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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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.

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.

Free Webinar: The Four Habits of Exceptional Clubs

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Exceptional clubs don’t happen by accident, and they appear in every strata of the marketplace – low-price, mid-price and high-price. Their common denominator is the conscious choice to make customer experience their strategy and the adoption of the habits that make it successful.

Learn what “exceptional” really means and how you can put your club(s) on the “exceptional” path. If you want to learn how many of the world’s best companies, including fitness organizations, drive customer experience strategy, this webinar is for you – regardless of the size of your organization.

PRESENTER
Blair McHaney, president, ClubWorks Inc.


Blair McHaney is the former vice president of strategic initiatives for Medallia, an operational customer experience management (OCEM) technology company. He is a subject matter expert on operationalizing voice of customer systems, a Medallia Institute educator, a club owner for more than 30 years and president of ClubWorks, which is Medallia’s partner for operational customer experience management in the fitness industry.

Register Here

Medallia Experience 2016

The ClubWorks team had an amazing time in Orlando for the 2016 Medallia Experience.
If you’re curious to get to better know the theme of the conference — Generation CX — check out the video below. This video kicked off the conference and speaks to the power of today’s customers. We hope it resonates with you. And if it does, we’d love it if you shared it with friends and family, on social media and beyond.

Part 1: Member feedback…..you get what you ask for

suggestion boxLook familiar? It should. The “suggestion box” has been the Health Club Industry’s primary Member Experience Data tool for as long as we can remember.

Some health club owners use the Suggestion Box very effectively to improve their club operations.   Others use the Suggestion Box as a means to absolutely prove to the member that club management/ownership really, truly, absolutely couldn’t care less about their members.  How to treat “Member Suggestions’ will make a good subject for another Blog.  Right now I want to consider what different data collection methods deliver by means of customer experience (CE) or member experience (ME) feedback.

So we put out the Suggestion Box and wait for the member to decide that he or she has something to tell us.  What ever that “Something” is, it must be important enough to the member to stop his or her activity in the club, find the Suggestion Box, find a pen/pencil, and then take the time to describe the suggestion and the circumstances or rational associated with the suggestion.  We all have stories about the Suggestion Box; the wide range of things that can be stuffed through an envelope slot); the illegible notes written by members with hands shaking from combinations of physical exertion and emotional rage.

The Suggestion Box needn’t produce just a litany of anger (right?).  Members can be so overcome with the need to offer praise that they will stop to write something up; or a member’s epiphany can drive the need to stop everything and write up a great idea for the club to implement.

Good or Bad; Happy or Sad doesn’t matter.  The point is that by leaving your member to initiate the feedback event, the Suggestion Box tend to capture information on very specific events/issues that a specific member feels pretty strongly about ,(in NPS terms we are talking 0’s and 10’s). In addition to relying upon the member to initiate the feedback event, via the Suggestion Box, we also leave it to the member to frame the feedback.  Accordingly, each member suggestion will vary from the last, making it difficult/impossible link one members suggestion to those of other members.  There are no database tools for hand written notes.

At ClubWorks we advise our clients to retain their Suggestion Box and to pay attention to its contents.  That said, a Suggestion Box will never deliver the combined view of your membership on how well you are delivering on your Brand Promises and where you need to direct your management attention.

NOTE:  This is Part 1 of  ‘Member feedback……you get what you ask for’.  In Part 2 we’ll contrast single question (likelihood to Recommend) feedback systems with multi-question member feedback systems like MXM.