It’s always your fault…

“It’s always your fault if you’re any damn good at all.”

Ernest Hemingway

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I love that quote.  It speaks to the heart of how great companies operate and how great companies THINK about the customer experience.  How many time have we all heard “perception is reality”?  In other words, if a member thinks your staff is unfriendly and rude, then that is their reality.  But that doesn’t take it far enough.

I was on a call with one of our larger customers that have done a spectacular job implementing their operational customer experience management program AND getting results across the board.  Not just with their customer experience metrics but financial results as an outcome of a greatly improved experience.  For the sake of this article I will call them, Enlightened Fitness Co.  No that’s not their real name so go ahead and use it in your next brand roll out!!

We were discussing some of the initial hurdles and how they overcame them.  She told me that some of the early feedback was hard to take.  I get it.  I have had the same thing happen.  You pour your heart and soul – and money – into your operation and someone says, “you suck.”  To overcome this they decided that a key teaching point would be “perception = reality”.  But they did more than acknowledge that a member’s perception was that member’s reality, THEY TOOK OWNERSHIP OF IT.  And there is a big chasm to jump from acknowledgment to ownership.  BIG.

On to another customer who we recently lost after a few short months – we almost never lose a customer.   They had implemented the first tactical elements of a good program but had not yet fully embedded all the practices that truly move a company forward.  But they were doing a great job closing the loop and following up with members.  Then we got word – “Please cancel us.  Our members only advocate for themselves and don’t think about the whole club.  The negative feedback has worn on us and we don’t want to see it anymore.”  Uhhhhhhh…..what to say…what to say….

First of all, I’ve been there.  You take it personally, which is actually okay and I believe important.  Bit as Enlightened Fitness Co told me – “You need to take it both personally and professionally.”  You take it personally so that you have the urgency and emotion to want to make changes.  You take it professionally so that you apply critical thinking and planning to actually make improvements.

But don’t give up!  Don’t whine that members “advocate for themselves”! OF COURSE THEY DO!  All customers advocate for themselves!  What the hell do you expect???  Customers aren’t there to stroke you.  They are there to give you a dose of reality – THEIR reality. Take responsibility for making your organization more fun and easier to do business with.  Fix stuff faster.  Be more helpful and friendly.  Clean better than you are currently.  Replace OLD stuff.  Paint.  Sing.  Dance.  And most of all, don’t kid yourself that your “member onboarding process” is great or even mediocre until you go inspect every aspect of it to ensure it is working as intended.  Then make it better. Make it a great workout experience and accept the feedback – then action it.

That’s what the “damn good” organizations do.

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You guys are insane!

According to the Urban Dictionary: Blind loyalty involves being loyal to a person or cause despite the damage the person or cause does to himself or herself or others. Versus: Loyaltyfeeling of strong support for someone or something, Merriam-Webster. Are your customers and employees loyal – or blindly loyal? Before you answer, think about this:

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Blind Loyalty, what does this mean exactly? Think of your pet! Now there is an example of blind loyalty. You work 12 hours a day, the pet is left alone, and yet they are so happy to see you when you get home. Maybe you are a great pet owner or an abusive one. Your pet is still loyal and still loves you no matter what.  And parenting! No matter what kind of parent a person is, young kids are loyal and want to impress (at least until the teen years!). I consider myself a good parent but I’m sure some day one of my kids will tell their therapist about something I did as a parent that has caused them grief as an adult.

As adults, we think we like something, and are loyal to it, whether it is a business, a person, or a product. Until that business, person, or product does something outrageous to cause mistrust. BUT, why we do wait until that moment?! As business owners/managers, why do we wait until our customers are angry or sales are declining? As consumers, why do we wait until the business or product disappoints? As employees, why do we wait until we can find something better?

If you have customers and employees, chances are YOU are blindly ignorant. Ignorant to the fact that perhaps your employees only work for you because there isn’t anything else available or your customers are customers because they haven’t discovered something better. Don’t be that guy/gal! Loyalty starts from the top.  If you run your business on loyalty and truly care about your employees as human beings and care about the product or service you are offering, then LOYALTY is what you will have, not Blind Loyalty. Don’t assume your employees and customers love you or what you do, KNOW.  Ask, find out, LISTEN and truly learn from your people and customers. (Notice I said learn. This is different then TELL.)

If you are the boss or the manager, find out from your people what makes them tick. Why do they love working for you and your company? Let them be candid. If you have truly loyal staff, you will have truly loyal customers. Be true and be loyal to your people and profits will result.

My goal is to never hear something like this about my company, my people, or my product:

“You guys are insane. Working like dogs and retaining blind loyalty to some jerk of a boss who doesn’t give a toss about you.” Urban Dictionary 

May it never be so.

