5 Ways to Master Customer Experience for Your Health Club

Consumer loyalty is harder to earn and maintain these days. Here’s how to beat the odds.

“The customer is always right” is an old, quaint notion from yesteryear. These days, the customer is the boss. Pleasing the customer at ALL touchpoints is the most important element of business success. As global accounting firm PwC puts it: “Customer experience (CX) is everything.”

This is not an exaggeration. According to a study by consulting firm Walker, “By the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.” A survey by Gartner found that in the future “89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience.”

The importance of CX in today’s marketplace represents a rare moment of consensus for global businesses. The reason is simple: Great CX supercharges your ROI.

The Temkin Group created a model that analyzed how improving CX contributes to the bottom line. Using their formula, they discovered that investing in CX can double your revenue within 36 months.

Other data backs this up. Another survey found that 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for great CX, and 73% say that CX plays an important part in purchasing decisions. As Forbes magazine puts it, “Customer experience is the new brand.”

“... 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for great CX, and 73% say that CX plays an important part in purchasing decisions.”

The obvious question is: What specifically makes for great CX? According to Wikipedia: “A good customer experience means that the individual's experience during all points of contact matches the individual's expectations.” The Temkin Group says great CX is made up of “success, effort, and emotion,” with an emphasis on emotion.

PwC cites “the human touch” in relation to efficiency. And, they note, not serving the customer well will cost you. As PwC reports from their research, one in three customers will leave a brand they love after only just a single bad experience. And according to data from Gladly, 92% of people say they will stop patronizing a business if their expectations are unmet three times or less.

As a health club operator, you need to up your CX game, no matter what kind of club you run. Price is still important but it’s no longer the ultimate metric for customer satisfaction. Today, you need to be “member-centric.”

5 Ways to Improve Customer Experience

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In some ways great CX is something we all understand. Every business owner is a consumer. Even successful B2B relationships are founded on strong CX. With that in mind, here are five ways to boost your club’s CX.

1. Make CX part of your business plan.

A good business plan will use technology and staff training as tools to create experiences that fit your vision and your business model, says Luke Carlson, CEO of Discover Strength in Bloomington, MN. Speaking at an IHRSA 2018 session, Carlson stressed using CX in a way that’s scalable and profitable. “A customer experience initiative must be aligned with the broader business strategy and brand of the club,” says Carlson.

2. Try to make a personal connection.

In an IHRSA webinar, “Old School Ways to Win the Battle,” Jarod Cogswell, founder of FIT Academy and Enterprise Athlete, says that it’s important to form a bond with the member. “Fitness is no longer simply about the physical—today, it's more about how we make people feel about themselves,” he says.

This aligns with the Temkin Group’s advice on putting a premium on emotion. Few things are more deeply personal than an individual’s health and appearance, and fitness facilities have a rare opportunity to create a strong bond with members. To accomplish that, Cogswell advices that you learn the “why” of a member’s fitness journey.

“Why are they at your facility? Why do they want to lose weight, get stronger, more fit, etc.? Know their purpose and you will find their internal motivation to keep coming back,” he says.

3. Be consistent.

Your operation needs to speak with one voice. You can’t have arbitrary rules and standards. Receiving conflicting information from digital and employee interactions can frustrate customers. According to Gladly, 71% of consumers want a consistent experience across every channel, but only 29% receive it.

Even small operations can fall into different silos that have their own processes that contradict other departments. Make sure your operation works from the same script and follows uniform operational procedures. As noted above, just one bad customer experience can cost you.

4. Have clear communication channels.

Response rates are essential these days. People want to be heard, and feedback, even negative feedback, are tools that you can use to improve your entire operation. While chatbots and email messages have their place, you have to be able to provide the human touch when your members demand it. Research has found that 98% of consumers try to skip past Interactive Voice Response systems. Also, don’t force consumers to go through multiple channels to solve their issues so they have to repeat the same story to different representatives in your operation.

5. Make sure your CRM software is primed to improve CX.

“All interactions and data need to be in one place,” says Forbes magazine. That means using club management software that creates consistent channels that don’t frustrate consumers or provide conflicting information. A great CRM tool that’s effective in using customer feedback to improve CX can also be a tremendous advantage.

Club management software that’s programmed to improve CX can be a powerful tool to enhance your operations, customer retention, and overall brand equity.

A CRM That Puts Customer Experience First

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Mike Escobedo, chief customer officer for ABC Financial

Few software suppliers in the health club industry are as member-centric as ABC Financial Services. ABC Financial provides technology solutions to over 6,700 health clubs throughout the world, servicing some of the largest international brands in the industry.

The reason for ABC’s success is their hyper-focus on improving CX across all digital touchpoints. “The ‘age of the member’ is here, and it is here to stay,” says Mike Escobedo, chief customer officer for ABC Financial. “Customer centricity is a mindset that companies must adopt throughout the entire organization to thrive in the digital world.”

ABC’s software service removes many of the redundancies and friction points that prevent members from enjoying a seamless, satisfying experience when interacting with their clubs. One reason is the ability of ABC’s advanced API platform to integrate with leading technology partners to create a premium CX.

Everything from payment processing to check-ins are intuitive and easy to manage on ABC’s interactive dashboard. Today’s consumers are well-informed and want to control their destiny. ABC’s “MyiCLUBonline” service allows members to update their account information and control their billing history and payments. It puts the member in charge, something today’s consumers love.

And as a supplier, ABC understands that club operators also need a great CX from their partners to help them succeed. Once you sign with ABC, they’ll take you through their data conversion procedures by:

  • Performing a full audit of your data to uncover any potential inconsistencies;
  • Assigning you a full team dedicated to your account;
  • Providing reliable resources with industry information and advice.

To find out how ABC Financial can help improve your CX, visit their website.

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Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org