Counting Smiles

Today I did an informal experiment. As I was riding my bike to work, I decided to count how many people either returned my smile or said good morning/hello or some other acknowledgement (even a head nod!). No, it wasn’t too early and it was a gorgeous day! – I live in an amazingly beautiful area with a bike path that connects two towns on either side of the Columbia River. Along the way, it is quite normal to see eagle, osprey, fish jumping, salmon fisherman fishing, and even some other unsightly creatures (snakes, skunk).

In other words, the reasons to be happy, to be smiling, to be friendly were numerous! We are alive, we are able bodied enough to be outside enjoying the beauty and breathing clean, fresh air!

Back to my experiment: my trip to work is only about 45 minutes of brisk biking but I passed no less than 47 people. I am not counting the ones who were plugged in or chatting away with others and, therefore, would not hear my cheery voice. 47 people (plus the others with headphones or friends)! Isn’t that amazing? So many people up and exercising and enjoying the outdoors. Guess how many people smiled back at me? Or acknowledged me in any way? 13. Yes, only 13 – roughly 26% I was overly cheery and loud with my greetings and still – only 13. That makes me wonder: what is going on in their minds that they are choosing to not be present? (Perhaps they thought I was a bit loony or “one of those annoyingly happy morning people?)

Which leads me to this article – how often do we go throughout our day not being present? What are we missing by letting our minds run ahead? How many people do we not connect with by not paying attention to our surroundings and missing the best parts of our day? It’s so easy to get absorbed in what we have to get done, our stresses, or our life but by not being present, we might miss that open door to the next greatest opportunity. Even the missed opportunity to really “see” and acknowledge some really great people!

Do you know WHO those 13 people were? They were the ‘seniors’ (older than me!) who I suspect were out there because: 1) they had the time 2) they enjoyed the beauty of the outdoors or even 3) perhaps they wanted to make someone’s day better by offering a hello or a smile. I can see their smiles, the look of peace and contentment. For me, they reminded me just how much a smile means. They made my day brighter.

Even if you don’t have the opportunity to ride a bike to work or don’t live in a place that is beautiful, there is still joy in being alive and being in the moment. Take a look around – I’m sure you can find at least one thing to smile about?

A smile is easy. A smile is cheap. A smile can make someone’s day. The best gift you can give yourself is to make someone’s day brighter by offering a free smile. Enjoy!

How do you practice being present? What makes it hard for you to be present? Please share with us.


Our company, (Club Works), delivers customer experience management (CEM) products developed in partnership with Medallia Inc.

MXM is the only “retail” CEM system developed exclusively for use in Health Clubs. Club Works currently serves approximately 400 health clubs, and we’ve been in business for about three years. Over the course of those three years the MXM system has received over 300.000 completed club member surveys, and we have worked closely with each club in our network to insure that the customer experience data that MXM provides finds its way in to the operating culture of our customer facilities.

MXM is unique among health and fitness CEM systems in its use of both “structured member feedback” (0-10 ratings of key club metrics) and “unstructured member feedback” (written commentary provided by the member). MXM doesn’t stop at “Likelihood to recommend” and Net Promoter Score (NPS). It is what Fred Reichheld (inventor of NPS) refers to as a Net Promoter System. We pull in data on 20 to 30 key club service components that describe the total member experience at MXM supported clubs. We’ve moved a ton of data over the last three years delivering a full throated, and comprehensive “Voice of the Member” to our customers, and we’ve mentored owners and managers in responding to member inputs.

An interesting tendency has emerged among our customers that I think applies to club owners and managers generally. So what kind of customer feedback draws your attention? Maybe this……..

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 11.09.43 AM.png

Putting this little orange guy in the context of a member survey response, he/she is telling you that you’ve failed to deliver on your brand promise. Maybe he/she is thinking of leaving your club or worse, telling everyone on Yelp! how horrible your club is.  Fixing your little “orange face” is nice and tactical. It will help with attrition, and if you can fix every “orange face” those comments on Yelp! will be less negative; maybe your Club NPS score will go up!

Fixing the problem is a good thing ———but there was a lot of yellow in that picture and lots of smiling faces.

In a pure retention play all those little yellow guys wouldn’t matter, but if you are really managing your member experience you need to understand and act upon the positive aspects of your member experience too.

  • Knowing where/how you’ve exceeded member expectations can guide future programs, products and practices to deliver more happy yellow faces.
  • Positive member feedback will vector you to those areas of your business are really “killing it” from there you can investigate migrating that success to other areas of club operation.
  • Of course, there is also tremendous value in positive feedback for training, recognizing, and rewarding employees.
  • When the aggregate member experience is impacted negatively by things like remodels, dues increases, equipment fees, summer kids tennis, winter parking challenges, Etc. Etc. How nice to have a good handle on those things your members like and value by way of facilities, programs and products to mitigate bad feelings. Conversely how great to know exactly those programs and practices that you should never change…. NEVER!
  • Why wouldn’t an owner or manager want to identify the “Raving Fans” within a member base? Those people whom a sales person might want to approach during a “walk through”. Those members who are more likely to bring a friend in to see a club they are proud to be a member of. 

