Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Tag: planetfitness and employee engagement

Trust and Respect: Should you force your managers to lie, PlanetFitness?

I wrote a few weeks ago about the Wade Hampton PlanetFitness gym and their apparent policy of zero engagement of customers and employees.

You can read about my issue with sanitation and the simple layout solution that I offered up to management. But the reality is that ideas from employees and customers go into a black hole – they are not encouraged and they get no response. Senior Managers must have ALL the ideas, right?

Well, it is sad to say that the story got worse right after I published. Hard to believe but true.

That blog post went up on Sunday and I was in there Monday to do my regular workout. The store manager, Danny, stopped by and said that the owner and his regional manager were in there that morning and he shared the idea with them. He seemed pretty positive about how that all went down and was smiling when we talked. Apparently, and I guess at this, he seemed to feel that his management was actually listening.

On Tuesday, though, I get a phone call and it is Danny telling me that my membership had been canceled!

He said that my blog post depicted members and that was a violation of membership privacy and he was forced to cancel my membership. It was apparently because of this picture:

Planet Fitness has correctable  issues of engagement and sanitation

Is any customer privacy really violated? Could the people in the picture even identify themselves? Would they complain to management? Seriously??

 

THIS picture violates member privacy? 

It does not take much to get underneath that behavior to guess at the cause. His boss or bosses had negative personal responses to what I had said about their continued behavior of ignoring any suggestions from anyone. Their staff had commented on that before plus I never got a response to any of my emailed suggestions sent to their offices. My guess is that they were embarrassed by the blog and the conclusions and that they were a bit vindictive — in a get-even mode. How do they get even? Fire The Customer!

The problem is that store-manager Danny was now put in a position where he had to lie to a customer — he was forced into an unethical and illogical position. I asked him about it and he would not respond. He would not blame management, he would have no comment other than repeating that the photo above violated the contractual statement on customer privacy.  OTHER people in the store would also not comment about the situation — a gag rule seemed to have been implemented. How do the workers feel?

Put yourself in Danny’s position. Your boss forces you to call a customer and tell them that they are fired, and for really dubious reasons. You know it is a lie and the customer knows it is a lie. How would YOU feel about that?

Do they not realize the impacts on things like trust and respect? The customer certainly loses respect for the manager and the manager must lose respect for his boss and boss’ boss.

They lose a customer who was a pretty good customer. They get some negative publicity in social media. The regular employees certainly see what is going on, since one commented that he saw the paperwork that cancelled me out. It gives me one more “never do this kind of thing” story. It is sad, really. What does Danny say to me when I see him on the street or does he simply pretend that he does not know me?

And, if this is some policy, why won’t other people do a similar thing when they want to get out of their contract with them? You sign a multiple-page commitment that is hard to get out of but this sure seems like a simple way: publish a selfie with other people on Facebook. That seems to be their rule…

I think that the reality of this, insofar as ethics and leadership, trust and respect, innovation and creativity and continuous improvement is that senior managers need to understand that ruthless reactions to employees and customers is not really a good leadership principle. In my social interactions in the weeks since this happened, I have shared this story with a few dozen other people and they all support my thinking as to the arrogance of the ownership of this company.

PlanetFitness. It’s a gym and a job. Just a gym with poor employment practices…

The choices made seem so illogical. The customer offers ideas for improvement and gets fired by the owner!

Planet Fitness has been making the news with other member terminations lately. Here is one where a customer complains about what looks to be a man in her ladies locker room — www.wnem.com/story/28278233/planet-fitness-drops-member-after-gender-identity-complaint – It is apparently a “No Judgement Zone” as a gym and a “No Complaints Zone” as a corporate membership policy. The woman had an issue and she gets terminated. Hope that Planet Fitness likes the negative publicity about their leadership issues.

There should be a sign: Got a Complaint? Take it Outside.

 Your thoughts?

(Note: Since I was telling other people about this and they were asking for the details, I felt committed to follow through and put more information into this people and performance blog. It is simply sad to see “leaders” of organizations make such poor choices and treat their people in unethical ways. It is sad that employees are forced into difficult situations like these.)

Scott Simmerman

Zero Engagement at PlanetFitness?

