Analyst firm Forrester Research claims that the customer experience is the greatest untapped source of profits in business today. Its research shows companies that understand their customer experience and work to continuously improve the experience find huge untapped profits.
Harley Manning, the co-author of “Outside In: The Power of Putting Your Customer at the Center of your Business,” made this point: “If you set out to be the best in the world at marketing, you would struggle because it is a mature discipline and well understood. However, if you said you are going to focus on providing a better customer experience than your competitors, suddenly you are competing in a different arena.”
This effort to become the “best at marketing and sales” has many times been at the expense of the member experience. It will continue to be that way until we cross the threshold to seeing everything through “member experience glasses.” Not until we put the member experience at the center of our universe will we look at marketing and selling and think, “Good Lord, what have we done?” Marketing and sales are not only part of the member experience, but also set the stage for everything that follows. Marketing and sales include money that is invested to make promises. Everything else is invested to keep those promises.
Many operations are organized with membership sales at the center of strategy. All other functions exist to serve the sales function. And the sales team isn’t just selling a membership. It’s selling an experience that oftentimes includes “we care,” “we are friendly” and “we are clean.” When someone purchases a membership, they are betting that you will deliver on those promises. It doesn’t matter if you are explicit or not about these promises because most are implied.
Most clubs spend about 5 percent of their budget to make promises, and 95 percent of their budget to keep promises. Yet many of those same operations spend 95 percent of their effort trying to get incrementally better at “making promises.” Here’s an idea — figure out what promises your customer wants you to keep. Then focus your time, energy and learning on how to keep them. Finally, go back and focus on better ways to make promises you can keep.
The gap between the promises you make and the promises you keep is your “member experience debt.” If you deliver less than promised your debt grows, and at some point you will have to pay. If you deliver as promised your “member experience debt” goes away and you end up with “member experience capital.” If you deliver what was promised in exceptional ways, your member experience is extremely positive. In fact, it is only when this happens that you become the kind of business people rave about. When you execute across all touch points every day, you become “Apple-esque.”
Lastly, expectations for the kind of experiences we should deliver and the kinds of business practices we should follow are not being set by our industry — they are set by Apple, Amazon, Nordstrom, Starbucks, American Express, Virgin America and others. The customer perspective is not shaped by the unmemorable. It is shaped only by the memorable. Both the “good memorable” and the “bad memorable.” People bring these memories through your doors and benchmark you against them.
Do you have any idea how you are doing against this collection of memories? I promise that unless you effectively measure the member experience you have no idea. Once you begin to measure the experience, the invisible becomes visible. You can suddenly see the truth of what you are selling. You will know what to do to become the kind of business that separates you from your competitors.
But you must measure. You must be aware of how your members rate staff friendliness and your gym cleanliness. Then you must listen to your members, act on their experience and pull ahead of your competitors.
Blair C. McHaney is a CEM Educator for the Medallia Institute and the president of Club Works, A Medallia Partner Company. For more information on Club Works, visit www.mxmetrics.com/learn-more/.