At Club Works we have noted that many/most of our MXM system users tend to over focus on the little orange guy a bit, and I am certain other club owners using competitors products have a similar tendency. Here’s a simple exercise/suggestion.

Set aside just 15 minutes every other day to stop and look at all those 9s and 10s in your MXM (or other systems) database. Read the positive comments from members and investigate those positive comments just as you would negative ones to find the source and extent of positive comments. Record your findings just as you would if you were investigating multiple complaints or low scores related to a specific area of your clubs operation.   Finally, investigate and celebrate the positive feedback you receive from your members. Recognize those members who took the time to tell you all about the things they like/love about your club.

Schedule 15-30 minutes every other day just to look at the “good news” coming in from your CEM system. It will be “happy place” in your schedule and its just plain “good business practice”.

Club Solutions Magazine Guest Column, "Your Innovation Debt"

This week MXM's president, Blair McHaney, has a guest column over at Club Solutions Magazine! Titled "Your Innovation Debt," the article discusses how falling behind on innovative practices can cost you in the long run.

Companies have invisible “debts” that never see the balance sheet. If your company is not embracing technology you are building a “technology debt.” When organizations don’t refresh and replace equipment at a cadence that keeps up with ever-changing standards, it too is “debt.” These debts eventually get paid — sometimes by finally getting caught up, sometimes by losing customers — but they get paid.

The scariest “debt” is the “innovation debt” that builds when a company is not proactively driving changes. In order to tackle the “innovation debt,” it serves well to redefine innovation as any idea you adopt that adds value.
— "Your Innovation Debt" Blair McHaney

Head over to Club Solutions Magazine to read the full article!

Simple...not simpler.

We love NPS. It’s simple. We started measuring NPS (Net Promoter Score) right after reading Fred Reichheld’s December 2003 Harvard Business Review article. LOVE NPS!   It is a great “North Star” for getting company-wide focus on the member (customer) experience. It remains one of our company’s four main KPIs. The target for our health clubs is to maintain a Trailing 90 Day NPS > 70.

But we learned quickly that to really enable the management of the member experience we needed to better understand the member experience. The “likelihood to recommend” question was a great start. But it hid many of our company’s shortcomings as it wasn’t an accurate representation of the entire MEMBER JOURNEY. By itself, it didn’t uncover our members’ deeper ideas, concerns and even valuable praise. We also struggled with accountability – How do I, as a front desk team member, ACCOUNT for my impact on our NPS?

When companies deploy an NPS only approach to Operational Customer Experience Management (OCEM), we see it result in a series of tactics to find “Detractors” and to mitigate their risk of cancelling. This tactical approach to OCEM returns only a fraction of the value one should be leveraging when going through the trouble of collecting member feedback. It also does not reveal the issues (sometimes major issues) your Promoters have with your company.

The first rule of OCEM is to really see yourself as the member sees you. You need metrics that you can track to their entire journey and once they give you that quantitative feedback, they are now primed to give you richer qualitative feedback.

For example, while I am writing this I reviewed feedback from a “Promoter”. This person gave a 10 on Likelihood to Recommend (LTR). They gave their reason as “Great club! Super clean.”Okay, if those are the only questions I allowed her to answer then our job with her is done! But read on. Once this SAME MEMBER had a chance to reflect on (and score) her whole journey, she added the following: “I have had 3 trainers. One left after 2 sessions, the next one was fired after we trained for several months and the third was promoted to another club within one month of us training, Very discouraging. No continuity. Why would I buy another series?” THAT is the information I needed.  Buried in her journey was a major issue. Now, instead of the false pat-on-the-back we would have given ourselves, we have uncovered an issue. In fact this may not be a small issue. Conducting root cause on this might reveal a HUGE opportunity to improve the experience for all of the personal training clients.  But if you are only asking the LTR question and “what was your reason?” you are not getting the value you need.

But we are still talking about tactics. What about your strategy? In order for you to be successful with your strategy, do you need to have a customer service oriented culture? Chances are, if you are in the fitness business the answer is “yes.”

The challenge with an NPS only program is that is very hard to move your customer-centric plans from being just ink on paper to the blood in the veins of your entire team. Getting the feedback to align with the member journey so that every team member takes ownership of the customer experience is how to make that happen.

Enter the science of great technology, survey design and a systematic approach for closing-the-loop, fixing individual issues, performing root-cause analysis and building culture.

The member experience is a complex thing to understand. It should not be treated as a transaction. When done right this complexity can be presented in simple and beautiful ways that engage your entire company. I started with Einstein and will finish with Oliver Wendell Holmes – “I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity. But I would give my right arm for simplicity on the other side of complexity.”


