Recruiting a top-notch front desk team may seem like the easiest task in the world. You’re running the business, so all they have to do is say hi, goodbye and click a few buttons, right?
Wrong. Failing to acknowledge the importance of your front desk is a huge mistake. They are the hub of your company and many of the most important interactions with your customers go through their hands. They’re in charge of financial transactions, customer service and general office organization. Would you really entrust of all of that to just anybody?
The first step in coordinating a successful front desk team is screening the right people. It can be a demanding job, and not everyone is cut out for it. A former manager at Core Pilates NYC, Hayley Muth, maintains that while it may seem obvious, it’s most important that front desk personnel be outgoing, happy people. As the client’s first line of defense when something goes wrong, the desk staff needs to stay positive even when dealing with angry or upset patrons.
Positivity is also an important part of any sales position. Depending on how your gym or studio is run, the front desk is at least part of, or possibly all of, your sales force. If a client has run out of classes or their six-month package is up, it’s up to the front desk to make a convincing enough case for renewal. Your front desk is also responsible for all of the tiny details that keep clients coming back – cleaning, maintaining a beautiful space, staying on top of repairs. If eight people take the wrong pair of black Toms after Monday night yoga, it’s the front desk staff that have to come up with a sufficiently friendly lost-and-found poster and calm down cramp-toed clients.
Another key trait in any front desk worker is general organization and responsibility – specifically the ability to keep track of cash. Missing money is a minor, but constantly recurring, issue at many studios – even if the amount is small, it can still promote distrust amongst employees and managers. It is, of course, important to hire someone who doesn’t steal from you, but choosing someone who misplaces your money amounts to much the same thing.
So once you’ve got your crew, how do you keep them happy and showing up to work? First of all, you should probably being paying them more. Front desk staffs are notoriously bitter about their pay, especially considering how tough the hours can be. It’s hard enough to get up at 5 a.m. to work out, but imagine getting up at 4:30 to deal with cranky clients! Most studios pay their staff around $10/hour in urban locations, and around $8 or $9 outside of the city. But to maintain a happy, loyal staff, a living wage of $12-$15 per hour is more appropriate. And of course, a happy staff translates to better customer service.
But money’s not everything, and there are several other areas where a studio can shore up some loyalty amongst their front deskers. A quick (admittedly not Gallup-standard) survey of former front desk staffers at the ClassPass office showed that most were motivated by the studio’s offer of free classes for their employees. Hayley Muth points out that this policy is equally beneficial for the studio because the front desk, as part-time sales people, should be knowledgeable about the different classes offered.
Another motivator is discounted teacher training. Your most passionate and enthusiastic front desk staff will be those who hope to teach or open their own studios one day. The best way to attract this type of worker is to offer them a discount toward their own career advancement. Not only will you get a loyal front desk worker, but you’ll be investing long-term in an in-house trained teacher who is equally loyal to your company.
And of course, always follow the golden rule: treat your front desk the way you, as owner, want to be treated. Don’t take advantage of your workers. Pay them for off-hours meetings, give them a discount on studio merchandise so they can feel a part of the team and rep your brand and make sure your other employees treat them with respect. If your studio uses a class-booking software like MindBody, don’t short shrift your staff in training them how to use it.
This may seem like a long list of tasks to keep your staff happy, but most of them you can provide at little cost – and often at a net benefit for yourself. Think of your front desk staff as potential teachers, managers and partners. Embrace their training as a way to build your studio family and you will set yourself up for success.