Customer service still foreign in German clubs, survey finds

Solid customer service and satisfaction are still relatively foreign concepts in many health clubs in Germany, a survey by a German men's fitness magazine found.
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Solid customer service and satisfaction are still relatively foreign concepts in many health clubs in Germany, a survey by a German men's fitness magazine found.

Results of the survey were published in German in that country's edition of Men's Health and came on the heels of an online survey to which 1,300 male fitness enthusiasts responded. The magazine summarized: "The unfortunate result? That one has to often pay a heap of money (for membership), but nevertheless receives correspondingly less in return."

Of the respondents, 33 percent have worked out at clubs for about six months, while 30 percent have worked out for 1-2 years. Another 19 percent had been at it for about a year, while 18 percent have worked out from three years or even more than five years. About half of the respondents belong to clubs that have several hundred members up to about 1,000. About 16 percent go to larger clubs of 1,000 or more, while about 22 percent are members in small facilities of less than 100.

A selection of some of the results and the magazine's comments:

>> 39 percent of respondents are peeved because they often have to wait for their favorite pieces a very long time – This relates to the most popular equipment, such as treadmills and ellipticals, the magazine explained. A spokeswoman for the German association of fitness and recreation businesses said people should simply find a different machine for their workout or do stretching exercises between strength exercises to pass the time. However, the spokeswoman did suggest members speak to management if the problem is out of hand and ask for additional pieces to be added to the floor. A lawyer was also quoted as saying that the member should submit the problems and requests in writing and set a deadline for a remedy. "You have the right to use the machines and take classes, which is part of your membership contract," he said.

>> 24 percent have never been approached by a trainer – The business association's spokeswoman said the trainers are service-oriented and taught not to be pushy, so she suggests you approach them. She does however admit that if you're doing something incorrectly, a trainer should make you aware of the error.

>> 21 percent have inoperative equipment on the floor that remains unusable for days at a time – The lawyer quoted above said it's the responsibility of the club to make sure a machine is working if it's the only one of its kind. Elaborating on this answer, the magazine found that just over a third of these respondents said the equipment is usually fixed in less than 24 hours.

>> 38 percent said they have never been through an intake questionnaire with staff asking about their health and fitness – Experts cited by the magazine stressed the importance of an intake session since many members have likely been inactive for some time, plus it allows the club to help the new member set guidelines for a workout. The magazine suggests finding another club that seems to care more about the health and wellness of its members if no one pays attention at the current club.

>> 30 percent said the upholstery on the equipment is often damaged – Putting down a towel on the seats works just fine, said the club spokeswoman. However, if the damage is on a contact area that could cause pain or injury, she recommended members tell a trainer, but she quickly adds that if damage is the norm, you should consider changing clubs.

SNEWS® View: We thought hearing member comments from a different country might bring some insights. They certainly may not apply to clubs here, of course, and we aren't trying to say they might. Intriguing indeed that a representative of the association there for such businesses seemed in some cases to blow-off the concerns. Of course, we also found it interesting – and perhaps indicative of cultural differences -- that a lawyer was involved who recommended writing letters and making demands. But if the member has a contract that isn't month-to-month and can't be broken easily (as some said they did), we guess a formal action could be helpful. It just seems kind of drastic.

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