I own and operate two health clubs and in our clubs we relentlessly work to remain focused on delivering great “member experience.” As my own understanding grows about “customer experience” (member experience in fitness terminology) and the memories they create, I hope to share what I’ve learned to continue improving not just our own operations but to have a broader impact on the fitness industry.

Getting the customer experience right requires acute awareness that all interactions between customer and company (people, plant, equipment, advertising, website, etc.) will merge into a single belief about your company.  This “memory” IS the experience.     Experience shapes belief.  Belief shapes action.  Action shapes results.  Say someone walks into your club for the first time and they are greeted warmly and personally. The sales person is genuine, caring and inquisitive about this person’s world.  The club is spotless and there is energetic and friendly conversation all around.

From this experience one begins to form a belief – “These people care and this place is authentic.”  If, when returning the next day, there is someone different behind the front desk talking on a cell phone and not paying attention, I start to question my belief –“Maybe I was wrong. Perhaps it was just the individuals that were caring yesterday, not the company.” 

Getting the experience right can’t be a “sometimes” thing.  It must be pursued “all the time” thing, even if you know that “all the time” isn’t possible. We call this the pursuit of excellence!


The authors of The Experience Economy (B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore) explain that if we receive any cues not aligned with the experience we expect, the experience is degraded. At Disneyland, if we see two staff members arguing or a sweeper walk past garbage on the ground, we log this in our memory as a “chink” in the Disney armor. Which by the way, I have never seen. But I give these examples of what would be negative “cues” inconsistent with our beliefs about Disney.  

In our own Member Experience Manual (our internal “Bible” for our gyms) we describe negative cues as “defects,” or, something that will degrade the quality of the product. We create customer experiences. Negative “cues” are the defects of great experiences. Our industry delivers all levels of member experience. Many health clubs effectively apply the same customer experience principles as some of the world’s greatest companies (Apple, Four Seasons etc.). Many are small and connected enough to always deliver a great “home town” experience. But mostly, when it comes to customer experience management we deliver mediocrity.

If we are to live up to our potential as major contributors for solving the current health care crisis, we need more legendary customer care stories than are being generated today.  If we totaled up all stories told about health clubs around the world, it seems the net result would be far more negative stories than positive.   Our goal should not be to merely have more positive stories than negative, but to obliterate negative stories. 

Create so many positive stories that the negative are insignificant by comparison. 

Would that help retention? Yes. We hear that we service the same 15% of the market. Yet attrition is stil 40% (or so). If membership growth in the US has moved from 45 million in 2009 to 50 million in 2011 and attrition is 40%, then over the last three years there are roughly 56 million that have quit. Granted, may of those rejoin somewhere else. But, I am concerned with those who came to use to solve a problem and instead were sold a membership. I am concerned with those that are used to the customer experience they receive from Apple, Starbucks, Disney and others, only to wonder why the same experience hasn’t permeated a business dependent on repeat visits and recurring revenues.

If we are ever to live up to our potential, we must design (Design: to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan) the end-to-end experience in a way that connects with and dazzles people when they are at their most vulnerable and we are in our greatest position of power and influence. This is retention by design. The next step is to deliver the experience. No process, policy, or person stands alone.  They all connect in a “customer experience ecosystem” to form what is the experience of our members. 

Share your comments on this topic. Do you have a purposeful system designed to retain members at you health club? We would love to hear from you.


Software to improve the customer experience

The implementation of an Operational Customer Experience Management (OCEM) system is not a tactic or a “program.” It is a business practice just as financial management is a business practice. At their 2013 CX Symposium, Lieberman Research Worldwide stated that in their research, the #1 mistake companies make in purchasing operational customer experience management (OCEM) technology is buying a system that does not enable strategy, is overly simple and is outgrown within a very short time. LRW insisted that companies use technology that can accept and even push a company to become more sophisticated in their approach to CEM.


Our company, MXMetrics, specializes in customer experience management for health clubs. The health club business is complex when it comes to delivering a customer experience. Health clubs use a “subscription” business model as opposed to a simple “transactional” business model. Designing a system to inform better decisions at every level of the health club operation is a sophisticated process requiring a thorough understanding of different “member journeys.” With an appropriately designed system, you can then apply a proven methodology for improving the member (customer) experience.

The rest of this post will explain the four main elements of the Medallia Operational Customer Experience Management Methodology using some examples from the fitness industry. The OCEM Methodology is based on research of companies that have used OCEM to drive company value by creating greater loyalty with their customers.

  1. See yourself as the customer sees you.
  2. Wire the customer into all decisions.
  3. Drive accountability at all levels.
  4. Innovate and test to discover what will scale.