7 Practices of Customer Experience Management

What is customer experience management? Anyone can collect customer feedback but turning that feedback into actual operations activities is the key. We call that OCEM or Operational customer experience management, Team Meetingwhich involves listening to customers and improving their experience by implementing changes based on that feedback. OCEM is not new to large enterprises that have big budgets along with a host of analysts and researchers as well as a driving desire to differentiate themselves from competition. But OCEM may be new—and a challenge—to smaller companies.

The fitness industry has pockets of companies with incredible customer loyalty and experience with OCEM. No matter what kind of fitness facility you run, you are a service business. You pay people to do things that are supposed to make the members’ experience better. OCEM systems tell you if that is working. They measure what, up until now, has been lost in the ether of the club. The following are 7 ways that great companies use OCEM. Let us know how we can help you put these things into practice.

  1. They set OCEM goals and measure progress. The key to OCEM is to talk to your members about customer experience, then measure it. As one company leader put it, “By the time poor customer experience shows up on your profit and loss, it’s too late.” Every gym owner should use a system to capture member feedback and benchmark against widely accepted methods for quantifying customer experience.
  2. They embrace all feedback. The best companies do not get bogged down in dogma. Negative feedback as well as positive feedback are embraced and deeply investigated to recover customers and improve the future experience for all. Every individual piece of feedback matters.
  3. They close the loop. When customers provide feedback, they get responses. Your members want to know that they have been heard. Your OCEM design should allow each of your locations to receive a stream of feedback at a pace that is easily manageable by the front line on a daily basis.
  4. They socialize feedback. These operators share with their staff the company’s scores for friendliness, cleanliness, overall experience or likelihood to repurchase. Staff discuss and dissect the numbers in meetings. Customer comments are used to support the desired culture. This is easy in the gym environment, and it is fun. I send comments to our entire staff about twice a week emphasizing what makes us different and thanking the staff for doing what we cannot do without them.
  5. They nurture staff engagement. Part of the reason you need to socialize customer data is that it increases staff engagement. Business owners make sure all corners of their operations are aware of key loyalty metrics relative to goals and to peers in the system.
  6. They know that customer experience leads. Downward trends in customer experience scores are the leading indicators for customer exodus. Awareness around customer experience allows one to see what has not been visible and to respond before it hits the profit and loss statement.
  7. They never stop. These companies listen, respond thoughtfully, recover customers, make changes to delight and keep customers, set targets and measure the effectiveness of their efforts. This is how OCEM works and how companies differentiate by enchanting their customers. The playing field is wide open in the fitness industry. Operators with the right philosophy, the tenacity and the willingness to learn from enterprises more experienced and more profitable than ours will reap the greatest benefits.

We love NPS!

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We love NPS. It’s simple. We started measuring NPS (Net Promoter Score) right after reading Fred Reichheld’s December 2003 Harvard Business Review article. LOVE NPS!   It is a great “North Star” for getting company-wide focus on the member (customer) experience. It remains one of our company’s four main KPIs. The target for our health clubs is to maintain a Trailing 90 Day NPS > 70.

But we learned quickly that to really enable the management of the member experience we needed to better understand the member experience. The “likelihood to recommend” question was a great start. But it hid many of our company’s shortcomings as it wasn’t an accurate representation of the entire MEMBER JOURNEY. By itself, it didn’t uncover our members’ deeper ideas, concerns and even valuable praise. We also struggled with accountability – How do I, as a front desk team member, ACCOUNT for my impact on our NPS?

When companies deploy an NPS only approach to Operational Customer Experience Management (OCEM), we see it result in a series of tactics to find “Detractors” and to mitigate their risk of cancelling. This tactical approach to OCEM returns only a fraction of the value one should be leveraging when going through the trouble of collecting member feedback. It also does not reveal the issues (sometimes major issues) your Promoters have with your company.

The first rule of OCEM is to really see yourself as the member sees you. You need metrics that you can track to their entire journey and once they give you that quantitative feedback, they are now primed to give you richer qualitative feedback.

For example, while I am writing this I reviewed feedback from a “Promoter”. This person gave a 10 on Likelihood to Recommend (LTR). They gave their reason as “Great club! Super clean.” Okay, if those are the only questions I allowed her to answer then our job with her is done! But read on. Once this SAME MEMBER had a chance to reflect on (and score) her whole journey, she added the following: “I have had 3 trainers. One left after 2 sessions, the next one was fired after we trained for several months and the third was promoted to another club within one month of us training, Very discouraging. No continuity. Why would I buy another series?” THAT is the information I needed.  Buried in her journey was a major issue. Now, instead of the false pat-on-the-back we would have given ourselves, we have uncovered an issue. In fact this may not be a small issue. Conducting root cause on this might reveal a HUGE opportunity to improve the experience for all of the personal training clients.  But if you are only asking the LTR question and “what was your reason?” you are not getting the value you need.

