Operations

Training Your Front Desk Staff as a CrossFit Affiliate

Your front desk staff greet customers the 1st time they visit your gym, and the 100th time - let’s make sure they make your guests feel welcomed every single time.

Sam Karoll
September 5, 2022
TLDR;
Your front desk staff greet customers the 1st time they visit your gym, and the 100th time - let’s make sure they make your guests feel welcomed every single time.

Your front desk staff are responsible for the first impression that every new client has when they enter your gym for the first time. They greet returning clients, and a lot of customer engagement rides on them. Because first impressions are everything, and because all it takes is one bad experience to turn a customer away for good (and then tell their friends about the bad experience, leading to more prospective customer loss), you have to develop your gym staff to be on their game.

They set the tone for every single visit that a client has, whether it’s their 1st time in your gym or their 100th. Let’s make sure they set the tone right by providing proper training and making the clientele feel special, just like this.

Train Your Team to Greet Everyone Who Comes in

Your front desk staff should be greeting customers when they walk in the door. It seems like a simple practice, but it immediately provides a welcoming feeling and sets your customer up for a happier time at the gym.

Here are a few tips you can teach your front desk staff when it comes to greeting customers as they walk in:

  • Eye Contact: To say that eye contact is important would be an understatement. Eye contact not only leads conversations, but it holds attention and gives intent. When you make eye contact with someone leading up to a conversation, they already know they have your attention, and that’s what we all want from conversations. Think about it: if someone feels ignored in a conversation, they’ll withdraw, feel unimportant, and be hesitant to speak up again in the near future. Eye contact is everything in customer service.
  • Stand Up: There’s nothing wrong with having seating behind the desk for your staff members to rest when they’re not needed. However, when they see someone walking up to the door and about to enter, have them rise. Greetings feel more personal and respectful when you stand before greeting another person.
  • Smile: Have you ever walked into a store and seen an angry, upset, or melancholy staff member? It sticks with you for a moment. You may immediately think that you’re not going to get good service from them, or that they’re going to be frustrated with your requests in some way or another. It doesn’t set up a good customer service experience, and guests may not ask for help when they truly need it if staff members don’t feel approachable.

Go Over Mission and Vision Statements With Front Desk Staff

Remind your staff members how their role and efforts are providing necessary, positive change for your business. Briefly go over the vision statement and mission statement with your front desk staff so they’re on the same page as you.

Your gym’s mission statement will help teach them what your brand and business is all about, while the vision statement is like a seed. As your business makes its way towards that vision, your staff member will know the part they played in that, and feel a sense of accomplishment.

Refer to Best Practices When Dealing With Unruly Customers

Every business has unruly customers. It’s unfortunately unavoidable, so you have to find a way to deal with it properly. Here are some tips:

  • Reflective Listening: This common method disavows using “I understand” as a means to deal with a customer addressing a problem or concern. That never works, because you don’t understand—they’re the ones experiencing the problem, not you. React to their tone, body language, and the words they’re using. Reiterate what they’re saying; people like to hear their own words and it gives confirmation that you’re listening well. This helps you solidify the issue, and then you can come up with a solution that follows accordingly.
  • You Don’t Know: Approach every situation with the mentality that you don’t know what they’re going through, and you are learning through the customer. It’s easy to judge a customer ahead of time based on how angry they’re being, their body language, and a myriad of other things. Listen to the problem, and address the problem in a way that doesn’t take bias into account.
  • Don’t be Afraid of Customers: It may sound silly right now, but it’s common to feel a sense of fear when an unruly customer begins shouting or demanding a resolution that fits their ideals. Don’t apologize, but instead understand where they’re coming from. Don’t train your front end staff to be fixers—there are some customers and some issues that cannot be resolved, and you’ll tire out yourself and your staff if you try to mend every problem. Some solutions aren’t instant. Show fear to a customer, and it will only solidify their thought that they “own you” because they’re the paying customer.

Don’t Overload Them With Tasks

While it’s good to triage certain problems, which we’ll cover in a minute, your front desk staff shouldn’t have too many non-customer service tasks to deal with. They should be keeping the counter clean, dealing with the register/sign-ups, helping customers, and maybe restocking merchandise when required.

They can take down notes for you, for trainers, maintenance, etc., because the rest of your staff will use the front desk as a central hub for everything. That’s perfectly okay.

But your front desk staff should have tasks that relate to the front desk and almost nothing else. One of the most common causes of burnout in employees is overburdening them and making them handle the equivalent of two workloads at once.

When you don’t have an enormous list of tasks to do on the back-end, you can focus on dealing with customers much more effectively. Give support to your front desk staff and let them know that as long as they’re doing their best, that’s good enough for you. Take out the fear of being reprimanded for not being perfect.