See yourself as the customer sees you. To accomplish this, you will need to know how different customer segments view their experience with your operation. Each member’s experience is complex in a health club and has myriad touch-points. As operators we sometimes completely miss a touch point that is a major point of friction for our members. One MXM customer has discovered different loyalty drivers in different locations. For one set of very profitable customers, when scores for “Child Care” fall below 7.8, the increased risk of cancellation was greater than 200%.   In other locations it was the Equipment Selection scores that were the main driver of attrition and in yet another it was Availability of Staff For Assistance – all within the same ownership group. Seeing themselves as the customer sees them is what made these discoveries possible.

Wire the customer in to all decisions.   Member feedback needs to get to the employees who are responsible for delivering the experience. The feedback needs to be shared and used to make daily operational decisions with these customers. As data builds, its presentation must be engaging and immediately informative at every level of the organization. Member feedback should be enriched with member lifecycle (length of membership) and member engagement levels (average uses per week) in order to make impactful decisions that drive profitability.

Drive accountability at all levels. It MUST start with the top of your org chart and customer experience MUST be part of your strategy. Once this is clarified for your executive (or leadership) team, it becomes “mission-critical” to establish clear responsibilities, goals, and success metrics. You can then address any policies and monetary incentives that might need to be aligned with these metrics. But accountability includes the responsibility of training and coaching front lines and empowering them with the processes and workflows to systematically respond to, and use customer feedback.

Innovate and test to discover what will scale. You then prioritize customer experience “gaps” in order to design and test solutions that address the root cause of those gaps. This should be an inclusive process that solicits employee ideas for improvements and innovations. To add velocity to this learning, you need to understand what top-performing teams DO and how you can do the same. This allows you to be proactive and implement the very best cutting edge ideas before issues arise.

MXMetrics is a Medallia partner company focused on OCEM Methodology for the fitness industry and we work nearly 400 of the world’s best health clubs. We know what is working in practice and can speed your learning with real solutions. Click the link below for more.

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In the business of customer experience management, we run into this disorder often. While difficult to cure, we have developed an effective process. In this article, we will explore what happens when it is left untreated.

1. What is Grandiose CX Delusional Disorder (GCXDD)?  

GCXDD is a kind of serious business related cultural illness called “organizational psychosis” in which an organization can’t tell what is real from what has been imagined by their marketing departments, motivational posters and website verbiage. These delusions usually involve the misrepresentation of customer perceptions or customer experiences. The reality is often either completely untrue or greatly exaggerated. This leaves the afflicted living in a world completely separated from reality.

Clear signs of fully developed GCXDD may include:

  • An over-inflated sense of worth, power, knowledge, or identity.
  • Company leaders/individuals whose opinions of the customer experience they deliver are unmoored from facts.
  • Statements like “world class” and “#1 in the industry” when referencing their customer experience.

The higher up the org chart, the worse the condition. This “Organizational Altitude” seems to be an accelerant to the severity of GCXDD. Close inspection also reveals GCXDD “enablers” who maintain roles in the organization by outwardly supporting leaderships’ delusional state. “Enablers” are not delusional themselves but to maintain power they keep afflicted leaders in a delusional state until they are able to source a new “host” with an updated resume.

2.  How can you tell if a leader, team, or an entire organization is afflicted with GCXDD? 

The symptoms include:

  • Ignoring customer complaints
  • Arguing away negative online reviews
  • Making statements such as “we deliver exceptional customer service” or “our people are our greatest asset” followed by actions that do violence to the customer experience and to employee engagement.
  • Leaders will also demonstrate a complete lack of curiosity about the reality of what the customer and front line staff feel and think.
  • Curiosity is replaced with a satisfaction of their own opinions about customer experience.

If GCXDD is left untreated it can lead to more serious problems, which, to the organization, seem to manifest independently although they are interrelated symptoms of GCXDD.  This is known as the “GCXDD Complex” and it includes:

  • Employee Disengagement Disease
  • Member Disloyalty Malady
  • The Very Deadly Revenue Shrinkage Syndrome

In the health club industry alone, we estimate that 7 out of every 10 health club owners is suffering from GCXDD. This subsequently affects more than a half million employees and nearly 30 million club members in the US alone.

3. What can I do?

First of all don’t be an enabler. If you are aware of an owner or a CEO with GCXDD we recommend a very strict 4-step intervention which has proven effective in clinical trials.  The method is as follows: 

  1. Seat yourself in a chair face to face with the afflicted opposite.
  2. Be sure the chairs are the same height and that your knees are almost touching. Although uncomfortable at first, this breaks down boundaries.
  3. Next, lean forward while simultaneously placing your left hand on the right side of his face and your right hand on the left side of his face.
  4. Now lean in and scream “wake the *&^% up!”

This can be done by anyone on the team or in the organization as long as they have enough relationship capital to get on the CEO’s schedule. Oh, it is also a good idea to have your resume updated as a precursor to the intervention in the instance that it doesn’t “take.”  In the instance that it does take, be prepared to start the process of understanding the gap between what your leaders want the customer experience to be and what it actually is.  Only when these gaps are clarified and accepted can healing really begin.

