What is inspired customer service, and why is it key to business growth?
You want your fitness facility to be successful and to impact people’s lives positively. Plus, you want to grow, which means you need to sell. That means you must offer the programs, products, professionals and operations that customers want, and you must have a powerful website and marketing plan. Yet none of this matters if you aren’t able to provide inspired customer service. More than ever, the quality of customer service is perhaps the most critical contributing or detracting factor in a company’s success (Freed 2013).
In today’s business climate, especially in the fitness industry, customer service means making people feel special. This five-part series looks at unique concepts of customer service that create experiences that are emotionally engaging—in other words, “inspired.” Read on to find out about this crucial key to business growth.
There’s a lot of competition in the fitness industry. Facility owners and managers are beginning to understand that where and how customers spend their money has become a very emotional issue. During a TED talk, author Simon Sinek (2009) stated that “people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Sinek says that customers want to believe in a company’s “why”: its values and its brand. They want to buy from businesses they like and trust—businesses that care about them. The key to branding is customer service. The key to customer service is caring.
The fitness industry needs to do a better job at this. Actually, we need to evolve the customer experience so that we retain existing customers and attract new ones. In fitness, “service” means more than that; it means we are “in relationship” with our clients and members. People are no longer motivated just by a flier on the bulletin board or a well-crafted schedule. They are no longer members just so they have a place to exercise. They join our facilities, studios and programs to lose weight, gain strength, become fit, and look and feel better. They want to change their lives for the better. We are engaged with them in a very intimate conversation about their bodies and their health, which includes their self-image, self-esteem, relationships and careers.
This ongoing conversation is about whom they want to become and how they want to change their lifestyles. Their experience at your facility should be more than a workout. It should be a positive, fun, relaxing, social experience. Members want an emotional connection with a community that is focused on this experience, so that they feel fully supported and inspired to change the rest of their lives.
Here’s what people want from your fitness facility staff:
- to have fun, feel safe and be accepted;
- to be educated, excited, motivated, coached and partnered with;
- to help change the way they think, so they can change their lives; and
- to be inspired.
While you need to be good at mainstream customer service and general business practices, you especially need to be great at relating. Fitness professionals must be willing to get emotionally involved with customers in a way that upholds professional boundaries and yet is personable. Members want us to make them feel good so they feel inspired to make positive changes in their lives. We need to go beyond just supporting them with information and guidance; we need to actually be a positive change. How do you do this? When they feel stressed and cranky, you help them smile by smiling yourself; you make them feel important by giving them your full attention; and you help them feel competent and confident by showing them how to do an exercise well.
We have a huge responsibility in this industry, and therefore we need to find the courage to develop new, inspirational business practices. We influence the quality of each other’s lives in both negative and positive ways by how we interact with each other. One interaction can set up the quality of the ongoing relationship. Therefore, we need to make every instance absolutely warm, wonderful and professional.
A branded “good-feeling, inspiring experience” means that employees consistently show up in every interaction, with caring energy that demonstrates genuine commitment to helping customers get what they want. This requires that employees themselves feel inspired to be their best selves. As the manager, check in with yourself to make sure you feel inspired and are modeling your best self. Much of how we communicate and relate with one another happens through our bodies. Our “vibration,” posture, facial expression, eye contact, muscle tension and tone of voice complete the picture (Mehrabian 1972; Goleman 2005). Notice how people relate to you when you stand tall and smile. Get in touch with what it feels like to walk into a fitness facility that has a great vibe, and strive to offer customers that level of experience in your facility.
A High-Vibration Brand
Having a high vibration requires balancing mind and heart, as well as harmonizing these aspects of our interactions: practical and emotional, professional and personable, functional and beautiful. Since a company’s brand is established by the beliefs and behaviors of its employees, as the manager, director or owner you need to help employees find this balance.
Here are some examples of how you can boost employees to a high vibration, which will directly affect the member experience.
- Train employees how to master positive body language. This will help them become better at relating to customers and thus be more skillful at providing inspiring service.
- When on the floor, always stand with good posture (tall with chest open). This conveys an approachable, friendly vibe.
- When dealing with a disgruntled member or client, use deep (but silent) breathing techniques to remain calm, centered and present.
- Train yourself and your staff to look all members in the eyes and listen empathetically—because it builds connection and trust. This can be difficult for some people, but it’s worth the effort.
- Coach the front-desk staff to have an open posture—standing tall with head held high, smiling and making direct eye contact—for every single member who walks through the door.
- Practice what you preach. You are being watched, so be inspiring and emanate good vibes! Show up as a calm, committed, compassionate, credible professional who is ready to serve.
Inspired customer service is created by an inspired employee who sits on the foundation of an inspired company—a company strengthened by emotional integrity and positive vibrations. Know why you are in business, and share your brand—your “why”—in a fun, caring, credible, consistent manner.
In the next installment of this series, we will take a closer look at how inspired customer service comes from inspired business.
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