You only get one shot at making a great first impression on your new athlete. Let's avoid the uncertainty, where sometimes your potential customers have the best hour of their lives, and sometimes they have a mediocre (or worse) first group class.
When someone takes a group class at your gym for the first time, you’ve been given an opportunity to provide an extraordinary customer experience. And you typically only get one shot at making a great first impression on your new athlete, so you’ve got to have a protocol, a “first class” protocol, in place that works.
It might sound excessive to have a first class protocol at your gym. Maybe it even feels too salesy or contrived for a small, humble business.
But rest assured that behind your favorite brands and businesses, there is a strong foundation of well-thought-out strategy and protocol that are responsible for making them great organizations. Preparation and routine is what allows the magic to happen. Without a plan and the discipline to follow through, you’re left in a land of uncertainty, where sometimes your potential customers have the best hour of their lives, and sometimes they have a mediocre (or worse) first group class.
One of the best things about implementing strategies is that it fortifies your business against things like bad moods and the stress of employee turnover. With a protocol in place, you (or your coaches) can still go through the motions even when you’re having the toughest of days. And when you hire a new coach, they’ll already know how to handle someone’s first day: the “first class” protocol would have been in their onboarding and training. Protocol releases you from whims of circumstance, a release every successful business owner needs.
The first class protocol is for you to write, (it shouldn’t be in your head—this is something to be written down and shared with your team) create and iterate over time. Let your mind wander and figure out what matters most when it comes to this important experience at your box. But to get you started, here’s one we love…
First Class Protocol
Show them that you care about their well-being. Get the waiver signed and discuss any injuries or limitations. Explain how the class will work. Show them where they can get water, where the bathrooms are located, and where a good spot to rest is in case they need a break at any point.
Set the expectation. If they are new to fitness, remind them that today is all about having fun and meeting new people. No need to crush the workout or worry about scores/times. If they are seasoned, give them information about how your gym works and what’s appropriate. (For example, this might be the time to tell them that athletes need to wait in the warm-up area until their class time starts.)
Give them a buddy for the class. Introduce the new guy/gal to a seasoned member. Let them know that if you’re unavailable, this is the person that can help. The buddy can do things like show them where equipment is, help them navigate the run route, and pass them a wipe to clean off their equipment at the end of class.
Connect them to another member. Is the new person a teacher? Introduce them to one of the other members of your class who’s also a teacher. Does he/she have a college basketball t-shirt on? Have them chat with the member who you know lives and breathes for the sport. CONNECT CONNECT CONNECT. Help them feel like they belong.
Celebrate their first class. At the end of your class, take a moment to congratulate your new athlete. This is a big deal and a special moment—make sure they feel your excitement and enthusiasm. (If this person is a seasoned athlete and they’ve done many classes like yours before, you still want to celebrate: “Congrats to Mike for completing his first workout with (insert gym name here)! Now...tell us the truth: this is the best gym you’ve ever been to, right?!”)
We want to hear from you, the coaches and gym owner community. What’s in place at your box that ensures a great first class experience?