Come join us for the Club Solutions Leadership Retreat 2018!

Come join us for the Club Solutions Leadership Retreat 2018!

Moderated by Blair McHaney, President of Club Works, the Club Solutions Leadership Retreat is the most prestigious and rewarding event to attend in the industry!

The Club Solutions Leadership Retreat is an exclusive peer collaboration event that brings together 50 health club operators for two days of roundtable discussions, networking and unique experiences!

7 ways great companies use OCEM

As a health club operator and the vice president of strategic initiatives for a customer experience management software company, I know the importance of operational customer experience management (OCEM), which involves listening to customers and improving their experience by implementing changes based on that feedback. OCEM is not new to large enterprises that have big budgets along with a host of analysts and researchers as well as a driving desire to differentiate themselves from competition. But OCEM may be new—and a challenge—to smaller companies.

Executives at Fortune 500 companies know that customer loyalty is critical to their companies’ success, so they understand the importance of listening to those customers. Doing so helps to increase retention, and the recession has meant that the focus on retention is at a fever pitch. Executives see the importance of quantifying the return on investment of their loyalty initiatives, and this fosters even more investment in customer loyalty.

All of these OCEM initiatives have become commonplace at Fortune 500 companies. Not so for most companies in the fitness industry. Our industry needs to catch up. The fitness industry has pockets of companies with incredible customer loyalty and experience with OCEM, but the overall level of awareness and the desire to change is quite low. No matter what kind of fitness facility you run, you are a service business. You pay people to do things that are supposed to make the members’ experience better. OCEM systems tell you if that is working. They measure what, up until now, has been lost in the ether of the club.

The following are 7 ways that great companies use OCEM:

They set OCEM goals and measure progress. The key to OCEM is to talk to your members about customer experience, then measure it. As one company leader put it, “By the time poor customer experience shows up on your profit and loss, it’s too late.” Every gym owner should use a system to capture member feedback and benchmark against widely accepted methods for quantifying customer experience.

They embrace all feedback. The best companies do not get bogged down in dogma. Negative feedback as well as positive feedback are embraced and deeply investigated to recover customers and improve the future experience for all. Every individual piece of feedback matters.

They close the loop. When customers provide feedback, they get responses. Your members want to know that they have been heard. Your OCEM design should allow each of your locations to receive a stream of feedback at a pace that is easily manageable by the front line on a daily basis.


They socialize feedback. These operators share with their staff the company’s scores for friendliness, cleanliness, overall experience or likelihood to repurchase. Staff discuss and dissect the numbers in meetings. Customer comments are used to support the desired culture. This is easy in the gym environment, and it is fun. I send comments to our entire staff about twice a week emphasizing what makes us different and thanking the staff for doing what we cannot do without them.

They nurture staff engagement. Part of the reason you need to socialize customer data is that it increases staff engagement. Business owners make sure all corners of their operations are aware of key loyalty metrics relative to goals and to peers in the system.

They know that customer experience leads. Downward trends in customer experience scores are the leading indicators for customer exodus. Awareness around customer experience allows one to see what has not been visible and to respond before it hits the profit and loss statement.

They never stop. These companies listen, respond thoughtfully, recover customers, make changes to delight and keep customers, set targets and measure the effectiveness of their efforts. This is how OCEM works and how companies differentiate by enchanting their customers. The playing field is wide open in the fitness industry. Operators with the right philosophy, the tenacity and the willingness to learn from enterprises more experienced and more profitable than ours will reap the greatest benefits.

Click below to learn about a software system that will improve the member experience.

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A conversation about customer loyalty

Loyalty: A Conversation With Gold’s Gym Hall of Fame Inductee Blair McHaney

This blog was first posted in:Expert Edge on August 25th, 2014 by Kimberly Warner-Cohen for the Customer Experience Report. It is an interview with Blair McHaney

Customer loyalty in the fitness industry tends toward either extreme, as clients generally either commit to their new routine or fall off and spend the remainder of the contract’s term wishing they could cancel. A well-structured onboarding process is key to a successful customer retention strategy, according to Blair McHaney, owner of two Gold’s Gym franchises in Central Washington and Director Emeritus of Gold’s Gym Franchisee Association. He is also the only franchisee in the organization’s history to  both win its three most important awards and be inducted into the Gold’s Gym Hall of Fame alongside The Incredible Hulk’s Lou Ferrigno and gym founder, Joe Gold.

Customer Experience Report caught up with McHaney during the 2014 Customer Service Experience Conference and discussed successful customer loyalty strategies, learning curves and the importance of a well-trained staff.

CER: Gold’s Gym in general and your gyms specifically have experienced significant long-term customer loyalty success. What success strategies could be applied across other industries?

