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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Front Line Hires: Expertise vs. Service Orientation

I’ve been going to the same gym for 6 years, and I find it strange that I don't know any of the personal trainers by now.

I see them working with clients all the time. I’m certain that they would be able to help me improve in the areas I want to, but they’ve never approached me, struck up a conversation, corrected my technique while walking by, anything.

If a trainer is like a fitness consultant, whose goal is to grow their client base and make more money for themselves and the gym, you think I’d have been approached, or even spoken to, at least once.

It could be that the gym has told its trainers only to interact with clients paying for training sessions. Perhaps these personal trainers were hired for their expertise in training, human kinetics, dietetics and the like, and simply aren’t service-oriented individuals.

Regardless, the result is the same. A positive interaction would have convinced me to use the services of a professional trainer by now. I have an unexpressed need going unfulfilled. The gym loses money by not filling it, and worse, risks me taking my business to another gym willing to provide it.

The athletic club market is fairly crowded in my area, and my gym is not winning the market share battle. I’ve tried the other gyms, and while the facilities are marginally better than the gym I go to, not one of them has had the service-oriented training staff I’m looking for.

It’s clear my gym is not going to invest in the facilities facelift to compete in the local market. Even if it did, facilities improvement is a commodity answer to a service problem. Much more effective would be using the time of the training staff more liberally to differentiate the gym on the basis of the front line service providers. It may require more staff or even different staff, but it would be entirely worth it.

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