Training The Customer Experience Athlete

"Great athletes have great proprioception. Great customer experience athletes have great “social proprioception.”

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.

How 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.

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The best way to learn more about how the Member Experience Management Platform can transform your club is by experiencing it for yourself.
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