CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE STARTS WITH THE “FIRST CONTACT”.

Customer Experience Management is moving fast from the periphery of companies and going straight to the c-suites of the biggest and most successful companies in the world. In fact, Inc. Magazine said, “…based on forecasts from top firms, this year is set to be dubbed “The Year of the Customer.” Those that embrace customer experience are being rewarded with loyal customers who spend more. Our specialty is the fitness industry so of course we asked, what should the fitness industry learn from all this?Year of the Customer

While many in the fitness industry were early adopters of customer retention tactics (painful cancellations, long-term contracts, copies of power bills when moving etc.), our industry seems to be late adopters of customer loyalty strategies. The difference between these two is night and day. With retention, you may keep people for 2 years just through contract language. With loyalty, you keep them for 2 years because they can’t stand to not be with you.

So let’s define what makes up a great customer experience. It starts with “first contact.” Many mistakenly believe that first contact is when the customer calls or comes in. It isn’t. Their first contact with your company is when they first get the idea that you exist. That is where their experience starts. This could be through hearing about you from others or from a radio ad. It ends when they completely forget about you or when they die, whichever comes first. In between those two things are myriad touch-points which can be in the form of comments from friends, Yelp! ratings, facebook posts, your phone system, direct mail, radio ads, your building and everything else. How the heck can you even begin to manage their experience?

Let’s start with this – if you could manage the customer experience, you would want to manage it to be positive, not negative. And if that experience is a long stream of interactions between the time a person knows you exist and the time they die (unless they forget about you), then creating a positive experience means that you don’t want your customer to have any negative thoughts or feelings about you. See…easy! We have just defined what a “defect” is in someone’s experience. It is a negative thought or feeling.

We teach all staff about our 4 broad areas through which a customer experiences our gyms. We call each of these a customer experience “process” as each of these is designed to turn one thing into something else.

  1. Our first process is advertising, marketing and PR. This process is designed to turn a “civilian” (as we call them!) into a prospect, which is real person, with real contact information, who might be interested in exercising.
  2. Our second process is “selling” and it is designed to turn a prospect into a new member.
  3. Third is our MOP, or Member Onboarding Process. It is designed to turn a new member into a comfortable exerciser. This is an important distinction since we are only trying to make them comfortable at this point. They are not an expert nor have they necessarily reached an objective. They are simply comfortable in the environment. This concept applies to the new-comer as well as a seasoned exerciser.
  4. Fourth is what we call “conversion.” This is deigned to turn the comfortable exerciser into a loyal, lifelong fan. This is the day-to-day things that build on the experience they have had so far.

What is important to understand about a “process” is that there are tangible, actionable things that you do to complete a process. Identifying how every touch point in each of these 4 processes can be positive is a very rewarding exercise.

For instance, the process of converting a civilian into a prospect seems like it would be void of any negativity since this could be as simple as responding to an ad. But what if that ad has hidden messages? Let’s face it, our industry is wrought with advertising that is misleading at best. The negativity in an ad campaign may not surface until the selling process begins. That is when the prospect finally figures out that they didn’t read the fine print. Once the selling process begins, is it a negative or positive experience?

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