Most brands are now competing in customer experience rather than pricing and marketing.
Customer experience (CX) has always been a consideration for both businesses and customers, but its importance is now steadily growing around the world. This fact is emphasized by multiple studies and surveys which show that customer expectations are increasing, and companies find themselves having to respond. People currently judge businesses based on interactions at every point of contact, and they want to feel like they are recognized, understood, and listened to. As companies try to set themselves apart in today’s highly competitive markets, excellent CX is now overtaking price and product as the main differentiator. This trend is expected to continue into 2020 and beyond.
It is no surprise that, last year, Forbes Magazine called CX “the new brand.” CX has become the most exciting business opportunity for most companies in 2019, beating marketing. After all, attracting first-timers is more expensive than retaining loyal customers. Multiple surveys, articles, statistics, and reports have shown that not only is improving CX good for customers, but it’s also profitable for brands. Companies with great customer service get more revenue, ROI, repeat customers, recommendations, and positive reviews. This is why most organizations are embracing the customer-centric model, investing in multi-channel CX, and encouraging proactive engagement.
Fitness facilities, gyms, and health clubs are following suit. Jarod Cogswell, the founder of Enterprise Athlete says, “Fitness is no longer simply about the physical—today, it’s more about how we make people feel about themselves.” He encourages facilities to review their brand identities and implement strategies to enhance CX. “Customer service is paramount to running your day-to-day operations, and to keeping up with your competition—even in today’s digital world…In today’s increasingly Internet- and device-addicted world, the customer experience matters more than ever—especially when it comes to health clubs. ”
According to global surveys, most customers have higher CX expectations compared to one year ago and consider CX as an important factor in brand choice and loyalty. They feel the most frustration when a customer service representative lacks knowledge or competence, and they tend to stop interacting with brands following poor CX incidents. They also expect representatives to be able to quickly bring up a customer’s contact information and service history. In spite of the availability of different CX channels such as email and live chat, most still prefer voice calls. Customers believe that companies should offer opportunities to provide feedback, appreciate proactive CX engagement, and expect adequate same-day responses to questions and complaints.
More and more people are now willing to pay higher prices for better CX—rather than settling for brands with cheaper products and services but poor customer service. This may be part of the reason why the boutique business is booming, even if members of specialty gyms pay significantly more than members of big fitness chains. The competition has encouraged many facilities, including large brands, to step up to keep up.
Modern gyms are deeply integrating CX into their business plans and working to make customer service more consistent. More gyms are adopting digital technology to streamline or automate CX which affords convenience for customers and eliminates some personal interactions. This has only made the quality of personal interactions more critical to customer relations. Staff should be trained in standard operating procedures to simplify CX, maintain consistency, and ensure fast response rates. In fact, these efforts should begin even before a team member is hired. A gym that intends to prioritize CX should keep this in mind when conducting job interviews. Candidates must enjoy working with people and have the ability to remain calm, patient, and helpful under pressure or frustration. Team members can also be offered incentives associated with customer retention.
Customer data has to be organized, updated, and stored in one database that is easily accessible by staff. Representatives of gyms can be outstanding, service-oriented individuals but they still need to be equipped with the right tools. Customers should be offered easy membership registration, convenient ways to pay, updated class schedules, clean websites, accurate information, proper assistance, and quality facilities. Gyms should also consider simplifying the cancellation process as negative word-of-mouth can discourage new registrations. Conducting customer surveys and receiving feedback should also be a regular practice.
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