The reality is COVID-19 has created a climate that has forced fitness professionals to pivot, pivot quickly, and pivot into uncharted waters. Many facilities across the nation have slowly begun to open for business. Some facilities are very cautious, while perhaps others are not being cautious enough. It is a balance between keeping members happy and being responsible in your decisions.
After being open for the last four weeks, the old adage, you cannot make everyone happy, rings true. Our facility developed a very thorough reopening plan that evaluated many different phases of reopening.
We leaned on other industry experts, researched and consulted with our county health department. The reopening has been a roller coaster of emotions and every day seems to be new lessons learned. Among those lessons are:
- Be present. Members are going to have questions. Equip staff with FAQs, but join the front lines with your associates. It helps relieve their anxiety, and demonstrates to members you are prepared and confident in the policies you have set forth.
- Be transparent with other managers. Use other managers as a sounding board for what is happening in your area. Do not think you have to know it all. There is a lot of uncertainty during these times and it seems information is changing daily.
- Be quick to respond to questions and concerns. It can be overwhelming when you feel like everyone is coming at you, but waiting too long to respond can cause members’ feelings to fester and escalate.
- Be compassionate. Listen to what members are saying and realize not everyone will have the same perspective. People are going to be anxious and each case will need to be looked at individually. Determine what you can do to help that member feel safe without compromising others.
- Be flexible — do not dig your heels. Be ready to adjust and amend policies as you feel it is safe to do so. We received a lot of pushback about one of the areas we shut down. When we reevaluated and saw our customers were being respectful of each other and following guidelines, we determined we could safely open that area after all.
- Be educated. Continue to look at what others are doing in the industry, and determine if those best practices work for your facility. Stay on top of the number of cases in your area. Knowing how the community is responding will help determine when your facility is ready to move on to the next phase in your plan.
- Be positive. Look at the positive that can come out of this for your facility. This might be a good time to get on top of virtual offerings — a great new revenue thread. Use this time to clean up your group fitness schedule and freshen up offerings to make sure your schedule is balanced.
A wise sage once said, “Out of chaos comes order.” You define the order that emerges from the chaos. You can paint that new picture, and use this as a time to regroup and reconnect with your members. Tap into what your members need and you may have the opportunity to strengthen member loyalty.
Sandy Wiedmeyer is the fitness manager at Pleasant Prairie RecPlex and WIFA Midwest Global Ambassador.
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