Every time I experience less-than-stellar customer service, I try to step into the shoes of my own customers. Is this something my customers would ever experience at my gym? Thankfully, my staff is patient, professional, efficient, and generally doing everything they can to find a win-win for our gym families. 

However, this past week on vacation, I experienced some of the worst customer service in my life, and I felt like it was important to tell you about my experience as I can see it EASILY happening in a busy gym.

You see, when customers come up to my front desk, it’s possible they’ve just “interrupted” an important task. Our front desk staff is constantly busy helping athletes with snacks, hair ties or band aids, preparing for upcoming events and birthday parties, folding t-shirts for the pro shop or stuffing new member folders. In fact, our front desk gets so busy at night, we typically have two front desk associates to ensure we can meet the demand while also accomplishing the other tasks that come along with the job. 

On a cruise ship, I imagine Guest Services is similar to my front desk. I’ve been on several cruises and I’ve been to plenty of resorts where the front desk is filing, printing or doing other administrative tasks. However, this past week, I had some concerns about the cleanliness of my room and the smell in the hallway. (Without getting too deep, I’m pretty sure the college boys in the room next to me were ordaining the hallway each evening with some of the liquor they had consumed earlier that day…and because I’m a “sympathy poker”, I found myself having to run down the hallway holding my breath.) Finally, on day four, I knew it was time to go to Guest Services and ask them to clean the carpets in our hallway. 

I patiently stood at the stations, first in line, awaiting my turn. A young man in a suit waived me over to his computer. As he was doing so, he walked away for a moment, which left me feeling a bit awkward, but no big deal. He shifts back to where I’m standing though he seems incredibly distracted. Before him were dozens of luggage tags. They were perforated and he was separating them. I began to tell him of the issue, and he glanced up to make eye contact like a 7th grader giving a speech in class, quickly and awkwardly – barely even meeting my eyes.

“What stateroom are you in?” he asks, continuing to work on the luggage tags.

“5768,” I replied.

“I’ll take care of it,” he answers. 

He continues tearing the luggage tags, not writing anything down or even looking up as I start to walk away. 

That’s when I felt a fire rise up inside of me. 

“Hi, me again,” I replied. “I just wanted to say something first. I appreciate that you’re working on something important, but if a guest comes to you with a concern, I’d probably pause and give them your full attention for a moment.”

“I have seven minutes to finish this or no one will be able to disembark on the final day,” he replies.

“What is your na—,” I begin to ask. 

“Dean, my name is Dean,” he interrupts with an arrogant and dismissive tone.

If I had been wearing my Apple Watch, I’m certain it would have shown my BPM rising. Nevertheless, I wasn’t willing to let this guy ruin my vacation, so I walked away. As I returned to Justin, I told him about what had happened. I then hopped on my phone to send a message to Norwegian’s Facebook page about my experience. (Yes, I know. I should have asked to speak to a manager, but I was a little afraid Dean himself was the manager.)

After a few minutes, Justin walked up to Guest Services and asked to speak to a manager. Dean was waved over, and proceeded to tell the manager he and I had been joking around and laughing, and that he had not upset me. (If you know me, you know my face tells the real story – I’m a work in progress, guys….)

Justin returns a few minutes later and tells me even Dean began arguing with him in front of the manager. Imagine that. 

Four days later, we disembarked. No one from Customer Service reached out to us. Our hallway only got slightly better throughout the week, but I also think the frat boys were lightening their day drinking over the course of the trip.

Yesterday, I got a message from Norwegian asking me if I was still on the ship and if so, to please go to Guest Services with any concerns I may have.

It got me thinking…How often are our customers asking for something and it’s falling on deaf ears because we’re too busy to hear them?

  1. Is our staff fully engaged when a customer is speaking to us? I know I’ll be telling Gabby, our lead front desk associate, all about this and putting out a friendly reminder to stop what we’re doing when customers approach the desk. After all, they’re our top priority. Administrative tasks, while also important, can wait! Even important tasks with a deadline deserve grace, because our customers come first. 
  2. Are your customers’ concerns falling on deaf ears? Dean really couldn’t have cared less what I was complaining about. He just wanted to get rid of me so he could finish his task. Do you find yourself (or your staff) trying to “get rid” of parents because you have important things to finish? In fact, in the course of writing this blog, I got my post-cruise survey from Norwegian. (It was a “hold my beer” moment.) I completed the entire survey in depth so they had feedback on the various parts of the cruise. I submitted the survey and got to the “thank you” page…where it says, “Comments on this survey are not monitored for follow up.” Wait….what?? I invested my time into helping you know the issues you have on your cruise line and now you’re telling me you won’t see my comments anyway. Do you have staff members who take concerns but don’t really know what they should be passing on to you or what you’d want to hear about? I have had them in the past. They thought a parent just had a concern and listening alone would solve the problem. As a result, the issue eventually resurfaced and now we were the ones with deaf ears.
  3. Are you good at follow up whether there is something to resolve or not? This is admittedly something we’ve struggled with at my gym for many years. You talk to a parent about something that’s important to them, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t earth-shattering. The next day, more fires flare up, and the mid-level concerns are practically forgotten. But when you lack follow-up, one of two things will eventually happen: The first is, people will assume you just don’t care. Sure, maybe their concern was small. They want healthier snacks at the snack bar, or they don’t want their kids waiting in the parking lot after dark. Nevertheless, what was once important enough to them to express to you is now seemingly not important to you. The second is, people will stop coming to you because they’ll see a pattern. They express a concern. Nothing ever changes, and you never follow up to express why, and so they’ll begin to wonder what the point was anyway. Tomorrow, I’ll post another blog where I’ll talk about how I’ve fixed this over the years. Follow up is important to me, even if it’s just going to someone a few days later to say, “Hey, thanks again for telling me that. I’m working through the logistics still.”

So, I’ll ask you…Do you think any of these areas are weak in your gym? Maybe the issue is with the 16-year-olds running the front desk, the coaches who are rushing to update parents between classes and team practices, or perhaps the issue is with you – the owner. The first step in fixing is recognizing the issue and getting to the root of it. Sometimes you’ll know how to fix it, and sometimes you’ll need some outside perspective. That’s where we come in. In the Next Gen Academy, there is literally over 700 years of experience among the gym owners. Talk about wisdom! To learn more about the Next Gen Academy or to chat with someone from Next Gen to see if your gym might be a good fit for one of our programs, book a call at the link below!