Making it easy for people to report problems

02Feb10

When I walked into the gym on Saturday night, it was surprisingly busy. There was only a single treadmill available, so I quickly stepped onto it before anyone else could beat me there. But when I turned it on, I realized why that particular treadmill was unused. The belt was making a rather awful noise. Rather than take a chance with it breaking or being the jerk who pollutes the place with noise, I waited for another treadmill to open up instead.

How long will it take the building to repair the broken treadmill? From what I understand, the equipment repair people show up pretty quickly after an issue is reported. But this raises an obvious question: how much time will pass before someone actually reports the problem? Since you’d have to call or email the management office about the issue, I bet it takes days from the initial malfunction until someone finally gets fed up enough to tell management about it.

There’s obviously a better way. The key is to make it easy to report the problem right after you notice it. On the web, that’s easy: just put a help or support link on each page. But in real-world venues, you need to be more creative. For a fitness center environment, I would start by putting up a white board or a clipboard in a high-visibility location. Next, give it a big title like “Problems with the equipment? Tell us about it here”. Then, pre-fill the white board or form with a little diagram of the facility, so people can circle the machine that’s having problems and write a little summary of what’s wrong. And finally, make sure someone from the management office stops by to check the problem reports on a daily basis.

Sure, this is a rather low-tech approach. But I bet it would lead to quick and concise problem reporting in a way that email or other communication methods cannot. In other words, if you rely on people to tell you what’s wrong after they’ve physically left your venue, you’re going to get a whole lot less feedback than if you let them tell you about the problem while they’re still on the premises.



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