May we help you? IHRSA seminar offers tips to create successful customer service program

In an IHRSA session titled, “Going Beyond Service With a Smile,” ACAC Director of Communication and Research Christine Thalwitz outlined five things every business owner should focus on when building a customer service program. SNEWS brings you the details.

While many IHRSA 2012 seminars were geared toward gym and facility owners, the educational sessions were chock full of helpful hints for specialty fitness retailers as well.

Especially useful were the tips delivered by Christine Thalwitz, director of communication and research at ACAC, in her session, “Going Beyond Service With a Smile.” Thalwitz outlined five things every business owner should focus on when building a strong customer service program. 

Thalwitz opened the seminar by going around and introducing herself to various attendees, saying over and over: “Hi, my name is Christine Thalwitz.” She cautioned the crowd that such simple pleasantries don't constitute real customer service.

“How do we take our team a step beyond that?” Thalwitz posed to the crowd. SNEWS brings you a recap of the session and how you can bring your team to the next level. If you’d like to find this and other seminars, visit the IHRSA store.

Christine Thalwitz’s Five Staples of Customer Service:

  1. Recruit and identify your superstars. Actively and continuously seek out employees and sales associates who are customer service naturals, Thalwitz said — don’t try to teach a squirrel to swim, she added. Recruitment should be continuous, she said, and not via expensive want ads but through word of mouth and referrals. If a person with excellent customer service skills walks through your door and asks if you’re hiring, make space for them rather than letting them go to the competition.
  2. Define standards of engagement. Identify exactly what customer service means to you rather than looking at it from a conceptual point of view. Have your sales associates move continuously throughout the store when people are perusing the showroom floor. Encourage them to engage with customers, teaching them positive physical cues such as maintaining eye contact, walking at a leisurely pace, not crossing arms and keeping their heads up. Keep a positive attitude and help them continuously learn.
  3. Recognize service opportunities. Do some experience mapping and figure out what customers might feel after they walk through your doors. Try to approach every situation based on what you’d like to experience if you were in their situation. Teach sales associates how to read people and teach them not to ignore the little things when customers are in the store.
  4. Measure customer service success. Get your customers to share their feelings, whether they’re frustrated or happy. Thalwitz said her club does an annual survey of customers to make sure they’re satisfied and see if they’d recommend the club to another person. This could be applicable to specialty retailers as well.
  5. Keep team members engaged. Praise and reward your staff to keep them contented and engaged. Put people in charge of areas that play to their strengths. And figure out low- nor no-cost incentives to motivate employees to keep doing their best, i.e., paid time to work out at the gym (or on the showroom floor), or an afternoon off.

--Ana Trujillo