Blair McHaney: The first thing is just this recognition that –let your front lines actually deliver the product. You’ve got to let them deliver on any loyalty promise. You can’t try to mandate every action or tactic that people take in order to grow loyalty. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a gym or hotel or anything else. When you run into policies consistently that are tough on the customer experience, that’s when you see that it’s usually the C-suite that’s gotten in the way of delivering a great customer experience. You want to build a violin? Here’s some two by fours and a hammer. But I think that’s the same anywhere. I don’t think it’s different in any organization.

CER: What common challenges have you experienced while driving customer service?

Blair McHaney: When you accept that customer experience management is going to be a business discipline, that means that there’s a lot of business process implications. You’re never going to be a great practitioner from Day One. So then your program has to evolve over time. And the more sophisticated you get, the deeper you dig on those things that are causing negative experience or those things that cause people to not be as open about identifying processes that should be improved. Everybody will find their way back to how they hire, onboard, train, develop and educate their people. If you’re gonna get excellent at this, excellence will be driven. You’ll always end up back at that point at some point.

CER: Has it been a trial and error or – ?

Blair McHaney: I don’t think it’s so much trial and error. I think it’s more strategy and urgency. Companies have some kind of strategy. They’ll say, “This is our strategy and this is towards our customers.” And then when they start to gain a tremendous amount, especially continuous customer feedback. I’m not talking about the market research once a year or twice a year. When you’re having this continuous customer feedback, you can see whether you’re executing the strategy or not. Then you find a spot where there’s a gap. We think we deliver whatever it might be, right? An inspiring environment or great hospitality. But, according to our customer, whatever we say is apparently just marketing blather and our customer is not feeling the same thing. So there’s a gap there. I don’t think it’s so much trial and error as is it urgency. We have a strategy that we’re trying to deploy. What’s most urgent? What’s the most urgent gap? We have to address that gap and as soon as you start to address that gap and dig in, at some point, it’s going to take you back to how your people are sourced, hired, trained, educated, onboarded, developed.

CER: When you spoke, you gave real world examples of employees taking on responsibility. How difficult was it getting them to the level you wanted them to be?

Blair McHaney: I think it’s important enough that we are investing now, and this is just in the few clubs, instead of having three hours of onboarding and about 12 hours of in-department training, it’s going to expand to about 50 of training. And onboarding is going to expand greatly. When I’m saying onboarding, I just take for granted you have to do all the HR crap, right? You have to sign the papers. I’m not even talking about that. I’m talking about cultural onboarding. I’m talking about understanding why the organization exists and what it’s aspirations are. All of that; the cultural onboarding. I think it’s equally important that all staff members have to be reboarded once a year. Because your onboarding is going to evolve. It’s going to get better. It’s going to get more and more aligned as your thinking gets more and more wrapped around customer experience. And then the people who were onboarded two years ago, it’s a different world. And they need to be reminded.

CER: Is the reboarding the same amount of time as the onboarding?

Blair McHaney: Yes.

CER: What customer loyalty innovations would you like to see in the future?

Blair McHaney: One thing that I really want to see in the technology is to build up the operational sides of it more. In other words, tracking – when you deploy an initiative, being able to track it. Having more of a social aspect in there, where your own teams are actually interacting with each other within the system. I think so much of the loyalty innovation is going to be business model innovation and how you think about your own customers. And I think that’s going to be informed a lot by your customer experience management system but I think it’s so much about how you digest that information and try to innovate around that.  There are all those things that I want to be able to track in the system.

3 Best Practices of CX Leaders

These are lessons that I learned during my 30+ years managing health clubs. Simple to identify but harder to implement. Three practices used by top Customer Experience Management practitioners that can help you begin to manage the experience at your business vs. just putting out fires as fast as they start. Here they are!

    1.  THEY LISTEN!

The true leaders of a positive customer experience actually listen to their customers AND their employees.  They have systems in place that allow them to listen to their customer & employee feedback (un-solicited!) and methods to analyze and use the data or information provided by those customers and employees.  When the customer or the employee points out a faulty policy or ‘friction-full’ procedure, they listen and work together to find a better way.

     2.  NO EGO!

It takes a unique leader to be able to openly listen to criticism and to make positive change as a result. Most leaders are set in their systems and operations and are unwilling to make changes even when their customers and employees are clearly telling them this isn’t working. A true leader knows they are only as strong as their weakest employee and operation. For example: at the next convention or out of town meeting, listen for this: “My people just can’t survive without me. I need to get back! Things are falling apart.”  This company is NOT a leader in the customer experience world.  True customer experience leaders don’t wait for the bottom line to drop before making change.

     3.  Have a Customer Experience Mission!

EVERY employee must know his or her role and expectations in the customer experience strategy. The customer experience mission statement is clearly and effectively communicated to every single employee, every single day. Customer experience is the first thing and the last thing talked about when hiring a new employee. The new hire KNOWS and UNDERSTANDS the company’s commitment and passion for customer experience from day one. And they also are clear on what role they play in that experience. The true leaders of customer experience continually hire and train around their customer experience strategy.

