What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #65
From the outside of the building, I could tell it was an older Y, but it looked well-maintained and in nice shape. My first impression was good.
I walked in and was immediately greeted by the front desk associate. “How are you today?” she asked.
"I’m great. My name is Brian, I’m new to the area and possibly interested in a membership."
She had me fill out a very small 4x6 index card with some basic information. After filling out the card she asked if I would like her to show me around.
"Perfect," I said.
The associate was extremely nice and very friendly, but the tour was not good at all. She seemed to be all over the place and really didn’t have any plan or process in place. It was a very sloppy tour with no substance. I kept thinking that it wasn’t her fault: it was obvious that she had not been trained.
As a side note, I am not looking for a perfect tour. I understand that the front desk people wear multiple hats and are not professional tour guides. However, I do training with YMCAs across the country and within a day of training, I can turn any front desk employee into a solid tour guide.
We concluded the tour at the front desk and she asked if I had any other questions. I asked about membership prices; she slid a price sheet over to me. There was an awkward silence as we were both staring at the price sheet. I didn’t say anything because I wanted to see what she would say next.
As she and I were staring at the prices, I kept thinking, “who is going to speak first?” I waited and waited and waited. Nope. Nothing. It seemed like we were at a stalemate for at least 3 minutes, which is a long time to stare at a price sheet with no words being exchanged. It was getting weird, so I spoke first.
"OK, I have a confession to make. I work as a consultant and have worked with 120 YMCAs doing training and sales," I said.
I handed her a business card and talked with her for a few minutes about what we do and how she did a great job offering me a tour. I asked her how much training she got on giving tours, because I was impressed with how friendly she was and her great attitude. Her reply was that she has worked there for a few years and didn’t have any training.
"I made up my own tour," she said.
What I loved about this associate is she was all about learning and improving. She was very interested in what I had to say and seemed like she would apply the information that I gave to her.
I asked to speak to the Executive Director to share my secret shopping experience and offer some free advice. The ED came out and greeted me with a firm handshake and a smile. I explained what we do as a company and how I was willing to give him some free advice from my secret shopping experience. He seemed interested and invited me back to his office.
After explaining the pros and cons of the tour, he seemed content with the fact that there was no system in place and made excuses for not doing tour training.
"I am going to be in the area for a few days and I would be willing to do a few hours of training for free with your front desk lady. She is super nice and really seems to want to learn. Based on my 20 years of experience, I can promise you the training will make a big difference in your conversion ratios," I said.
He thanked me for the offer but declined. I was frankly shocked that he wasn’t interested in a few hours of free training. He walked me out and said he would keep my card, and that if he is ever interested in our services, he will give me a call.
Our team has been hired to train YMCA staff and teach them our tour process to convert a much higher percentage of walk-in traffic to memberships. The fee they pay is a small fraction of the lifetime increase in conversion rates due to training. Beyond that, it helps the YMCA to look much more professional and informative to guests who inquire about memberships.
I have given tours to thousands of people at YMCAs across the country, and I tell every single one of them the difference between a for-profit and not-for-profit. Why, you may ask? Because it is a huge selling tool, and by sharing all the great things the Y does for the community, we help people understand why our higher rates offer a greater value than that $10.00 a month gym. I help them see how they are part of a movement, not just a gym, when they join the Y. This is a cornerstone of my tour and should be just as important to every Y.
I get thank you emails and positive feedback from Ys all the time telling me how our tour training made a big impact. Having a standard tour, asking questions, being genuinely interested in the guest, gathering information, giving the proper information, building rapport, should be standard. Our process isn’t hard, but it has to be practiced and maintained, or it will fall by the wayside.
This was the first time I have offered free training, and it may be my last.
Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.