Avoid Shortcomings in Design and Enhance the Customer Experience

Avoid Shortcomings in Design and Enhance the Customer Experience

Although most club owners are keenly aware of their fitness facility’s shortcomings, it amazes me how many of them have become immune to how those shortcomings may appear to members. Some club owners simply fail to understand how basic principles of common sense, customer service and design affect the customer experience.

I see these shortcomings as I evaluate clubs of all sizes, from large sports clubs to small gyms and personal training studios. Practices that would normally never be tolerated in any other industry are routinely accepted in ours. What would you think if you checked into a hotel and found the front desk staff folding the sheets and towels at the front desk? You likely would have second thoughts about staying there. Yet, I have seen the front desk staff at some clubs folding towels. What you do and how you present your facility say a lot about how you treat your members.

The following are some things you should watch for:

  • Lobbies filled with clutter. Your lobby is the first impression of your facility for members and prospects, so do not use it to store cases of water or ladders or anything else. Make your entry presentable because first impressions are lasting. Clean and clutter free are more important than an attempt at style.
  • An unpleasant scent in the lobby. Do not let your staff cook or eat their food anywhere but the break room. The smell of nuked tuna or burned popcorn at check-in or in other areas of the club is not appealing.
  • Do-it-yourself design. The arrangement of equipment and the layout of a club are two different things. Members not only use your machines, but they like to walk around them, check their email, take showers and get dressed for work. These activities need space that is thoughtfully considered and presented because where you provide space to do these things and how much space you provide are reasons members stay.
  • Confusing low cost with no design. Repeat after me, “Low cost can be nice.” Click your heels and maybe the clash of colors will go away. I know you love your brand, but you must find a more pleasing way to show it than an explosion of all those colors. If your offering of décor looks cheap, most members will think they are paying too much to belong to your club. There are no favors in construction or design. Just pay a few extra dollars and do it right.


  • Not evolving with the times. Your members are required to keep up with current trends and best practices in their jobs, so shouldn’t your club also evolve? A few kettle bells, suspension straps and open training areas help members break away from the routine and achieve success in their fitness goals. Isn’t this supposed to be the place to stay healthy, engaged, activated and motivated? If you evolve, members will remain members for life.
  • Poor lighting. Good lighting costs more, but it is the best upgrade you can make for the sanity and experience of your members. Flickering, off-color, crooked, glaring, cheap industrials are poor, not to mention that they hurt members’eyes when they look up—and they can cause headaches.
  • Poor pathways. Provide a clear, easy way to navigate the club that is not through the workout floor. Use durable, nice-looking flooring that is non-slip. Think twice about how you position machines so navigating through them is not a headache.
  • Not offering privacy in the locker rooms. The showers have nothing to do with the toilets. Therefore, they should not be across from each other. Offer your members a little privacy and do not place toilets next to walkways. No one should have to walk by the toilet unless they are going to use the restroom. And if members cannot change in your locker room without bumping into one another, your locker room is too small, and your members are unhappy.

Fitness facility operators historically have offered low-level customer service to members. As the industry evolves, we need to become less egocentric and more member centric. If you are searching for the best way to satisfy and keep your members longer, the basics may be a good place to start.


Rudy Fabiano, a registered architect and interior designer, is president of Fabiano Designs, an architectural fi rm for fi tness, wellness, sports and recreation centers and spas that has produced more than 400 projects in 21 years.

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