2 best practices for closing the loop


In all bricks and mortar operations, the leverage point for improving customer experience happens at the location level. It is at the location level where the most information on individual members resides.  Empowering at this level draws out more impactful actions for improving the customer experience.  This is the “distributed approach”.

Distributing the responsibility and authority for multiple people to close the loop and solve problems within each location reduces business processes and speeds action.  Location-specific knowledge and tacit knowledge about individual members makes problem solving and member dialogue much easier. Moreover, a distributed approach creates a platform for adopting other OCEM best practices that will drive your program and ultimately, the customer experience. Here are 2 best practices.

#1 – Response Team Approach

  1. This approach is generally used when an organization does not have a “daily huddle” for operations at the location level.
  2. Requirements
    1. Establish a team lead
    2. 3-6 people trained in CLF best practices
    3. MXM logins for each person
    4. Each Team Member “owns” 1 or more specific days of the week. (e.g. Bob has Monday, Lisa has Tuesday etc.)
  3. Team Responsibilities
    1. Respond to 100% of new feedback on assigned day(s).
    2. Cover one another for sick/vacation days
    3. Take ownership of issues and follow up to resolution
    4. Share ideas for improving member experience
  4. Impact
    1. Heightened awareness of the customer experience throughout the location
    2. Greater empowerment to solve problems and improve operations

#2 – Daily Huddle Approach

  1. This approach is possible when a daily leadership huddle takes place at least every weekday.
  2. Requirements
    1. Top of daily agenda
    2. MXM logins for each person
    3. Trained in CLF best practices
    4. Ability to look at the system together during the meeting
  3. Team Responsibilities
    1. Review status of case assignments from the previous day
    2. Review new cases
    3. Ownership of cases distributed to appropriate team member
  4. Impact
    1. Establishes priority of member experience at the management level
    2. Creates easy pathways for managers to use member experience data in departmental team meetings
    3. More likely to have authority to make change

The opposite of the “distributed approach” is the “centralized approach”.  The centralized approach is generally ineffective and overly cumbersome for multiple reasons.  Here are two examples of centralization:

  1. Single person responsible for CLF in one location
  2. Single person or small team with centralized responsibility for multi-location operation

Closing the loop in a timely, meaningful, and personalized manner is the starting point of optimizing your Operational Customer Experience Management practice.  The intent of each of these two best practices is to ensure:

  • Cases are handled swiftly
  • Action is taken
  • Workload is distributed
  • Increased opportunities to share ideas for improvement
  • Most importantly, the customer experience actually improves.



      Animate your health club with a new strategy

      From 36 percent to 89 percent. According to Gartner Research, 36 percent of enterprise CEOs in 2011 said customer experience is the dimension on which they are now competing. That number jumped to 89 percent in 2016.

      These CEOs of major companies are saying that customer experience is the battlefield, and having a strategy to win on that battlefield is imperative. I suspect that in the next three years, the percentage of CEOs who say that customer experience is their differentiator will rise to 95 percent. But why, and why now? What is happening that providing a customer experience has become so imperative for so many companies? Haven’t they always focused on customer service? Yes, they have. So when they talk about a customer experience strategy as a new competitive dimension, they are talking about embedding the customer perspective into every cell of the company and creating a unified (i.e. whole company) approach to understanding the customer.


      The very nature of strategy is that it animates an organization. When you have a unifying vision and strategy and electrify it with the right customer information, your decisions will be different. That sounds simple, but it is where differentiation begins. Your decisions will be different than they would have been had you not adopted the strategy. In other words, if you have not created a unifying customer experience vision and strategy, and you have not adopted the discipline to track and manage its progress, you are getting left behind. You become the guy or gal who is in a highly competitive race but is unaware whether you are running first, last or somewhere in between.

      When you consider why there is such a massive push on customer experience, you might come to the conclusion that it is because of the proliferation of social media in all its forms — Yelp, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram. Pinterest, Google+, etc. — and that these companies want to make sure they look good. Although improving social commentary is a nice outcome, it isn’t the main driver. The drivers are market share, revenue growth, same-store sales, share of wallet, margin and all of the usual suspects. In fact, I would sum up many of these companies’ approaches to social media as “Be a great company on the inside, and it will show on the outside.” Looking good on social media isn’t a driver; it is an outcome.

      What business owners are recognizing is the parity in the normal business functions among their competitive set. You better be good at marketing, finance, human resources, etc. You probably wouldn’t be around if you were not good in those areas.

      Moreover, all of these normal business functions are operational. This means that they have numbers and metrics that guide the day-to-day and give goals for the future. Someone at the top of the food chain takes ownership of these functions and ensures their success. This is simply the ante to being a good company.

