Don't underestimate the power of a good front desk staff at your club.
Your front desk staff can mean the difference between gaining a new member or watching a potential member walk out the door.
Let me tell you why by sharing my latest club consumer experience with you in a journey that started last December with an ugly sports injury. I was skiing at Copper Mountain in Colorado when an out-of-control skier unexpectedly cut in front of me and forced me into a quick reaction. I avoided the collision, but a bump hidden under fresh powder threw me off balance and tossed me to the ground.
The binding on my right ski did not release, and the ski caught an edge as I slid down the run. What followed was a piercing pain in my knee. The mountain clinic doctor's diagnosis of a partial patellar dislocation was better than I hoped. An MRI later revealed that the major ligaments in the knee and cartilage were undamaged.
However, since this was the second dislocation in my life, one orthopedic surgeon recommended a reconstructive procedure. This procedure would mean months of physical rehabilitation to become functional again in the hope of avoiding a chronic condition.
As I sought advice and information on this procedure across the country and visited exceptionally qualified local orthopedic knee specialists, I experienced poor customer service from many of the front desk staff and initial points of contact at the various places I visited.
I ultimately opted for a less invasive procedure that involved arthroscopy and repair of the medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL), which helps keep the patella from dislocating to the outside of the knee. That procedure was done by an experienced and qualified surgeon in January, and I've been learning how to walk again in rehab in twice a week sessions with a talented physical therapist who specializes in sports medicine.
My next step was to complement those sessions by pushing my rehab harder at a club. I needed a club located close to my home with a variety of exercise bikes or low-impact cardio machines and a pool. Based on my criteria, my search came down to two choices: a national club chain or a city rec center.
I visited the community rec center because I knew the chain did not have a pool. My expectations were low for the center, but I was pleasantly surprised. The center had a pool, a variety of well-used stationary bikes and a nice selection of newer weight equipment. It also had a clean locker room, racquetball courts, indoor and outdoor pools, and a group cycle room.
After my self-guided tour, I returned to the front desk to ask a staffer questions about the facility. That staffer was friendly and did not offer a hard-hitting sales pitch.
My biggest question was about the club's daily traffic flow. Biking is going to be a major part of my rehab, and if the bikes are not routinely available, then there is no point in joining. She told me the center's typical peak times.
After this visit, I did not feel the need to tour the chain club, which was closer to my home, because I was sold on the rec center. The rec center's membership price, club offerings and contract fit my needs. The people working the desk clearly had positive personalities. After dealing with two months of negativity and poor front desk customer service at medical offices, this staffer and initial club experience were a welcome change.
Two days later, I returned to the center with a trial pass. The same front desk person I spoke with on my first visit happened to be walking out the door as I was walking in. She smiled at me and said, "You picked a great time to come back. The club is quiet this afternoon, and you shouldn't have any problem getting on a bike today."
I thanked her and returned the next day to sign up for a membership. It was an easy decision.
I could have easily been another face in the crowd at this rec center. But this staffer remembered me (maybe the bulky brace on my leg made me memorable) and our conversation. She also was clocked out and did not have to talk to me on her way home.
But she did.
And this rec center has a new and satisfied member.
I hope to return to form on the mountain next winter in better shape with the help of my physical therapist and the rec center's offerings. Watching this run below - my last this before my knee injury ended my season on the first run the following day - keeps me motivated to reach that goal.