What has changed with customer service in the last decade, and certainly in the last five years? The intersection of customer service and technology. Nowadays, clients interact more with devices, apps and platforms than they do with a live person. In many instances, these online interactions make for rapid, efficient service. In other cases, they may lead to frustration, inefficiency and confusion.

As the owner or manager of a fitness business, you are faced with having a multitude of touchpoints where clients come into contact with your company. And with the number of digital channels increasing, it has become more difficult to maintain top-quality customer service. (Note: The word client is used throughout this article, but it applies to members and customers of all kinds.)

So what can you do? Discover strategies for managing and improving your digital customer service.

Customer Expectations

What are clients looking for these days? More and more, they expect to have a “seamless” customer journey—where every aspect of their experience with you is perfect, with no glitches along the way.

Further, as people are now using their devices (smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, laptops, etc.) to communicate, make purchases and interact with businesses, they expect to be able to do all of it (1) anytime, (2) anywhere and (3) on any device! If they can’t do that, having a seamless journey or experience becomes almost impossible.

Customers are also looking for efficiency, rapidity, personalization—and no guesswork. Most importantly, they expect their experience online to mirror the experience they have offline.

Here are five strategies for guaranteeing top-level customer service for your business in this increasingly complex and crowded digital world.

Strategy #1: Evaluate the Efficiency of Your Business’s Customer Channels

To assess how well you are doing, start by taking inventory of every way that clients (and potential clients) come in contact with your business. What and where are these channels and touchpoints before, during and after the purchasing process?

Once you have determined all of your channels and touchpoints, evaluate the efficiency and necessity of each one. For example, look at the company’s social media platforms and establish whether your clients are actually using them. Does it make sense to maintain a Snapchat account if no one ever interacts with you there? Probably not. Ask a friend or relative to explore your company’s app or website and determine whether the navigation is easy, logical and functional. You can also hire a mystery shopper to come into your facility to inquire about pricing and services; the shopper will then give you feedback on the face-to-face interactions that took place.

Remember that customers’ behaviors often change before a company’s behaviors change. Assessing what is important to clients is essential for staying ahead of the curve, creating a meaningful experience and promoting loyalty to the brand.

For example, if potential clients are accustomed to checking in and choosing their spot online for a barre class at a studio down the street, they will certainly expect to have the same experience at your facility. If you don’t offer such options, those clients will most likely stay where they are, and you will have lost the chance to engage them.

Strategy #2: Collect and Manage Data

To give clients top-notch service, you need to know as much about them as possible. Accomplish this by collecting data both offline and online. Offline, you may only need to have someone fill out a membership form or a survey, or you can acquire information during a phone call. Ways to collect online data include having people complete various “required fields”—to go further on a site or an app, or when they make a request or a purchase.

When people consult a website or open an app, cookies are embedded on their computers or smart devices. Cookies allow the website to see how the user navigates the site and what he or she is looking at or searching for, as well as other indicators that basically disclose the person’s preferences and likes. We’ve all had the experience of searching for an item to buy or information about a specific vacation destination and then almost immediately seeing ads on our social media platforms that are about those recent searches.

More importantly, that data needs to be analyzed, often by a data management platform, and then used to properly target potential customers, personalize their experiences and make the journey efficient and enjoyable for them. For example, Virtuagym is a data management platform specifically for fitness facilities. There are platforms available for every type of business.

Evaluating the customer experience with short offline questionnaires and surveys helps fine-tune the knowledge you’ve collected from the online data. Offline also assists in identifying the needs and wants of customers, allowing you to provide excellent service. Offline surveys can be used to collect general information that, in turn, could help “personalize” your clients’ journeys. Or you may want to create surveys based on data collected online.

For strategies 3–5, see “Providing Excellent Customer Service in the Digital Age” from the October 2019 issue of IDEA Fit Business Success. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at 800-999-4332, ext. 7.

Fred Hoffman, MEd

Fred Hoffman, MEd, is the owner of Fitness Resources consulting services and the author of Going Global: An Expert's Guide to Working Abroad in the International Fitness Industry. The recipient of the 2019 IDEA China Fitness Inspiration Award and the 2007 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Award, he holds a master's degree in health education from Boston University and has over 35 years of experience in the fitness and health industry. A member of the ACE board of directors, Fred's expertise has taken him to nearly 50 countries on six continents to speak at more than 200 conferences and conventions. In 2001, he was elected to the International Who's Who of Professionals. Certifications: ACE, ACSM

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