I Felt the Burn – A Customer Experience Gone Wrong

I recently was on the receiving end of a customer engagement experience gone wrong. Hoping that my loss is your gain in wisdom you can use to make your client engagement experience remarkable

Here’s my story.
I had been working out in small group training sessions at a large gym. I met a wonderful trainer who amassed quite a following of trainees. When he left to open his own boutique gym 15 months ago, he started his new venture with quite a cadre of clients.

Kudos to Tony (not his real name) for building a gym community far beyond on-premise exercise. He connected us to nutrition experts, massage therapy experts, and rehabilitative trainers for the injured. He created events that brought us together, like fitness challenges, group participation in 5K, 10K and marathon races, and more. All of these actions added value to and engaged us in our gym experience. We felt a kinship with each other. I can truly say that I had “gym friends” who made me look forward to workouts.Article_IFeltTheBurn275

To grow his business and client base, Tony asked us for help through referrals, and many of us were happy to oblige. He also gained new clients from those partnerships he developed with health and well-being providers.

Tony’s close-knit community of fully engaged, loyal customers would have followed him anywhere. Then something went terribly wrong behind the scene. Earlier this winter I noticed a quiet, continuous exodus of members. There was a quick refill with new faces. Additional new trainers seemed to join the gym one day and be gone shortly thereafter. The gym “family” started to change. Several of us asked Tony if everything was o.k. and if there were something we could do. Tony answered each of us directly with, “Nope, I got this.” So the email he sent us announcing that in eight days the gym would close was a real stunner. His communication with our gym family had not been open or honest. Not only did we share the loss of a good trainer and our gym community, but we also shared a sense of betrayal from his lack of communication and authenticity.

Tony expected us to be open and honest about our health and fitness goals. Apparently he didn’t trust us enough to share concerns and what he might need to make his gym a success:
• If the gym was not financially sound, he could have discussed a revised fee schedule with us.
• If asked, I believe many of us would have brainstormed with him about ideas to gain new members beyond the referrals we provided.
• If he didn’t like gym “ownership”, he could have returned to training in a larger gym.

I believe that if Tony had understood the 5 best practices for creating and sustaining an engaged client experience, his gym would have been far more successful:
• Communication – consistent messaging delivered frequently through multiple communication channels.
• Authenticity – your client experience needs to mirror your brand every step of the way.
• Create value – deliver a bit more than the customer expects with every single interaction.
• Create relationships, not transactions. Relationships become strong when nurtured frequently.
• Recognize their value – demonstrate your appreciation for your clients business by thanking them often in a variety of ways – handwritten note, email, invite them to an event, a small gift.

While I’ve lost respect for and loyalty to this trainer, I can’t help feeling bad for him at this moment in his life. We gained a solid group of friends. He lost his way, his clients and his business and we’re on our way to find a new gym—of which there is no shortage.

I wish Tony luck in grasping the real lesson from his business failing and using it to lead him to a better professional (and personal) life. It’s true that you get out of the world pretty much what you put into it. Have faith in the people who have faith in you (employees and clients), and show it!

Hillary’s Moral: With new client acquisition anywhere from 5-25 times more costly than retaining a client, it pays to focus on engaging and retaining your current clients. An engaged client is a loyal client who will support you and your business through its natural highs and lows.

If you’re looking for help in building engagement that keeps your customers, call us. We’re experienced community builders.

Toll free: 800-742- 6800 In Minneapolis/St. Paul: 952-933- 8365 email: Hillary@askhillarys.com