An open letter to studio/gym owners

The way you make someone feel, who is parting with cold, hard-earned cash, shouldn’t be an after-thought or an assumption.

You need to take care of the details until they have proverbially or literally put their coat on and are out the door. And dare I say, even after that.

Remember gym class as a kid? Apart from the super sporty crew (surprisingly not a group I was ever a part of) who relished in the Wednesday afternoons, most of us begrudgingly donned the required uniform and attempted to not turn into a beetroot or make too much of a fool of ourselves.

Well that feeling rarely leaves us as an adult, and your wellness studio or gym is now the equivalent.

It’s the time of year that we’ll soon be seeing shelves bereft of tinsel and fairy lights and seeing garish activewear and exercise equipment in its place. Emblazoned adverts telling us that because it’s the new year, there is a chance at a new you.

And we buy into it. I buy into it. Because it’s a lovely idea. I’d love to think that by a clock chiming midnight all the horrors and errors and over indulgence from the last year has been miraculously swept away and now on the precipice of a brand new 365 day stretch I get to decide who this person is going to be.

The only problem is that we come at it with the best of intentions but a nervous mind. The desire is strong, but the will is easily swayed by left-over Quality Street and the thought that there is ‘always tomorrow’ to start your new life as the new you.

As intrepid as we feel, dressed up in brand new, hi-tech gear that has cost the equivalent of a house deposit, we are also reminded of being that awkward teenager with terrible hand-eye coordination.

We need to be guided into being and your establishment, in our eyes, is the back drop for this transformation to take place. We may willingly or wincingly hand over our credit cards to sign up for ‘Barry’s Boot camp,’ envisaging tough love and drills of Private Benjamin fame, or possibly a gentler approach that lulls us into believing that three sessions of Yin yoga really does count as exercise.

Once we’re through the door, and have done the ‘uncomfortable newbie’ bit, we’ve been shown the ropes and shepherded to signing up for a membership, we need you to keep holding that space until we’re steady on our feet.

Ticking the boxes or processes on ‘how to sign new members up’ and the protocols you’ve been shown in staff training are just the beginning.

Beyond that, customer experience is ALWAYS based on the interactions they have with you and your brand, whether in person or online.

If something stumbles at the first hurdle, which happens because…life, it’s not the fact that something negative happened, it’s the fact that something unexpected happened and now all eyes are on you to see how you’re going to show up and fix it.

And it is up to you. The person coming to your establishment assumes that you are the expert and are going to impart your wisdom on how to do ‘X, Y, Z’ but also that you and your staff are the experts on what to do when we are in your space. If something hasn’t gone according to plan, an email has been missed, a communication hasn’t landed, or someone simply forgot something, on either party, it is YOUR job to fix it.

The amount of times I’ve talked with friends about simply not returning to a place because one tiny thing went wrong and was dealt with poorly is scary. It’s a competitive market out there, one that is full of deals and bells and whistles. Fully stocked bathrooms, free child minding, bring a friend for free passes, which can feel intimidating and may leave you questioning ‘how can I compete with that?’.

Truth is, you maybe can’t. But you can up the ante on the human services side of things. You can connect with people and see them as not just a consumer or customer of your business but a new member to your community that has asked to be a part of it, have a seat at the table and expects to be treated as so.

Nine times out of ten it comes back to these things, no matter what the issue is:

Have they been acknowledged?

Have you stuck by ‘protocol’ and words on a page rather than being a person?

Have they been treated with compassion, spaciousness, generosity and respect?

Have you gone out of your way to rectify the issue that feels like a win-win for both parties?

And it won’t matter that you don’t have black grouted bevelled white tiles in your bathrooms, it won’t matter if you don’t even have a shower, because it’ll be based on seeing them, the person, fully, the quality of the experience, how welcome they feel in your presence and in your space, is what people will keep coming back. If you leave people feeling good about themselves and being with you, they won’t think twice about coming back, or telling their friends.

Maintain a cookie cutter approach and sure you’ll attract a certain type of clientele who are more interested in looking than feeling, but can you honestly say that’s why you opened your space? Because the world needs more people who can be congratulated on their abs, rather than people who have been shown compassion and held through a deeply personally experience of transforming the comfort of the familiar for the deep desire of reconnecting to the only homes they will ever have?

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