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The first impression is everything: the front desk of a fitness centre

The technical service offered by fitness centres is without a doubt what drives users to approach the world of fitness. Having a state-of-the-art facility with modern equipment, ample space for a wide range of fitness activities and a plethora of additional services (spas, restaurants, etc.) are classic examples of how a fitness centre can stand out from competition.

Yet, the structure is only one of the two main factors that define the quality of a fitness centre. The other, often more neglected, is the service offered by the centre, that is, everything that is not tangible but essential to convince the user that their fitness centre is the right one for them, the place where they would like to train and relax every day. Elements such as cleanliness, events, course proposals, internal communication and CRM planning make up the service offerings of every successful fitness centre.

These two elements, if capably used, are what promote customer satisfaction and the much-desired positive word of mouth. If you think of all the elements of the fitness centre as a team, it is unthinkable to focus on one specific element to the detriment of the others; all the members of the team must know how to work in perfect harmony, within a well-oiled scheme. As with any team, however, even in a fitness centre you need a spearhead, an element that makes you understand the quality level of the entire structure at a glance: in three words, what you need is a skilful front desk.

The role of the front desk in customer loyalty

In summary, to be competitive and in line with the standards that consumers are looking for, fitness centres must now pay particular attention to customer satisfaction, working on improving the quality of the two major areas that characterise them:

  • Structure
  • Services and Facilities

The front desk is placed in the category of services. Upon entering the fitness centre, the front desk is the first element you come across; in other words, it is the first contact the user has with the centre, the real business card of the entire structure.

It is no coincidence that the front desk staff must behave (and dress up) in a way that reflects the identity of the centre. Furthermore, the staff should also adopt a basic etiquette when dealing with old and new users, for example:

  • Looking into the eyes of the guest and act approachable , which also means standing up to serve the customer
  • Smiling authentically, use an empathetic approach
  • Being polite and kind when interacting with the customer
  • Assuming a coherent body language, contained but using welcoming gestures
At the same time, the front desk staff must be proactive and reactive to the many other criticalities that emerge from their function, that is:

  • Other tasks that distract from customers reception, such as the need to answer the phone, write on the computer, manage the cash desk, etc.
  • Challenging working hours and shifts that require a stay in the same station for many consecutive hours, making it difficult to maintain the freshness and enthusiasm of the first hour
  • Music, colours and loud voices that push towards a decidedly informal climate inside the centre that risks leading to excessive confidence
  • Personnel with a very unripe relational training and hardly refreshed or maintained over time
To support the reception staff, many fitness centres have opted for the inclusion of a second professional figure, who helps in dividing the tasks and in being more effective both in terms of acquisition and of members’ loyalty: the consultant. This figure is responsible for the sale of the various types of subscription for new users and the renewal of subscriptions for old users.

The process of registering a potential new user

Simulating the entrance of a new customer into the centre, then:

The front desk staff:

  1. 1. welcomes and greets, asking how they can help their visitor
  2. 2. presents themselves and explains that for the information the visitor needs that they will be available (name), their colleague who will devote the necessary attention and time to the guest
  3. 3. calls (in a composed manner) the consultant
The consultant:

  1. 1. he or she introduces himself or herself by calling the guest by name (assuming that it was the front desk that introduced the user)
  2. 2. accompanies the guest to a dedicated station possibly secluded or not excessively crowded
  3. 3. the acquaintance, analysis of needs, presentation of services etc. starts, according to the sales cycle that the centre has considered most suitable and in line with its own positioning
Regardless of the outcome of the transaction, the final phase of the sales cycle should take place once more at the front desk, whose staff will then carry out the registration and collection of payment, the definition of the open day and any other business. Ideally, the front desk should become the place that the new centre’s member will use as a reference point within the centre from that time on.

The element that we are trying to emphasize here is the collaboration between these two departments (reception and commercial) that, if properly managed, contribute equally to the registration of the user at the centre. The owner or manager of the club has the responsibility to create the environment that allows the proliferation of this collaboration, while avoiding differences in treatment between the sales team and the front desk.

This way of thinking makes it possible to understand that it is the entire staff, with its different tasks, that contributes to the end result. The one capable of allowing the regular functioning of the mechanism can only be the one who leads the group and that with careful support and daily monitoring seeks the progressive improvement of the entire fitness centre, i.e. the centre’s manager.

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