Teach Them to Triage Certain Issues

Saturdays are busy for you, so you have a ton of clients in the building at once. Right now there’s a problem with the treadmill in the next room, but you have two customers trying to sign up for classes and go through package options, and at the same time the rain from outside starts coming into the building.

You have to teach your gym staff to prioritize tasks. Let’s approach the previous paragraph as if it were a real set of issues.

  • Vocally call out to customers in line that you’re working on mopping up the water and apologize for the inconvenience. Either make a note to grab a wet floor sign ASAP, or request maintenance/another staff member grab it to avoid liability issues.
  • Make sure the client that complained about the treadmill is heard and understood. Request that they use a different machine in the meantime and that you’ll either personally see the problem or send maintenance to inspect it (then take a note so you don’t forget).
  • Briefly explain the tier packages and pricing information of the membership options. If the customer is taking a long time to decide and look over a pamphlet, kindly ask if you can help the person behind them in line while they decide.

Not every solution will be perfect, but triaging multiple ongoing issues without losing your head is a necessary and valuable customer service skill. The person behind the counter helping customers is like the captain of a ship. If the customers see that they’re not doing well, they’ll lose all believe that their issues will be resolved. So many even leave. Triaging ongoing problems is a skill.

Tell Them the Power of Using Someone’s Name

If the customer is a regular and your staff member knows them, it’s imperative that they call them by name when they enter the building.

Names are direct connections to a person’s identity. You’re not approaching whoever strolled in the door—you’re approaching Daniel, or Maria, or Anthony. It’s personal.

Addressing someone as a Mr. or Mrs. nowadays isn’t ideal. Despite good intent, titles like these could offend some individuals who may be on a different spectrum of gender identity. A first-name basis is personal and always gets the job done without treading on someone’s identity.

Last but not least, using someone’s name makes them feel extremely valuable to your business. They’re spending their hard-earned money, so they want to feel like it’s being invested in the best possible way. A net positive experience and connection is the best way to do that.

If you’ve ever heard someone say “They know me here” when they order a coffee or go into a shop, those are the bragging rights. They feel valued. They’re also proud to be your client, so they’re more likely to talk favorably about your business to others. Word-of-mouth marketing is still the most dominant method of promotion.

Customer Service Common Etiquette Training

This is a brief list of customer service etiquette to follow. It’s simple, basic, but if you have someone on your front desk that’s never worked in customer service before, this will be helpful to them.

  • Keep Your Customers Updated: If your customers are waiting for something, make sure they know you’re working on it. Keep them updated on progress.
  • Never Show Anger: Behind the counter, showing anger can immediately give someone a distaste for your business. Even if your staff gets angry, teach them not to show it directly at the counter.
  • Provide Value: There’s value in customer service. Make your customers feel valued by giving them your full attention with eye contact and positive body language (no crossing your arms).
  • Stay Positive: Even when dealing with customer issues, you can frame everything in a positive light. Stay positive and don’t let the tone turn negative.
  • Be Empathetic: Your customer has a concern or question; step into their shoes. Make sure they know you’re taking them seriously by putting yourself in the same situation (mentally) and help them understand their options, and provide the best possible information you can that appeals to them.

Recognize and Reward Behavior and Performance

That’s a lot of training for your staff members. It’s important for them to learn, and it’s also important that you reward excellence. Their performance should never go unnoticed.

Even if it’s something “small” that happens, you should make it a point to verbally appreciate them. If you’re restocking the merchandise behind the counter and you hear them deal with a customer extremely well, point it out to them when the customer is out of earshot.

Say something to the effect of “I love how you treat our customers,” or a simple “Thanks for always being amazing with the customers” goes a lot further than you think it does. People work for a paycheck whether they’re in a job they enjoy or not. At the end of the day, you want to be the place they enjoy working at that makes them feel valued.

The value you stake in your staff members will seed in your customers as well. At all times, all eyes are on you, and the way you show appreciation and kindness towards your staff is seen by others. Trainers, staff, clients, and even vendors that stop by. They know that they’re in the presence of a leader, not a boss.

Training Your Staff Right From Day One

Start with proper training right out of the gate, and your staff will do well when they greet new customers, answer questions, upsell products, and make your guests feel right at home as part of your CrossFit affiliate family.

We can’t stress the importance enough of having and finding a well-trained gym staff right from the beginning. If you’re just opening up your CrossFit affiliate gym for the first time? It’s a great idea to have pre-opening customer service tests and get everyone on the right foot before anything opens up.

And if you need help finding the right team fit for your fitness business? Checkout another recent post of ours on how to find the best gym staff from day one.

Sam Karoll

Sam is our Community Manager for PushPress. He also owns and operates Xplore Nutrition, a personalized nutrition coaching service designed "for your lifestyle and goals by a Coach who's always available."

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