      Managing the customer experience is the ante to being a great company, and someone has to decide to make customer experience a strategic objective. That person is the CEO, president or owner in the case of many smaller companies.

      Once that decision is made, aggressive action should be taken to break existing inertia. Set big goals — net promoter score (NPS) is a good one — measure and monitor all of the NPS key driver metrics on a day-to-day basis, respond to every single customer that provides feedback, get multiple people involved, establish a company-wide vision with hard edges on understanding when and how you will reach it.

      The worst mistake I see is when company leaders take a tactical approach to customer experience. This usually takes the form of testing whether one’s teams are willing to adopt and execute the new operational disciplines that it takes to make a strategy work. If their teams lack the interest in adopting the day-to-day disciplines, then these leaders capitulate. Strategy is not a trial balloon. Strategy is not decided at the front line. It is executed at the front line.

      If you are a CEO, president or owner, if you own one club or 100 clubs,you are the strategist, and it is you who will determine whether your strategy gets adopted or fizzles.

      There is a race going on. We are all in it, and there is a tremendous opportunity to differentiate your company. We estimate that only 2 to 3 percent of fitness companies are ramped up in their customer experience management discipline.

      Optimizing your OCEM

      In this 6-part series, Blair discusses strategies for getting the most from your Operational Customer Experience Management (OCEM).

      I had a fantasy while flying to Orlando…

      Alaska Airlines flight 16, seat 8F.  Heading to Orlando.  Medallia’s annual event is always incredibly stimulating and fun.   But right now I am waiting for someone to pick up the remains of my small “Tapas” snack to allow me a little more room to type.  If only my forearms were 3 inches shorter I could type without deforming my hands.   It seems that every flight in the last few years has been 100% booked.  This must be very good as far as I can tell for the airlines.


      But let’s forget about what is good for the airlines for a minute and just think about the experience of flying and how one might design a far better flying experience.  There are 178 seats on this flight, 12 of them in first class.  I wonder what the math looks like if instead of every coach row having 6 seats, every row had 4.  And instead of 27 coach rows they were reduced to 24.  Removing some 66 seats or 37% of the capacity.  How much more would the airline need to charge per ticket in order to have higher margin than they have now?  How much more would the customer be willing to pay?  How many of these customers are out there?   Would the price of a seat need to be the same as it currently is for a first class ticket?   It doesn’t seem so.  First class tickets (of course I am not talking about free upgrades) are priced 2-4 times a coach ticket.  I have no idea what the calculus is for determining all of the different fares but they seem quite varied.

      With the removal of 37% of the seats could the airline charge 50-60% more for the ticket?  It sure seems like there would be a market for this.  At least the math works if the customers are there.  GOOD LORD I would buy that deal all damn day even if it didn’t come with free food and beverage!  It seems it would AT LEAST be worth an experiment.  Every airline seems to be chasing the exact same space – make more money by crowding more people in.   This assumes that what people value is simply cheaper fares and moderate service. I wonder what would happen if an airline decided to attract people who value SPACE and excellent service.

      Here is what the boarding experience might sound like:

      “Hello folks, this is a completely full flight today but no worries, you are flying our new ‘Respect Class’ and there is no need to be anxious about overhead space as you are guaranteed to have your very own space over your designated seat!”   

      “You will also enjoy 7 inch wider seats, 7 degrees more recline and 4 inches more leg room than our standard flight.  The center isle is 24 inches instead of 18 inches so you can avoid those awkward moments to and from the lavatory when you must decide which side of your body you will thrust into the face of the poor bastard in the isle seat in order that another passenger may pass.”   

      “Speaking of lavatories! Ours are occupied on average 37% less and are 6 inches wider than standard in order to prevent those painful shoulder dislocations required in most airplane lavatories.” 

      “Your Internet connection will be 37% better and we predict you are 37% more likely to have an outstanding experience. If you do, please don’t be shy about posting comments out there!”

      “Also, since there are far fewer of you, boarding and deplaning takes about half the time as our standard flights.”    

      Okay, that’s my fantasy and if you have flown much lately you know why this is my fantasy!  There are certainly exceptions to the “always bad to mediocre experience” and they seem to occur when I fly Virgin America, or I buy (or get upgraded) to first class.  It is amazing how much better the flying experience can actually be.

      Now think about your health club.   People experience the same anxieties in overly crowded clubs as one does on overly crowded flights.  Things like attending a class, getting into Team Training, having an open treadmill, finding a vacant locker, taking a shower, having kids get the attention needed in the Kids Club, all of these things have increased value when a club is not over-crowded.  My hunch is that with the proliferation of high-volume/low-price clubs, there may be an opportunity for growth in the higher-price and more-space model.  How might you capitalize on having all your members fly “Respect Class” instead of what coach class is becoming?   Look, I sure don’t have the answer here.  I am just positing the question.  But I do know that I’d pay for this flying experience every time.