When you’re running a small business, first impressions are everything. If you’re managing a fitness studio or gym, your front desk staff can either make or break that first impression. Not only is your front desk crew the first line of in-person and telephone communication, but they’re also the folks members turn to with questions, concerns, complaints—you name it.

Good front desk staff is hard to come by. Customer service experience and the ability to be friendly, calm under pressure, resourceful and a team player are all a must for anyone working the front desk. How do you ensure you’re hiring the right candidate for such an important role? What are the qualities to look for in a front desk employee? What should you ask to make sure you’ve found a good fit? We asked a few studio owners to share their advice on how to find the best person for the job. Here’s what they look for:

Someone who’s passionate about your studio’s mission

It goes without saying that your studio regulars are passionate about fitness. For them, staying active isn’t a hobby but a way of life. When looking for front desk staff, you’ll want to find someone who shares that same enthusiasm.

“The most important quality is … how much they love our brand,” says Laura St. John, co-owner of Pearl Street Fitness in Denver, CO. “How a person feels is always infused into their actions, so if they email or take a phone call, that feeling is sure to be contagious. It oozes into everything they do for us.”

That passion surfaces not just in a candidate’s tone, but in their knowledge of what your studio does—from the classes you offer to the value of being a loyal member.I like to have people at the desk who are already in love with barre,” says Nadia Walker Arnold, co-owner of Barre Forte in Denver.  “We make sure that the desk staff is educated about the top workout we offer as well as the pricing structures and class packages. They should be able to break down memberships and help clients figure out the best bang for their buck.”

A warm and friendly personality

Making both regular and new members feel welcome is one of the most important parts of working the front desk.  “For some of our clients, stepping foot into a new gym or studio can be very intimidating,” says Walker Arnold. “Feelings of being insecure or having body issues have held them back for so long. Making sure that clients feel welcomed, safe and free of judgment is crucial.”

Another part of making members of a small studio feel welcome is getting to know them by name. “Clients expect to feel as if they are a part of something and not just another paying client,” Walker Arnold adds. “We strive to learn first names by the clients’ second visit.”

A multi-tasker with good instincts

As the first line of costumer service at your studio, a front desk staffer can never be sure of what to expect. Some days are routine while others are anything but. That’s why it’s important to look for someone who can easily adapt to the changing demands of working the front desk, from greeting people with a smile to troubleshooting a billing issue or handling a complaint about a class or teacher.

“The most important qualities for front desk management are responsibility, trustworthiness, being on time (which is early) and a good multi-tasker who doesn’t get easily flustered,” says Debbie Wolff, owner and director of Fusion Fitness and O2 Yoga in Coral Springs, FL. “Of course we look for someone who is attentive and appears happy and helpful.”

Someone with the sales bug

From greeting and onboarding members to responding to and following up on their requests, a front desk staffer has a seemingly endless opportunity to grow sales. This is where multi-tasking comes into play again. Your front desk team should be proactive and know when memberships expire to encourage renewals. They should also be able to speak to specials the studio is offering and encourage first time clients to try a range of classes.

At Barre Forte in Denver, the front desk staff strives to help new members plan their next visit. “I like to try and pre-schedule the clients’ next class before they leave the studio or at the very least make sure they leave with enough information to make a decision about whether this is the right type of workout and studio for them to succeed with their fitness goals,” she says.

Someone who’s not likely to gossip

Regardless of where you work, chances are you’ve gossiped about your co-workers before. What starts as seemingly harmless chatter can be toxic in a studio or gym, especially at the front desk. Gossip can cause a range of problems not just among employees but among members, too. It’s nearly impossible to know whether someone may be prone to gossip during an interview, which is why it’s a good idea to raise the issue up front. Bring it up by talking about your studio’s warm and friendly culture – a culture that has no place for gossip.

“It’s one thing to be friendly to clients and ask them how they are and to even know when someone has had surgery or a baby and ask how all is,” says Wolf. “But not to gossip with other clients or especially instructors. Someone who knows a lot of personal information about the studio and clients needs to be trusted.”

Finally, make sure you ask the right questions when interviewing your next front desk candidate.

St. John’s must-ask questions are intended to give a studio owner good insight into how the person will help others.

  • What do you think about our gym, and why it’s amazing to someone new trying us?
  • What do you personally love most about our gym?
  • How do you feel about making our new customers feel welcome?
  • How do you feel about working with someone who has a problem we need to help him or her solve?

 Wolf’s studio is in the suburbs, which is why she always asks how a potential employee will get to work.

  • Is there anything that precludes you from getting to your job in a timely fashion?
  • Do you have your own transportation?

Walker Arnold makes sure she proves a candidate’s sales abilities.

  • Do you have sales experience?
  • Are you comfortable and confident when it comes to sales?