While there were plenty of lessons to be learned at the iClubs Conference sessions themselves, I did manage to pick up a couple lessons outside of the San Diego Convention Center. I discussed one in this post about a tip I learned on my flight from Boston to San Diego.

But this one comes from San Diego itself — well, a dinner outing in San Diego, that is — which ties together many of the individual sessions at the conference into a great experience.

The story begins when a few of the attendees went to lunch at Lou & Mickey's across the street from the convention center.

A fine dining establishment located in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter

That, in itself, is not at all unique. But they enjoyed the restaurant so much, they went back to the very same restaurant for dinner and brought along several more people, demonstrating the power of service in growing a company's revenues. It is a lesson that can be learned and used by independent health club owners to grow their businesses as well.

The food at lunch was delicious and expensive, as good food often is. But it wasn’t the food itself that drew the group back for dinner. After all, San Diego has plenty of great restaurants located near the convention center.

Adam, the server at lunch, and Brian, the manager did an exceptional job of making the lunch party feel important, so important that they felt like the most important diners in the establishment amongst the many lunch-hour denizens. Dinner reservations were booked before the lunch bill was even on the table. 

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What is more, the dinner reservation was booked with the special request that the party be seated in Adam’s section. The short amount of time spent interacting with Adam during lunch was enough to establish a “relationship” due to the exceptional service and rapport. 

This is the kind of rapport that every health club owner envisions between their staff and prospects, members, and training clients. Relationships like the one established between the lunch party and Adam help build new business, repeat business, referrals, and increases retention — some of the main focuses of the iClubs Conference. 

But the quality service didn’t end after securing the repeat business. Although the day manager wasn’t working that evening, he had an appetizer ready and waiting for the returning guests. He had pre-arranged for the surprise to be sent to the table with his compliments. Adam served the table with a smile,  and even charged a phone for one guest. He seemed to always be available despite having several large parties to whom he had to attend. 

RELATED: Teaching Employees Customer Service

Just like a restaurant, a health club deals in the hospitality industry. And just like restaurants, the quality of the "hospitality" varies from one club to another. A great customer experience during the first “sale” led to a second, larger one that same day. Even more, the diners spread the word to others at the iClubs Conference, which led to more reservations – and possibly more in the future. 

While restaurants and health clubs may seem to be in different industries, they are both in the industry of providing a direct service. A restauranteur can view their establishment as merely a food dispensary which employs people to plop orders down in front of customers, or as a place that provides a dining experience. A health club can be a couple of rooms filled with workout apparatuses which employs people to check members at the door and handle belligerent customers, or it can be a place that provides a workout experience,  which employs people whose job is making that experience as positive as possible.  More than one lesson can be learned from the staff at Lou & Mickey's: 

  • Treat every prospect and customer as if they are your most important. 
  • Do the small things, as they may be noticed and appreciated by your prospects and members. Sometimes those small things make all of the difference.  
  • Don’t stop after the sale. Keep the experience going to increase referrals, revenue and retention, and to further build that rapport.
  • Leaders set the tone. Much like Brian, the manager at Lou and Mickey’s, focus on customers to set the tone for the rest of the staff. 
  • Hire wisely and empower your staff to take care of the members. 

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John Agoglia has spent nearly two decades either working in health clubs or writing about them. He currently writes for several digital and print publications in and out of the fitness industry.