2018 Club Solutions Leadership Retreat

Our president, Blair McHaney, has been in sunny Palm Beach, Florida this week attending the 2018 Club Solutions Leadership Retreat!  He has been keeping busy networking amongst 40 other attendees and 16 sponsors, each from a broad cross-section of the fitness industry.

Upon arriving at the Welcome reception, Blair even got to test out his own cake decorating skills! This fun dessert challenge was then followed by four round table discussions that would help each attendee position their fitness clubs for the future.  These discussion topics included “The Changing Landscape of Fitness Technology,” “Leading From the Top Down,” “Mapping the Member Journey” and “Member Success – PT & SGT.”

This leadership retreat finished up with more fun filled activities, such as the Palm Beach Olympics. Blair got to compete with the other attendees during physical and mental challenges on The Breakers Beach. And finally, a Luau Dinner, sponsored by ABC Financial was the grand finale!

The Club Solutions Leadership Retreat is such a valuable event to attend and is not your typical tradeshow.  The networking that goes on here is second to none.  Nothing can benefit your business more than sharing ideas within your own industry. If you really want to understand your fitness club customers and members, as gym operators, this is the retreat to be at!

2 best practices for closing the loop

In all bricks and mortar operations, the leverage point for improving customer experience happens at the location level. It is at the location level where the most information on individual members resides.  Empowering at this level draws out more impactful actions for improving the customer experience.  This is the “distributed approach”. Continue reading “2 best practices for closing the loop”

7 ways great companies use OCEM

As a health club operator and the vice president of strategic initiatives for a customer experience management software company, I know the importance of operational customer experience management (OCEM), Team Meetingwhich involves listening to customers and improving their experience by implementing changes based on that feedback. OCEM is not new to large enterprises that have big budgets along with a host of analysts and researchers as well as a driving desire to differentiate themselves from competition. But OCEM may be new—and a challenge—to smaller companies.

Continue reading “7 ways great companies use OCEM”


The process for garnering staff buy-in for your vision can be daunting; moreover, the larger your organization and the greater the delta between where you are, and where you want to be, the greater your challenge.   It starts with your core beliefs, your vision, mission, and values.   For now, let’s assume that your beliefs about being in business have to do with taking care of people and that your personal standard about customer care sets the bar high. Let’s also assume that you struggle with getting your market-facing people to “imprint” to the level of service for which you strive. Screenshot_2014-03-25_17.39.20

An effective way to get buy-in is to let your staff write your service standards for you.  They will come up with better standards, they will be specific, and they will likely insist that you hold people to those standards.

At my health clubs here is what the process looked like. We moved through each department, engaged every employee within that department and had them define “perfect customer service.” If you have a large operation, you can do this with your key staff members or with the staff from one gym. When finished, you codify their input into a “service charter” for their department.

For example; ask your personal trainers to respond to a question – “How would you define ‘perfect customer service’ for a personal training department from the customer’s perspective?”  Once you begin to get answers, you aren’t done.  You may get a response that reads “the trainer is on-time, prepared, and dressed appropriately.” This is a great opportunity for you to dig deeper – “Great input. Tell me what you mean by ‘prepared and dressed appropriately?’”   With each new answer you are looking for questions you can ask to get crystal clear definitions.

Once every trainer has responded, draft a document that lists their input in bullet-point fashion.  Circulate the document to all trainers and ask them to review it closely and respond whether they agree or disagree with every bullet-point. Your objective at this stage is to find disagreements and bring the debate out into the open in order to get consensus.  This can be a long process but once finalized, your new “service charter” will be powerful and will have the full buy-in of its creators – your staff.

We took four months to finish this process for personal training, group exercise, daycare, and front desk. Once we had their input and finalized the documents, we socialized them as fast as possible. Each “service charter” now had the power of being created and endorsed by the very staff that were expected to deliver on the promise.  Moreover, each charter represented a bullet-point list of crystal clear training topics for on-boarding new employees.

The hidden benefits and the greater effect is staff attitude and the team building that occurs.  Delivering great service is much easier when all employees have a “we” agenda as opposed to a “me” agenda.  The “service charter” process creates the “we” agenda. It also uncovers those with a “me” agenda.   Pay attention to their input, how timely they respond, their seriousness about the process, and how involved they are in the final approval of the charter and you will know who is going to support and who is going to be a detriment to your team and consequently to your vision and goals.

