Chantal: Amanda, welcome. Thank you so much for joining me on the show.
Amanda: Thanks for having me, Chantal.
Chantal: It’s a real honour to have you on the show. We’ve obviously known each other for many years now and I’m so thrilled that you said yes to coming on the show so thank you so much for giving your time today. And as I mentioned in your bio earlier on, you’re obviously an expert in consumer trends and in customer experience. So can you start by explaining what the difference is between having customers and having advocates.
Amanda: Absolutely, so a business that has customers has a transactional relationship with their customer base. They may have even loyal customers so people who return to their business but having advocates is a whole different ballgame. Having advocates for your business is about having raving fans so people, customers, who are not only loyal to your business but they go out of their way to basically being your walking unpaid advertisement. So they refer their friends and family. They entrust their friends and family and can’t help themselves but talk about you and your brand at Friday night dinner parties and Sunday barbecues, in their workplace and also in their social networks.
Chantal: You know when I think about advocates in the fitness industry, there’s a whole category and I’d love your opinion on this, there’s a whole category of people that tend to be very big advocates and they are Crossfitters because there’s this movement where they just want to talk about it and represent the brand. Is that a good description or a good group that would identify being advocates?
Amanda: That’s a great example obviously the majority of Crossfitters or dedicated Crossfitters are very passionate about Crossfit and they do talk about it proactively. So yeah, great example of a business that’s very much being built on advocacy.
Chantal: Now when it comes to our more traditional gym models, we obviously have a lot of members that are within our team so what advice would you give when it comes to ensuring that our team actually understands the importance of customer service and how they can contribute to the overall outcome?
Amanda: Yeah so I think it’s about firstly, putting your customers at the heart of everything that you do. A lot of these methods talk about the fact that they’re customer focused or that they have a customer service programme but essentially it’s not just about having good customer service. I think that probably worked 20 years ago but now it is really about looking at your business constantly through the eyes of your customers. And that sounds a lot easier than it actually is to achieve consistently. I think a lot of … And I’ve been there as well, business owners get very caught up in the business, they get too close to it and sometimes they can’t see the forest through the trees so they start running their business and making decisions through the lens of a business owner. And in some cases a jaded business owner rather than looking at their business through the eyes of their customer. So it’s about having [inaudible 00:03:13] customer centricity in everything that you do and understanding that the customer journey and how they feel at different points in the customer journey really does matter at the end of the day.
Chantal: Amanda, I was watching one of your videos and you were, in this particular video, you’re preparing for a presentation and you went in and did some mystery shopping. So you were going in as the role as the customer. Would you recommend that our gym owners and the staff within the gyms should mystery shop their own facilities to get that customers point of view?
Amanda: Absolutely. I think it’s critical. And when I do mystery shop where it’s possible to prepare for a speaking engagement because it enables me to see that brand or that industry through the eyes of the customer which enables me to really come up with some … Identify the opportunities but also give them some home truth in terms of what is really going on in their business and their industry. So I think mystery shopping is critical and I think the other opportunity, and this is I think really pertinent to the fitness industry, whether you’re a personal trainer or you’re running a gym or a box or whatever, is actually have a customer advisory group so it’s one of the most cost-effective ways that you can ensure that your business is customer-centric. Put a board of six to eight customers together and they act as your advisory board. You can use that to bounce ideas off, to show them marketing ideas that you’re thinking about doing and really just have that ongoing conversation about how you can continually improve your customer experience and that is a very cost-effective, very potent source of new ideas and as I said that’s customer-centric.
Chantal: That is such a great idea. And would you recommend with that group, if people wanted to put that sort of group together, is that a volunteer role or do you pay them? What’s the compensation model or what do you recommend?
Amanda: Yeah great question. Depends on the business and depends on the customers but generally you can do something that’s merely adding value so you might for example, extend or upgrade their membership complementary or you might decide to remunerate them in some other way. I’ve run customer advisory boards where we’ve done a joint venture with another complimentary business and the customer advisory board remunerated in vouchers so that’s a low [inaudible 00:05:43] to do it. And we also recommend that the board is rotated every six months so that you’re getting that fresh perspective that’s so important.
Chantal: That is such a great recommendation. Thank you so much. I’m not aware of any facilities that are doing that so I might just put the call out and say “If anyone has got that customer advisory board up and running, I would love to hear about it. If you don’t and you plan on doing it then please let us know and let us know how that works as far as helping you get a better view and seeing from your customers viewpoint” so thank you so much, Amanda.
