Eric and I have never formally scheduled a meeting to discuss business strategy. Instead, we lean heavily on spontaneous discussion around the office and the occasional shared car ride to “talk business”. It just isn’t in our nature to sit down to formally outline our short or long-term goals on a sheet of paper.
A couple of weeks back Eric popped into my office unannounced and closed the door behind him. “I think we should try to get back to our roots a little bit as it relates to training environment.” He asked how I think the client experience is different here at CSP today in relation to our early years of operation when we were finding our identity as a business and a brand. I had some ideas, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my opinions were not founded on experience accrued by time spent on the training floor.
For our first five years of operation, I spent most of my time working in the business, as opposed to on it. I knew the name of every athlete who walked through the door and exactly when they were due to make another payment. I knew their injury history and sport of choice. I knew when they were going to train next, and even if they had a family vacation scheduled in the coming weeks. I was locked-in on the meet and greet component of our client experience.
We hit a tipping point in 2012 upon realizing that my day-to-day administrative tasks related to keeping this place moving were hindering my ability to guide the direction of our brand and the growth potential of the business. We decided to hire an office manager and I instantly began to fall a little bit out of touch with the overall client experience.
As much as it stung to lose the daily face-to-face client experience here at CSP, this was the right decision for our company. Since that time, we’ve managed to achieve growth that far exceeds our initial vision. I now spend my days tucked away in a corner office giving the sales pitch on the phone and via email. I also craft the CSP content the internet sees populating a variety of different social networking platforms on a day-to-day basis. In short, I manage the way that the public engages with our brand.
During our previously mentioned conversation, Eric and I touched on a number of strategic initiatives geared toward training environment modifications moving forward. One of these initiatives was a shift in my own strength training and client interaction habits. We decided it would be a good idea for me to opt out of our traditional staff training schedule (typically weekdays during the 90-120 minutes prior to clients arriving) and begin executing my own programming during the busiest part of our work day here at CSP. The idea was that I get back to my own roots of customer service by interacting with our clients right in the midst of our training floor.
I wish I’d done this sooner, as the benefits that have come with the new training environment have led me to be better at my job. Here are 5 ways that I am improving at running my business after having made a commitment to experiencing it from the eyes of our clients:
1. I’ve gained a better understanding of my coach’s unique skill-sets
I have a great feel for each of my employee’s unique skill-sets as it relates to assessment and program design, but I now have a more complete understanding of how to leverage their coaching abilities. My time in the gym has given me an appreciation for the fact that they also have their own unique style while on the training floor. Some coaches thrive while working with female athletes, while others feel right at home instructing young baseball players.
Every CSP staff member has a specific type of client that they excel at instructing, so it is my job to appropriately pair them with these scenarios moving forward. While our training format does not allow for full-time one-on-one instruction for each athlete, it is important that they feel as if they’ve got a primary point of contact within the gym, and I now have an opportunity to improve my ability to pair personalities appropriately in this context.
2. Improved Rapport with Clientele
One of our most effective means of creating brand awareness is through social networking platforms. Many of our clients were first exposed to CSP when they came across our Facebook page, Instagram, or Twitter account. The key to converting these brand exposures from a “view” to a “client” is creating content that entices the athlete to engage with us. This can be as simple as hitting the “like” button, or actually exchanging some friendly banter.
The best way to do this is by creating a rapport that can transition from training floor, to electronic forum, and then back again. CSP athletes are more likely to align themselves with our brand if we are effective in expanding the “CSP Experience” beyond the confines of our gym. They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care, and nothing says “I care” more than a little friendly ribbing on Twitter, right?
3. Identification of Opinion Leaders leads to Referrals
One of the perks to improving my rapport with clients is that it also improves my ability to ask for referrals. Assuming we are delivering a quality training experience, our clients are typically excited to spread the word about their time with us.
The only client I’ve ever seen say no to this question was a professional pitcher who was concerned about sharing his “secret weapon” with other guys in his organization. He didn’t want to give up his competitive advantage going in to spring training, which I can understand. Other than this specific professional athlete scenario, I can’t think of a single moment where this type of discussion was not positively received.
It has been my experience that the Pareto Principle applies directly to our referral sources. The Pareto Principle states that, in many scenarios, roughly 80% of the effects are the result of 20% of the causes. Historically, roughly 80% of our new client referrals came from the same handful of truly loyal (and vocal) clients. My next big referral source just may be training on that gym floor right along side me at any given moment, and I am now on a mission to identify that individual.
4. Comprehensive understanding of the current state of our business
There are certain aspects of our business that I’m rarely exposed to when sheltered in my office. It is important that I experience the training environment to answer questions such as:
· Have we staffed the gym with an appropriate number of coaches to meet athlete needs?
· Is our equipment selection extensive enough to accommodate our daily foot traffic?
· Could we better layout the training space to allow for more efficient flow in the gym?
· Do we have a current intern that is too good not to hire at the conclusion of their program?
You may think you know exactly how things are functioning within your space during peak hours, but until you immerse yourself in the environment, you likely have no idea.
5. I improved my own efficiency
Have you ever heard the saying that every hour of sleep you can get before midnight is the equivalent to two after? Well I am of the belief that every hour of work that I complete prior to noon is as productive as two completed after.
Our “work day” begins at 12:00pm when clients begin walking through the door. Once parents are in the office, the phone is consistently ringing, and questions are being directed toward me, the to-do list can be quickly put on the back burner. The 90+ minutes prior to the start of client training sessions, once specifically set aside for my training, are now the most productive work-related minutes of my day. The way I see it, if I am going to allocate a specific chunk of my day toward my own training, why not overlap it with an opportunity to engage with our loyal clients?
Have you experienced your own service model?
Though I am not a completely anonymous face within our gym, I am still able to connect with athletes on the training floor who have no idea who I am. I have this opportunity because the bulk of my selling efforts involve corresponding with parents of young athletes. As a result, the clients often begin their training with us without any appreciation for the process leading up to their arrival.
The beauty of this situation is that I have the opportunity to ask questions and receive unfiltered feedback from clients on a daily basis. I can ask an athlete who their favorite coach is and learn why. I can find out what kind of music they would play if given the opportunity to be guest DJ for the day. I can get inside the heads of our athletes in a way I was previously unable to accomplish.
By subtly immersing myself in the client experience, I am working smarter, and not harder.