Outrunning The Bear

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In our line of work, noticing good–and bad–customer service is really an occupational hazard. Finding examples of bad service is like shooting fish in a barrel–it’s so easy it almost seems unfair.

And yet providing good service is not that tough.

It’s like that old joke about two guys trying to escape a grizzly. One guy says he hopes that they can outrun the bear. The other guy says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.” We’re all so accustomed to lousy service that our standards for terrific service aren’t necessarily that high. It’s pretty easy to provide better service than almost everyone else.

Visited my local Life Time Fitness gym earlier this week. They usually do a good job of keeping their front desk staff focused on members…in fact, that’s one reason I joined. My previous experience with the downtown Dallas YMCA was that their front desk people were inevitably too busy chatting on the phone and with each other to promptly respond to members. (I’ll share the incredibly frustrating process of trying to renew my Y membership in a later posting).

But…one front desk employee at my Life Time is repeatedly on his cell phone. He can’t even put it down long enough to greet customers personally and check them in smoothly.

In my book, that ranks right down there with a front desk employee who says “Yes?” without even looking up from her paperback when someone walks up to the desk.

No business manager should let this happen. While part of the cure is hiring people who are genuinely interested in other people, another part of the cure for any business is treating and paying staff like owners. This guy would have a much stronger reason for treating customers well, and his co-workers would have all the reason in the world to apply some pressure to him themselves.

And while we’re on the topic, I’ve been in this particular Life Time location anywhere from 4-6 times/week since April. They took my picture when I joined, and if they’re making good use of their database that same picture pops up when they check me in electronically.

So why doesn’t anyone ever use my name or recognize me? They’re clearly very well-trained to say “Enjoy your workout” and “Have a good evening”. It sure would be nice if they seemed to recognize me from the last, say, FIFTY times I worked out there.

We in the wellness industry can learn a lot from other industries.

My husband and I visit (for those of you in the DFW area) one of the locations of a small but growing restaurant chain. We eat there several times a week, with about the same frequency as we visit Life Time.

The big difference: amazingly personal service. And folks, this is basically a fast food joint.

But the staff all recognize us, they know what we usually order, and they take the initiative. For example, they know I always order vegetarian items. When I tried a new item, the manager stopped by to make sure that I realized the recipe included meat.

See what I mean? It’s not that hard to outrun the bear. Didn’t cost those folks a penny extra to do any of this. They’re just paying attention to the details, and they understand that extremely happy customers are a very, very good thing.