Developing good relationships with customers is essential to the success of your business. In today’s competitive marketplace, if you don’t provide good service, you won’t attract or retain customers.
Fitness businesses heavily rely on positive ‘word of mouth’ promotion by happy customers. Unhappy customers can also quickly spread messages around their networks about their experience dealing with your business. Stories of personal experience spread faster these days with the increased use of social networking websites and email.
Here are some tips on how you can improve your customer service and prevent problems down the track.
A membership contract can be very overwhelming for consumers. They often do not read the details of the contract before they sign and therefore don't know their rights and obligations. Make the contract as concise as possible and increase the size of the text to make it easier to read. Use reasonably plain language and present the terms of the contract clearly. A clear, concise contract will tell your customers what they need to know and help avoid misunderstandings and conflict in the future.
You should be open and honest with prospective customers and advise them of all the important points of the membership contract before signing them up. It is a good idea to get potential members to initial major components of the contract to show they have read them or highlight them in bold in the contract. Make sure your advertising and promotional material is not misleading and you can really deliver what you promise. For example, when running a promotion promising a free session with a personal trainer, make sure you have the trainer available to deliver this promoted service promptly to the customer.
It is helpful to give potential customers a separate sheet from the contract which lists all the fees. Transparency will result in your customers being fully informed and reduce the risk of confusion and arguments later.
Clearly explain how members can cancel or suspend their membership if their circumstances change and importantly, what fees will apply. If members have a valid reason for cancelling, you should not make it a difficult process. Remember, you may be losing their business, but making their cancellation difficult could see you lose potential business from their family and friends. A simple letter to the gym should be sufficient to arrange the cancellation. Some gyms expect a face-to-face interview but this may not always be reasonable.
It is a good idea to offer a range of membership time and payment options. Different deals suit different customers. Clearly explain the different plans and leave it to the customer to choose which is right for them. Offer a variety of choices. This will make your business more attractive than many of your competitors.
Consider offering a cooling-off period or an obligation-free trial so customers can try out the gym before they sign up to long periods of membership. This way they will be sure of their commitment and you are less likely to face complaints from unhappy clients.
Don't pressure consumers to sign up on the spot. Instead, give them the time they need to make an informed decision. Allow them to take the contract home and read it.
Have clear complaint handling procedures in place so complaints can be dealt with quickly and fairly. If you can’t come to an agreement with the customer, advise them to contact Fitness Australia (if your business is a member) or NSW Fair Trading (if not a member). Fair Trading can often negotiate between the parties, saving you time, energy and sometimes money.
If you conduct business as an individual and want to trade under a business name that is not your own name, you must register that business name. If you conduct business through a company and want to trade under a business name that is not the company's name, you must register that business name. To register, renew or search for a business name, visit the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) website at www.asic.gov.au
If you effectively train your staff they will be aware of their obligations under the law. NSW Fair Trading laws prohibit conduct that is unconscionable, misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive. Unconscionable conduct is when you take unfair advantage of vulnerable consumers. There are penalties for breaking the law including fines and in some instances, gaol sentences. Appropriate training can ensure that your staff work in line with your business operating procedures, image and ethics.
NSW Fair Trading
Tel: 13 32 20
Get a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader so you can access PDF versions of our information.