For almost a year, I have gone to the PlanetFitness operation not far from my office. They did a really good job of converting a dead KMart location into a busy and viable business, which was the anchor for the whole strip mall. It seemed like a really good operation.

building

With my business being organizational improvement and addressing the Square Wheels that often exists within operations, there were a number of things that I had commented on to assist management in keeping things clean or noticing a piece of equipment not working and similar.

One constant complaint was the music — I really did not like it and continually joked that the playlist was selected by the owner’s 13-year old daughter, since it constantly reflected that type of music and seldom anything else. The lack of fit was obvious – the average age of the customers during the times I was there was probably 40 and many wore cumbersome headphones and earbuds. Even the staff did not like it and suggested I complain. I did, online at their main website, but never got a response. I never got a response to the dozen or so Twitter complaints with their #planetfitness tag… (One has to assume that they monitor that, right?)

Well, a real Square Wheels became apparent to me about a month ago, concerning a cleanliness / health issue. They have pads available for stretching that many people use, but few actually clean. Now, I clean the pad thoroughly before and after I use it – and I wish others would simply spray it down when they are done.  My guess if that there were better customer loyalty, which is driven by employee loyalty and commitment, things would generally be better.

But this sanitation situation also got me thinking about physical solutions to change people’s behaviors, as I think with pretty much everything I see. The cause is, in part, location of the use of the mats. Customers use the pads far from any cleaning station and many are too lazy to walk the 50 feet (even though they are there for fitness!). They are not actually stored there, but that is where customers choose to leave them. And many of the customers use these pads on the floor in a high foot-traffic area:

room

The door on the far left is where staff go to get cleaning supplies and leads to a back door where they probably park cars and keep their lunches, etc. I have not been back there, but there is constant traffic through that door. You can also see one of the yellow cleaning stations in that far back right corner.

SEE THE NEGATIVE IMPACTS THAT  THIS SIMPLE
SUGGESTION CAUSED – UPDATE IS HERE

My simple idea is to move the first row of machines forward to be on both sides of that purple pole and then move that second row of machines forward, putting the pads on that white wall and moving the cleaning station to the middle. Traffic would be improved and the people would be in a more private area of the room. With the pads nearer the cleaning stuff, customers would be more likely to wipe things down. They would also keep them back there instead of all over the building. Seems easy, with no cost.

In talking with the manager, he basically said that it was a corporate decision on design and that this was the way they wanted it. He could not even try it — he could NOT make the change and my impression is that changing this would get him in trouble!

My proactive self then asked if he could make the suggestion to someone and he essentially threw up his hands with a “that would never work / they would never listen” kind of response. I would guess he tried that before, since he had been with the company a long time. My guess is that he would not bother to make the suggestion. I even got the impression, based on a question, that my suggesting directly it would not even get a response.

I asked the staff, who are great. ALL of them are good people, including the manager. But they also confirmed that making a suggestion was a waste of time. A couple had apparently made suggestions about the music and other things but gotten no reaction.

IS it really corporate policy to not respond to requests and suggestions about business improvement ideas from customers and employees? Seriously? One wonders about the morale of the employees in different locations, working for average or below average store managers (remember that there is a normal curve of performance among any group of people — half are above average and half are below, statistically!)

One wonders about employee turnover and other business costs.

Another real impact is the sales of materials. PlanetFitness devotes visual space to branded merchandise:

people 1

But they don’t sell much. My guess is that locker combination locks and the different skin creams are much bigger sellers than the branded t-shirts. With high margins on these items, suggestive selling by loyal employees would certainly add revenues to the store and company.

But my educated guess is that sales are minor, that engagement is nil, and that the company is successful simply because of positioning in the marketplace. I also know that competition is a real thing and the playing field will change.

Why does the company NOT encourage ideas for improvement in store operations? Why is there so much un-engagement? My guess is that they just do not value people — customers and employees — in their overall efforts to manage their business.

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.
(John Le Carre)

And if it were me, I would sure be out there asking for new ideas and talking with everyone whose behavior determines my success. As a customer, I sure would appreciate it if the place were kept better sanitized. If the employees and customers don’t care, only price will drive them into the business.

Maybe someone from corporate will actually read this blog and consider doing something differently, like visiting the property and asking employees for ideas to improve the business, both the operational stuff along with the customer service along with the merchandise sales. Stay tuned, I guess… I share my ideas and information freely, like their staffs would.

After all, the round wheels are already in the wagon, but sometimes the rope used by the wagon puller can get pretty long!

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For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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