FBA 09: A bad fitness business client experience – what can we learn?

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In episode 9, Jack shares a recent experience he had as a client of another business and what we can learn from it.

Looking at all businesses through the lens of a business owner can be incredibly useful. Even when you go to a coffee shop – what do they do well? What don’t they do well? What can you learn, and what do you see that you need to make sure isn’t happening in your business?

Every time you buy a product or service you’re being presented a case study and viewing businesses through this lens will provide valuable insight and lessons.

In today’s episode:

  1. What you can learn from great client experiences.
  2. Every person in life provides an example of what to be, or what not to be. Businesses are the same.
  3. My group class fitness client experience.
  4. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.
  5. The importance of connecting with your customer, especially in high-end boutique fitness
  6. Cheerleader vs Coach vs Trainer
  7. Group class program analysis
  8. How Soul Cycle charge $35 a class when all major gym chains offer cycling.
  9. Why we should look at all businesses through the eyes of a business owner

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EPISODE https://fitnessbusinessasia.com/what-we-can-learn-bad-experience

Hey guys – wherever you are, good day to you and welcome back to the Fitness Business Asia Podcast.

Today’s podcast is about an experience that I had at a fitness studio that I visited recently and the lessons that I took from it.

Before we get stuck in I’d like to say a quick thanks to everyone who’s sent feedback and messages – please do keep it coming, I’m especially interested to hear of any questions you have that you’d like me to answer on the fitness business in Asia.

If I can’t give you the solid and comprehensive answer you need, I’ll find an industry expert who can, so please get me at [email protected].

Onto today’s topic – I recently went to one of the Asia’s major cities and, as I always do, tried out a few of the top studios on offer to see what’s going on in the city’s fitness scene

Whatever industry you’re in, I’d highly recommend doing this as you get to experience your industry from the client perspective, which is something we can get detached from when we’re immersed in the business side.

When you have a great experience as a customer – and that could be anything from a fitness class to a coffee shop or a restaurant – there’s a lot you can take from it. The person at the front desk may welcome you warmly, it may be very easy to see what they do on their website and contact them, they may offer great pre-sale or after-sale service, there may be great little touches around the business that cement their branding. These are just some of the things you might learn from a business.

I believe that every person in your life provides either a good, positive example of how to lead your life, or a poor example of what not to do. I’m sure you have people in your life who are an inspiration and some that you don’t want to end up like. I know I have, and I try to take lessons from both examples.

Businesses should be viewed in the same light – Every business you visit provides an example either of what to do, or what not to do and interestingly, I’ve found that you can learn just as much from the awful businesses as you can the great ones, and that’s what happened on a recent trip.

Even when I go to a restaurant or take a flight, I find myself making mental notes on what they’re doing well and what they aren’t.. and what I would do differently if it was my business.

And I of course always do a deep dive analysis into any fitness business that I visit.

I don’t want to upset anyone so I’m going to keep this completely anonymous but the actual subject here isn’t of importance, it’s the experience and what I learned.

So during a trip to this city, which shall remain unnamed, I dropped into a studio to try out a class and, to put it bluntly, had one of the worst fitness experiences I’ve ever had..

This studio is one of the most respected and highly regarded studios in this city that’s been around for years and is pretty well known. This made the experience even more concerning for them and to be honest, also the city’s industry.

It provided many examples of what not to do, and by the end of it I was adamant that nothing like what I’d experienced can happen at BASE, which is the studio I founded and run day to day.

Although it wasn’t a great experience from a client perspective, from a business analysis perspective I gained a lot…

So let’s get into what happened… Firstly – as Steve Bruce said on our last podcast – you only get one chance of making a good first impression – and the first thing I was met with were two front desk staff immersed in their phones who didn’t even look up when I arrived. I had to call out and kickstart the conversation and on telling them it was my first class there was no ‘hi, welcome to our studio’, just please tick the box there, and I did so. I asked if there was anything else I should do as a first timer and they just said ‘no’.

That was it – no more attempt to connect or get to know me at all. I didn’t feel welcome and it didn’t feel as though they were particularly happy to get a new customer.

I asked if I had to sign anything, perhaps an accident waiver and I was told no. This waiver could have been included in the box I ticked but it certainly wasn’t very visible. If no waiver was signed as part of that then they are opening themselves up to legal trouble if anyone hurts themselves.

As it turned out, one of the girls at the front desk was the instructor – this would have been a great chance for her to connect with me.

So I was waiting in the studio for the class to start and the instructor arrived – this was her second chance to connect, find out a bit about me, if I train regularly, if I’m based in HK – she smiled and said hi which was something, but no further attempt to get to know me or the other two guys in the class.

Our coaches have to have their workout fully prepared and ready to go 15 minutes before the session starts but this instructor was frantically scribbling the workout down in the 2 minutes before it started, even though she’d been at the studio for the 20 minutes since I’d arrived on her phone on the reception desk. This lack of thought and planning was reflected in the programming.