But we are still talking about tactics. What about your strategy? In order for you to be successful with your strategy, do you need to have a customer service oriented culture? Chances are, if you are in the fitness business the answer is “yes.”

The challenge with an NPS only program is that is very hard to move your customer-centric plans from being just ink on paper to the blood in the veins of your entire team. Getting the feedback to align with the member journey so that every team member takes ownership of the customer experience is how to make that happen.

Enter the science of great technology, survey design and a systematic approach for closing-the-loop, fixing individual issues, performing root-cause analysis and building culture.

The member experience is a complex thing to understand. It should not be treated as a transaction. When done right this complexity can be presented in simple and beautiful ways that engage your entire company. I started with Einstein and will finish with Oliver Wendell Holmes – “I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity. But I would give my right arm for simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

This blog was originally published Nov. 24, 2015 by Blair McHaney. We hope it fires you up to start really understanding what your members think about you.

Start with a smile

Today I did an informal experiment. As I was riding my bike to work, I decided to count how many people either returned my smile or said good morning/hello or some other acknowledgement (even a head nod!). No, it wasn’t too early and it was a gorgeous day! Apple Capital Loop Trail– I live in an amazingly beautiful area with a bike path that connects two towns on either side of the Columbia River. Along the way, it is quite normal to see eagle, osprey, fish jumping, salmon fisherman fishing, and even some other unsightly creatures (snakes, skunk).

In other words, the reasons to be happy, to be smiling, to be friendly were numerous! We are alive, we are able bodied enough to be outside enjoying the beauty and breathing clean, fresh air!

Back to my experiment: my trip to work is only about 45 minutes of brisk biking but I passed no less than 47 people. I am not counting the ones who were plugged in or chatting away with others and, therefore, would not hear my cheery voice. 47 people (plus the others with headphones or friends)! Isn’t that amazing? So many people up and exercising and enjoying the outdoors. Guess how many people smiled back at me? Or acknowledged me in any way? 13. Yes, only 13 – roughly 26% I was overly cheery and loud with my greetings and still – only 13. That makes me wonder: what is going on in their minds that they are choosing to not be present? (Perhaps they thought I was a bit loony or “one of those annoyingly happy morning people?)

Which leads me to this article – how often do we go throughout our day not being present?be present What are we missing by letting our minds run ahead? How many people do we not connect with by not paying attention to our surroundings and missing the best parts of our day? It’s so easy to get absorbed in what we have to get done, our stresses, or our life but by not being present, we might miss that open door to the next greatest opportunity. Even the missed opportunity to really “see” and acknowledge some really great people!

Do you know WHO those 13 people were? They were the ‘seniors’ (older than me!) who I suspect were out there because: 1) they had the time 2) they enjoyed the beauty of the outdoors or even 3) perhaps they wanted to make someone’s day better by offering a hello or a smile. I can see their smiles, the look of peace and contentment. For me, they reminded me just how much a smile means. They made my day brighter.

Even if you don’t have the opportunity to ride a bike to work or don’t live in a place that is beautiful, there is still joy in being alive and being in the moment. Take a look around – I’m sure you can find at least one thing to smile about?

A smile is easy. A smile is cheap. A smile can make someone’s day. The best gift you can give yourself is to make someone’s day brighter by offering a free smile. Enjoy!

How do you practice being present? What makes it hard for you to be present? Please share with us.

This blog was originally published Oct. 2, 2015 and was so good the first time that you just have to see it again, courtesy of Jenny Hymer. Enjoy!

Weighting out the winter

 

Winter is here and your members and future members are evaluating their fitness right now! They are considering their gym memberships and resolving in their minds to really get serious this next year. set goal, make plan, work, stick to it, reach goal - a success cThis is great for business but the challenge is always how to retain more of these people before they get discouraged and move on or just stop coming in.

Here is something to think about.

Do you know what fitness goals your member’s have? How would you know if they met their goals? If you are a health club operator You should absolutely know this information. Knowing what your members are trying to accomplish is key to connecting them with the right services and keeping them as members long term. If you could keep each member from cancelling even for an additional 2-3 months, how much additional revenue is that?

Here are a couple of ways to learn about your members fitness goals.

  1. Start with asking people when they first become a member. Try this, “Tell me what you are hoping to accomplish with this membership?” Hold the assumptions and give them a few minutes to answer. It is amazing what a few thoughtful well designed questions can produce. It should be no surprise that many people will be eager to tell you about their fitness goals. If they are sitting in a sales office at your health club, they will assume that you are an expert and will be able to advise them how to meet their goals. Capture what they have shared with you so that your trainers and management can access this information. Your engagement with this member should be driven by a desire to see them succeed.
  2. Another way to understand a member’s fitness goals is via a survey. The right member experience management system can provide you with an opportunity to engage personally with your member about their fitness goals and to learn how you can help. Soliciting regular feedback from members is the only way to know if you are actually providing them with what you promised when they first joined you club.