Once created, these documents should not sit on the shelf and collect dust.  Every staff member should sign the charter, new staff members should be taught the charter, and the charter topics should be used to create deeper training.

Once you learn to utilize your staff for creating policies, procedures, and standards, you unleash a tremendous amount of loyalty and involvement. Recently a few staff members pointed out inconsistencies in our staff membership and daycare benefits. They formed a committee, we gave them a brief outline of things to consider then we left them alone to create a recommendation.  We got back a thorough, recommendation that was fair, easy to manage, and aligned to our values. We now have the additional benefit of releasing a policy created by the very people that it will affect. That is powerful. That creates teams that care thus creating tremendous customer experience!

What steps have you taken to get buy-in from you team? Does your team actually care about what your company is all about? How would you know?


Great athletes have great proprioception. Great customer experience athletes have great “social proprioception.” Click here to view a short video detailing this concept.


Proprioception is an individuals’ ability to sense where they are “in space.”  Without video, coach feedback, or seeing with one’s own eyes, they still have a high degree of awareness as to their entire body position.  Rory McIlroy knows exactly where the club is pointing on his backswing. Giancarlo Stanton knows exactly where the bat is even while focusing on the spin of the baseball. There is no delusion about what they can and can’t do.

Hold that thought and engage me in the concept of “social proprioception.” We coined this term at our clubs to help staff understand that everything matters when it comes to the member experience. Our definition – Social Proprioception is the ability to sense the emotional affect a person has on anyone able to observe his/her actions. 

This applies to anyone but let’s start with personal trainers. In reading literally thousands of member comments from hundreds of gyms, I can sum up most of the feeling like this –

  • Trainers only talk to you if getting paid.
  • Trainers don’t care about anyone except those that pay.

personal-trainer2How do so many people at so many different gyms get the same feeling?  Well, good trainers are focused on their client. Good trainers have full schedules. Couldn’t those two things alone create the negative perception?  Yes but so what?  You still can’t excuse it. Moreover, just telling your trainers (or any other position) to “be more friendly” is not a teaching tool.

Let’s fix that by using the concept of “social proprioception” (SP) as a teaching tool.  We might even include this before we hire anyone in any position – “Around here we require every employee to understand and demonstrate extremely high levels of social proprioception!”

Once we frame-up the concept we can start to teach it and build awareness.

Level 1 SP is constant awareness that what I say, how friendly I am, and whether I wipe down equipment will send a message to my client.

Level 2 SP is constant awareness that doing the same will send a message to my client and the person next to us.

Level 3 SP is constant awareness that by adding a quick and casual conversation with the person next to us it will send an even stronger message.  At this level I begin to recognize the importance of the messages I send when I engage outside my immediate circle.

Level 4 SP is constant awareness that my inclusive behavior is a strong message to those near me and perhaps even stronger to the 62-year old woman on the treadmill 50 feet away who has been watching and judging our staff friendliness based on her “facts” – what she sees.

Last week I was training at a very popular gym. I have never seen so many trainers as consistently busy as I saw in this place. Like on a lot of gyms, the floor is easily observed when doing cardio.

What I notice here is how engaged these trainers are with their clients.  No one is just “counting reps.”  They are all in close proximity to other people and focused. But it is as though they have a circle drawn around them that constitutes their entire world. If I have very high SP and I am only focused on my client, then I am aware that I am sending an isolationist, exclusive signal to all others in the gym.  My awareness might change my behavior to a more open and inclusive presentation of myself.  Now what if all 15 trainers did this at the same time?  How powerful would that message be throughout the entire gym? It wouldn’t take much to transform this entire environment into a “neighborhood.”

  • Know that you can be fully engaged with your clients AND fully engaged with your surroundings.
  • Know that how friendly you are to non-clients is how you are judged by 95% of members.
  • Know that this is your marketing program AT LEAST as much as client referrals. 

When selecting employees, require that they be both an excellent trainer (or instructor, front desk associate etc.) and a great customer experience athlete.

Find new ways to teach and demonstrate “Social Proprioception” and then share them with me at blair@medallia.com or leave a comment below.