his local fitness center, which has a gallery covering an entire wall with pictures of the fitness staff and short bios with their credentials.
2. Replying to a question doesn’t mean you answered it.
One subscriber told us about asking multiple staffers at her health club whether or not she can use various machines to build core strength. Everyone’s been quick to explain why those aren’t the machines to use, but no one’s told her what equipment or exercises she SHOULD use. Keep yourself honest: after you answer a client or member question, explicitly ask them: “Did that answer your question?” or “What else can I tell you about?”.
3. Mind your own business.
We heard from several subscribers who are health club members with various health concerns. They’ve been peacefully working out, often with headsets, when they were interrupted mid-workout by commission-based trainers prowling for clients who told them that they “should” be lifting more weight, attaining an extended range of motion, increasing their intensity, etc. Of course, these trainers have zero knowledge about these members. In one case, for example, the subscriber in question has long-term back injuries from an industrial accident. A word of advice: when you do feel it’s appropriate to approach members, wait for them to complete the set. And if they’re in the middle of an intense cardio session complete with headset, don’t interrupt them at all unless there’s an immediate safety issue.
4. Jeez! Take out the garbage!
Believe it or not, readers say keeping your business clean and tidy is a frequent issue. Although they mentioned overflowing garbage cans and used-towel receptacles, this issue’s not limited to health clubs. We heard complaints about specialty retailers with disorganized shelves, misplaced items that never seem to find their way home even after several weeks, and bits of trash and debris on the floor. We also heard about miscellaneous junk “stored” in customer areas. This gripe also included parking lots and the area outside your front door. One specific complaint: employees who smoke and leave cigarette butts on the sidewalk used by customers. Our advice: every wellness business should enforce a no-exceptions/no-smoking policy.
5. If we’ve met dozens of times, you should at least recognize my face.
A constant offender for almost every wellness business with a high level of repeat business. Your customers expect you to recognize their faces, even if you don’t know their names. They expect appropriate chit-chat that shows you remember them and what matters to them. We heard from several subscribers who share our pet peeve on this one.
6. Know your stuff.
Being perceived as a credible and authoritative source of health and wellness information leads to sales in this industry. It’s not about being glib or silver-tongued or pressuring people to buy. We heard from a subscriber who sang the praises of one of his store managers. Their company offers nutritional supplements and functional foods. The store manager uses a consultative approach with customers, educating them about the products through casual conversation and seminars. No hard sell whatsoever. Customers love it, and the focus on sharing useful info overcomes their initial doubts.
7. You’re not your client’s best friend.
A friendly relationship doesn’t mean that your client is your new best friend. We heard from the former client of a massage therapist. After several satisfactory years, he switched because his former therapist started sharing the turmoil caused by a recent divorce and household move. As he put it, “I have my own issues. I wish her life were going better, but I don’t want to hear all about her custody problems, her eviction, her money problems, the guy she just broke up with.”
8. Value and respect your clients and customers.
Surely the role of wellness businesses is to respect our clients and customers, without judging them, while supporting them in their desire to improve their lives. Yet we heard stories: yoga instructors, groupX instructors, and trainers who treated overweight clients with disrespect and a startling lack of empathy. Dietitians who treated adults as if they were disobedient children. Trainers who talked on cell phones during client sessions. Wellness coaches who stared off into the distance while clients were talking. Unfortunately those who commit these sins probably won’t recognize themselves in this description. But if you own or manage a wellness business, observe sessions and talk to customers to find out what’s really happening in your facility.
9. If you promise free newsletters or workshops, do it or stop promising it.
Several folks use health clubs, personal trainers and dietitians who promised to provide certain freebies: a monthly newsletter, free workshops, periodic seminars. Yet they’ve never seen any sign of these value-added extras. You don’t have to offer these things to succeed – but if you do promise them, deliver!
10. Make it easy.
Is your company easy to do business with? A couple of responses nailed the “pointless paperwork” problem. For example, one client filled out vital statistics on one form, only to be asked for it again by another staffer. Another subscriber griped about a wellness coach who doesn’t use e-mail and insists on faxing everything. One subscriber tried to rent a conference room at a local fitness center over a year ago. After leaving several messages she has yet to get any reply at all. Someone else just gave up on her local health club after visiting twice in the evenings hoping to tour and probably join…but wasn’t willing to wait for the lone salesperson.
11. Know the rules
Employers have been burned by health coaches, yoga instructors, fitness professionals and personal trainers who come from private practice or consumer businesses like health clubs and yoga studios, and are clueless about the special concerns that employers have. For example, health clubs don’t generally have to give HIPAA a thought — but employers are extremely sensitive about keeping employee health info confidential. Yoga isntructors often wear very revealing clothing and touch students without asking. Both scenarios are a real problem for many companies and can result in complaints about sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. And personal trainers who recommend supplements? Again, a real problem for employers who don’t want to risk that kind of liability.
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