Here are just some of the things your members could be trying to accomplish.

  • Lose weight
  • Gain weight
  • Train for a race
  • Recover from surgery
  • Make new friends
  • Start dating
  • Need a break from their kids
  • and many more reasons

Take the time to understand what your members are trying to accomplish. A few respectful and thoughtful questions will go a long way towards keeping that member engaged and active at your club.

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Are you doing anything to understand and track fitness results at your club? Let us know!

It’s a Tuesday to You but a Lifetime to Them

I have only been in the health club industry for about 7 months now, not long at all compared to the people around me. That doesn’t add a whole lot of weight to my words (no pun intended) does it? So why take to heart the things I’m about to tell you? In the practical sense I have about 30 years of firsthand experience in the weight loss/health and wellness industry as a consumer. I grew up overweight, was that awkward kid that ate cereal out of a coffee mug so no one would know – sometimes food was my only friend. I blossomed into a heavy teenager, compensating for my looks with a sharp wit and an intense desire to please everyone around me. “She’s so nice, has such a great personality.” Yeah, I was that girl. On to my young adult years, I was up to almost 350 pounds. It wasn’t like the movies, there was no montage with a sad soundtrack that fast forwarded through my weight gain. I was present in every moment. Every bite, every time I drove the three blocks to work instead of walking, every time I told myself – Monday. I’ll start Monday. New Year’s is coming, I’ll eat what I want until New Years, then I’ll change everything. It’s Thanksgiving though, who wants to eat healthy during Thanksgiving? It’s my birthday! No one will mind if I eat half the cake, and so forth. A lot of you won’t be able to relate, and that’s ok. I used to be the exception, but unfortunately in this day and age my story is starting to become the rule.

At this point I should probably tell you that on August 24th, 2016, I reached my first milestone of 100 lbs lost. Yay me! How it happened… it wasn’t easy. I bounced from gym to gym searching for that golden epiphany for years, but was always turned off by the cold tiger_mountain_trailand empty feeling that I was just a mark on the dues line for the membership counselors and trainers I interacted with. Nothing stuck, there was no personal connection. I finally moved to Alaska for work at the end of 2010. I know our current and potential members aren’t going to move to Alaska and start hiking, it obviously won’t work for everyone, but it worked for me. I was in love! Not with a person, but with a state, and a new state of being. I could pick a trail, and just walk. At first it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I could barely walk up a single flight of stairs, but I put one foot in front of the other and got started.

I finally had my turning moment a few years ago. I was on a trail, embarrassingly easy for most people, but hell on earth for me. I was sweating profusely, panting, and walking so slow that it hardly felt like moving at all. Then I heard a voice behind me. “Keep it up! You’re doing great, good for you!” A very fit man on a mountain bike flew past me, giving me a thumbs up as he went. For whatever reason having a random stranger take just a moment to throw some encouraging words my way meant more than a lifetime of people who really loved me saying the same things. It was just a regular moment for mountain bike guy, a Tuesday if you will, but it meant everything to me. I picked up my speed, hiking harder and higher than ever before. My entire life changed after that. It hasn’t been easy, I still struggle on a daily basis, but I will never forget that moment, my catalyst.

That’s why I got into the business after all this time. I want to give my members those moments – just a second of contact that might change everything for them. I want to be that shift in their state of being, pass on the gift that was given to me. Medallia is the perfect vehicle for that change! When I went to Chicago for the MXM Institute I figured it would be a good introduction to the system, how to run the mechanics of the software, how to process the survey responses, help my team with reports and metrics, etc. I had no idea that the entire focus would be the customer experience and how to elevate it. I was enthralled the entire time, surrounded by industry people who genuinely cared about their members. We were there shoulder to shoulder, absorbing all of the information given in an effort to make sure we are providing the best possible environment to foster health and wellbeing. Medallia is a great conduit, the best way to have open and honest conversations with our members. They are talking loud and clear, and thanks to the program we get the opportunity to listen, process, and in turn provide those moments that could be life changing.  If you get the chance to go to the institute, please do. It is your opportunity to get refreshed and reconnected with the reason you got into the industry in the first place. You’ll go home afterwards knowing that it may only be an average Tuesday in your club, the 100th time you answered the same question, the 100th time you caught the eyes of a member and gave an encouraging smile, but it might be a lifetime to the people you’re here to help.

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This blog is courtesy of one of our clients, Cheri Terhorst, the Member Relations Coordinator at Club Northwest in Grants Pass, OR. We made Cheri’s acquaintance at our inaugural MXM Institute in Chicago.