As you probably know technology, certainly within the fitness industry, is something that changes so rapidly. Not just in the fitness industry, everywhere. So can you give us a bit of an insight as to what role technology plays when it comes to customer service and if you can, the experience within our gym facilities.
Amanda: Yeah, look I think technology is really continuing to be the game changer when it comes to the customer experience and that, as you’ve identified applies to lots of different industries. My message has always been and this is what I shared at File X that at the end of the day, I think that the brands that are going to win the battle for relevance to customers and really over-deliver on the customer experience are those that harness the best sort of technology and the best of analogue. So I talk about the combination of high tech and high touch. So using technology to automate different parts of the customer experience, to anticipate, to surprise and delight but at the end of the day, it’s still a people business so I think the danger with technology is that we rely on it too much and we forget that ultimately we’re in a people to people business. And I think we’re seeing the combination of high tech and high touch at a global level with brands that are really harvesting the best of both of those aspects of the customer experience.
When you look at something like Soul Cycle, I think it’s a great example of something that’s unique, it’s obviously very focused on the experience and not just the actual functionality of the experience in terms of the fitness and the outcomes but what goes around that fit in terms of the customer experience beyond just the equipment and the classes.
Chantal: Yeah I think that’s such a great example. And I actually personally use Soul Cycle all the time because I always feel like the customer service experience is so outstanding and goes so far beyond the time that you spend in the studio and extends out through their email communications, through their online payment systems, through their instructor advocates on social media. So I think it’s such a fantastic example to use. And the other thing I wanted to mention again I was listening to something that you said and you used these two phrases which I actually think are very relevant for fitness owners. You said “The importance of having word of mouth and word of mouse”. I love that because to me, I interpret that as saying for so long word of mouth has been such an important way for our fitness owners to generate leads and to extend their brand amongst their community but now more than ever we’re seeing how important it is that they have a very thorough online presence and people can get a feel for what they’re going to get even before they walk in the door. Is that an accurate description of what you mean by those phrases?
Amanda: Absolutely and I think coming back to the opportunity to build customer advocacy. It’s never been more important because we are shifting from word of mouth to word of mouse so we’re relying more on social media to learn about new products and services amidst now a search engine essentially and with the rise of influences on social we’re certainly seeing that word of mouse is a really critical strategy for businesses to borrow and to tap into new markets.
Chantal: Such a great term. Okay, we’re going to finish off today with our fitbitspiration so do you want to share three ways that we can immediately improve the customer service in our business.
Amanda: Yeah absolutely. I think the first just is looking at, being really honest with yourself about how customer-centric your business really is. Are you making decisions particularly from a marketing perspective through the eyes and the lens of what’s important to your customers. I’m amazed at how many businesses simply don’t know what their customers want because they don’t ever ask them. So I think establishing a customer advisory board is a really quick, easy, cost-effective way to get that, to be customer-centric. I think that understanding the little things are the big things. So not just what your fitness business achieves from a functional point of view. And by that I mean helping your client achieve their fitness and weight loss goals. I think that’s a given these days. I think that it’s what you do over and above though it’s functional aspects that you’re offering that are the things people will talk about at a Friday night dinner party. So it’s about asking yourself the question “What are we doing that is literally worthy of a Friday night dinner party conversation? What are we doing with our customers to surprise, to wow, exceed expectations and do things differently to the point where they can’t help themselves but talk about us to our friends and on social networks.
And one of the things that I talked about is at File X is that combination of the difference between being affective and being infectious. So how you may see your customers feel, it’s not just about how you’re making them, what they’re achieving from a fitness and weight loss point of view, how they’re looking but how you making them feel. Is the experience in your club or with you, is it an infectious experience? Or is it merely affective? And I think that the other trend that we’re seeing that’s increasingly becoming an opportunity is the whole concept of customization. So we’re seeing that [inaudible 00:12:03] is now wanting that personalised, customised experience so being able to tailor their own offering and that could be something as simple as having a range of different packages, giving your customers the option to upgrade, modify and adapt their own experience to see what they perceive to be their own personal needs so I think that those are the things that if someone was to take something away from this interview, it’s really looking at those key aspects of their customer experience.
Chantal: Thank you Amanda. Now if anyone wants to contact you or if they want to purchase any of your books or chat to you about speaking or doing any consulting, where is the best way or the best place for them to contact you?
Amanda: The best place is Amandastevens.com.au.
Chantal: Fantastic. Look I want to thank you so much. It was such a great privilege to have you speaking at File X this year so thank you for coming and sharing your wisdom and your expertise with the fitness industry.
Amanda: Thank you and thanks for having me.
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