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Keeping Customers Happy - by Patti Komara

Many gymnastics school owners have found they have better success if, instead of looking for ways to increase enrollment by focusing on new students, they turn their attention and efforts to the students currently taking classes in their studios.

Make them feel so special, they want to tell all their friends about you.

Every professional knows that as times change, you must change and upgrade procedures and techniques. But one thing that shouldn’t change is your philosophy of delivering as much as possible to the customer at a fair price.

Good old-fashioned customer service will make the difference in retaining your present students and will also turn them into your best salespeople. Happy students and their parents will bring you more students than you can handle.

At our gym, it’s been determined through questionnaires that more than 88% of our new students are referred from our satisfied students. We believe we have three types of customers; the student, the mom, and the dad.

Quality customer service starts when you transmit a positive attitude towards others. You need to identify the needs of your customers and then provide for those needs. You need to give the customer what they expect and more.

The basic customer needs four things: to be understood, to feel welcomed, to feel important, and to feel comfortable. How can a gymnastics school fulfill those needs?

Generally the first impression your customers encounter will be over the telephone. Make sure you have your best person answering the phone. You never have a second chance to make a positive first impression. It is strongly preferable that a human is answering the phone, not a machine. Of course, humans are not perfect - but neither are machines. Problems are sometimes caused by the person doing the over-the-phone registration forgetting some important information.

Post a “new student checklist” near the phone and don’t let the new or prospective customer off the phone until all items are completely discussed. Every morning, customer service staff should pull a list of new students expected that day through your database/enrollment software. When the new customer walks in the door, she will be greeted by a friendly person behind the counter who says, “Hi, Mrs. Johnson? You’re here with Michelle for the 9:30 four-year old class, right? It’s nice to meet you (with a firm, friendly handshake).” We give each child a special “Welcome Certificate” and take their picture for our Facebook page.

After any necessary paperwork is finished, the customer service rep. should take the new customer on a tour of the facility noting: bathrooms, observation area, lost and found spot, etc… especially mentioning other programs such as dance and boys’ classes while walking through the gym. When the class is ready to start, the receptionist should introduce the new student to the teacher. The key is to make that new customer feel as special as possible. Remember, the attitude you send out is usually the attitude you’ll get back. At the conclusion of the class the teacher should walk the new student to the parent while asking the child how she liked the class. Explain the reasons behind your activities in that class to the parents as well as your major philosophy. For example, our philosophy is to teach quality gymnastics, dance, and swim in a fun, positive environment.

What else can be done for the present student? We send a birthday card to each student. If a child has a particularly good day, a special “postcard” is sent to the child in the mail. If a parent makes a positive suggestion, or even a negative comment, we send them a thank you not with an “Exceptional Parent Award” certificate in the mail. When we find out a family welcomes a new baby, moves to another house, someone is seriously sick, or anything important happens in their lives, we send a card that corresponds with the event. Just to let them know we are happy for them or we sympathize with them.

Also, each instructor has thank you notes to express appreciation through the mail if a child gives them a gift. Children love getting mail and won’t forget their kindness.

When a parent makes a negative comment, it must be handled very carefully. The dissatisfied customer who leaves will tell 11 people about the negative experience. A happy customer, I’m sorry to report, tells on the average of three people. Always work with customers in the same manner you’d like to be treated. If you’ve made a change that reflected a suggestion or a complaint, always make a “follow-up” call to thank the person giving the input for the suggestion and tell them of the change.

We have another customer service slogan we live by. It’s “give the customer what they expect and more”. From the beginning, if you give the customers what they expect, they’ll be more ready to accept you and your policies. For example, people expect prompt replies to their calls left on voicemail. Make that an important goal. They wanted to talk to you. You weren’t there. You must get back to them as soon as possible. Stop and think of what else the customer expects. Make a list and insist of pursuing excellence in each of those areas. Quality is free-give it!

Have special events just for them; Christmas parties, Easter egg hunts, install a “Little Library”, or a members-only open gym. Or, you could provide workshops about aspects of raising children or other topics of interest, led by local experts. Have a bulletin board with information concerning children’s health and fitness. Do more than they expect.

Many gyms expend a tremendous amount of money and effort to gain new customers and minimal effort to keep current ones. Listen to your customers’ complaints. Address them by talking to them personally. It will tell you as much as a paid consultant would tell you. Have a suggestion box and encourage your students’ parents to use it.

Our main goal is to not let a “present student” become a former student. Quality may being them in, but excellent customer service will keep them. Knowledge is power, but only if applied.

Check out the titles below to help boost your enrollment and retain the students you have now. Patti Komara
Tumblebear Connection
P.O. Box 117
Dyer, IN 46311
Phone (219) 865-2274