So the class started and credit where it’s due – she did an injury check but no further attempt to get to know us. I think to deliver a first class experience you need to know a little about who you’re training – their experience level, how often they train – these little things help you plan a great session. No effort was made to get to know any of this.

We did a basic rudimentary warm up which got us warm but was lacking in energy

Before she went into the program she asked us to pick up dumbbells before we knew what the exercises were, which was tough.

When we kicked off the program it was very, very tough, without options to make It easier. The first two exercises were a minute of weighted squat jumps with two dumbbells, which I honestly don’t think anyone should be doing, even the most advanced athletes. As if this wasn’t tough enough, the next exercise was a minute of lunge jumps, without an option to make it easier.

Of course, as I’m a coach I scaled it back so I didn’t get injured and was able to walk the rest of the week but the other two class participants just did as they were told and were clearly not physically prepared to do it. Instead of slowing them down she just pushed them harder. At one point I wanted to step in and help the guy out but I figured it was best to let her run her class.

During our coach training at BASE we talk about this – being a trainer vs being a coach. A trainer gets people to train, but a coach guides them through the right workout for them, ensuring that the program is delivered in a way that’s specific to their body and their goals. That’s why we call our coaching staff Fitness Coaches.

In the worst cases we call it being a coach vs being a cheerleader – just cheering the clients to go harder without any regard for their safety or if they’re ready to go harder. Sadly this is quite common in the industry

Whether you’re a coach or a manager of coaches, ensure you and your team are coaching, not just cheering them to go harder without any analysis of if that’s right for them.

Going back to the programming – as well as being extremely difficult and potentially dangerous it was not balanced – the upper body set had 4 shoulder exercises in a row that were all very tough, which was a recipe for an unbalanced workout at best, a shoulder injury at worst.

Ultimately, this was a workout that I could easily get from an internet search for ‘home dumbbell workout’. As boutique, high-end studios we have to be doing everything we can to separate ourselves from a home workout.

This means: creating a community feel, connecting to the clients that come through the door. It means tailoring the class to them, especially when you have small numbers in your class, like the three that were in this session. It means getting to know everyone that comes into your studio and creating an experience that makes them want to come back, to be a part of your gym.

All of these things help small studios stand out from the big box chain gyms. I’m not knocking the big fitness centres but they cannot create community, a personal connection and personalized, tailored workouts like boutiques. This is why boutiques need to really double down on what they can provide that the chains can’t, otherwise they have no hope to compete long term in my opinion.

Look at Soul Cycle in the US – every major gym offers spin or cycling but Soul Cycle charge $35 dollars a class. How do they do that? It’s by going all in on the full experience in a way that cannot be matched by a massive facility.

I’m not here to bash any studio – which is why I didn’t name the studio or even the city – but I wanted to highlight how a bad experience can actually provide an informative and enriching example for you and your business of what not to do. Also, I would not place responsibility for this poor experience on the coach – it’s up the management to make sure that the coaches are trained well and know that it’s not acceptable to run into your class 2 minutes before it starts and scribble your workout down. I’m sure she’s lacking the right guidance she needs to be a great coach and ultimately the responsibility for this is that of the person running the facility.

Honestly, I would love the opportunity to go in and help them create an incredible client experience as I think the space has huge potential and is very well located in the city. The class numbers were reflective of the experience because there were 3 people in my session and 4 in the next session. At peak hours in this city that should have had double that.

So I’d like to summarize by saying that I highly recommend that you start seeing all businesses through this lens:

  • What do you like about what their complete offering and experience?
  • What don’t you like about it?
  • What must you make sure does happen, or doesn’t happen in your business?

Reflect on the complete experience and all the little touches of each business you are a customer of and you can take many lessons into your venture.

I would love to hear about what you’ve learned from other businesses – whether it’s been getting your car fixed at the local mechanics, visiting a well-known brand such as Starbucks or if it’s a fitness business experience you’ve had. No need to name names please unless it’s one of the big corporates they can take it – just let us know what happened and what you learned…

Please leave us your experiences on our latest Instagram post on our account which is fitnessbusinessasia

I’ve been helping fitness business owners in the region set up businesses and fitness concepts and maximize their current operations, and going into 2019 I am taking on a few clients.

My services could work well for you if:

  • If you’d like help starting a fitness business or creating a concept
  • Your current fitness business is struggling or you want to make sure nothing like what we talked about today is happening, and how to fix it if it is
  • If you’re doing well but want to be doing even better or you want to expand or open another location.

If you think you’ll benefit from this, please reach out to me at [email protected] and we’ll set up a call to see where you’re at with your business and if we’re a good fit to work together.

I hope you found this podcast helpful. If you did, please do leave us a 5-star review on iTunes – this helps us become more visible on itunes and to ultimately help more people. Also, if you have any friends or colleagues in the industry who would benefit from our content please do share this podcast with them.

That’s it for today, thanks for listening, don’t forget to start looking businesses and the experiences you have with them as a case study It will certainly help with your business… have a good one and I’ll catch you next time.

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