A Sneak Peek of The IHRSA Institute’s Keynote Speaker

Sridhar Balasubramanian, a senior associate dean of MBA programs at UNC, dishes out a taste of what will come from the upcoming event.

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The title of your presentation at The IHRSA Institute is “Creating and Executing Great Customer Experiences.” Can you give us a summary?

Today, customers value—and are willing to pay for—outstanding customer experiences. Managers are often comfortable with developing new products, but struggle when it comes to crafting and delivering great customer experiences. How can a customer experience be formally defined and structured? How can you then innovate on each part of that experience? This session will provide attendees with the concepts and toolkits that can empower them to create and execute great, well-integrated, customer experiences.

We understand you’ll be suggesting concrete steps attendees can take to improve their members’ customer experience. An example or two, please.

When managers focus on creating great customer experiences, they often make the basic mistake of directly focusing on the external customer. We’ll learn that, to deliver great services and experiences to the external customer, we must first begin by doing the same for our internal employees. That, almost naturally, will lead to great customer experiences. We’ll also learn how, by introducing a subtle dramatic element into services, we can elevate the entire customer experience.

If there were a Golden Rule of Customer Service, what would it be?

A simple step that any business can take, but one that yields a high return on investment, is to ensure that every service encounter ends on a high note.

You’ve done pioneering research on the impact the internet and mobile have had on businesses. How have they affected the customer experience, generally?

Today’s customers are experts at navigating across channels—catalogs, the internet, and conventional retail. Their information search and decision-making processes span channels. Therefore, markets have to be adept at unraveling these cross-channel journeys, and developing omnichannel marketing strategies that create great customer experiences. Such strategies can be challenging to both conceptualize and execute.

Do you have a sense of how they may have informed the experience of health club members, specifically?

Health clubs must prepare for a future in which technology and networking permeate the customer’s fitness journey. Some key areas of growth include:

  • Tracking fitness activities across multiple devices and locations
  • Integrating fitness activities taking place both within and outside of the health club from the customer’s viewpoint
  • Integrating customizable entertainment options seamlessly into the fitness routines and activities
  • Building a social network around fitness activities and routines so customers feel they’re a part of a supportive community that’s working towards a shared goal. (The Peloton exercise bike experience is a good example.)

The IHRSA Institute has been dubbed “an MBA program for the fitness industry.” As a senior associate dean of MBA programs, do you find the description accurate?

Let’s describe it as “a mini-MBA for the fitness industry.”

Craig R. Waters

Craig is the editor-in-chief of Club Business International.