The glass ceiling of customer experience is policies and processes. The ceiling remains invisible until a company recognizes its policies are the root cause of most customer irritants.
In working with gym operators to improve their members' experience through customer experience management (CEM) programs, I have seen some of them make quick progress only to hit a glass ceiling of sorts. Over time, I have noticed a common thread for clubs that experience this.
The goals of most CEM programs should be defined clearly. They usually are expressed as a location-level and company-level net promoter score (NPS). CEM programs generally are deployed in health clubs with the backing of leadership and with the knowledge and training of employees as well as attention to socializing the initiative. The CEM programs are the most exciting when frontline employees know they will get the support they need to make the initiatives happen, which then creates excitement among their ranks because it makes their jobs more fun.
Goal-setting, socialization and training often create some momentum, and members begin to behave differently. But momentum stalls when your NPS stops moving. But why does it stop? NPS is a leading indicator for member loyalty, but it is a lagging indicator for member experience. I cannot overstate this. To manage the members' experience, you must know the leading indicators. Leading indicators show exactly where you have to work to move the lagging indicator. In other words, leading indicators help you understand what to do. You get clarity on what processes, policies and procedures you should consider changing.
The heart and soul of CEM is closed-loop-feedback (CLF). With CLF, members provide daily feedback, and you respond to that feedback, taking care of immediate customer issues and thanking members for helping to improve your business. It is manageable, easy and eye-opening in its power, but many organizations get stuck. They solve immediate issues but do not solve core problems. And although the resolution of immediate issues improves the experience for individual members, it does not provide the kind of change the organization might need. As a good friend of mine once said, "You have to kill the alligators and drain the pond."
Moreover, if you do not drain the pond, your frontline will get tired of killing alligators and become disengaged because they cannot deliver the experience the leaders want delivered. They perceive a gap between what you say and what you are willing to do. When this happens, your results will be mediocre at best.
The remedy to this situation starts with understanding sticking points. The two biggest sticking points are solving issues without solving core problems and attempting to manage your NPS instead of the leading indicators of NPS.
Once initial progress is made, every organization, no matter how big or small, must become self-reflective in order to advance. You may have made modest progress so far by delivering customer service through the solving of individual issues but that is not customer experience. To affect customer experience, you must turn service touchpoints into organizational learning and change.
The glass ceiling of customer experience is policies and processes. The ceiling remains invisible until a company recognizes its policies are the root cause of most customer irritants. Your policies and processes are key drivers of customer experience. Even fabulous, caring and friendly people cannot make unfriendly policies feel good.
How much are you willing to change to be a leader in providing customer experiences? Are you willing to take a long hard look at deeply ingrained policies and processes? Many of these policies are driven by beliefs about the customer and the employee. Are you willing to challenge your own beliefs? This is where you move from talking about great customer experience to doing something about great customer experience.
As author Stephen Covey once told former Campbell's Soup CEO Douglas Conant when he was trying to turn around his company: "You can't talk your way out of what you behaved your way into." Until an organization is ready to change its core behaviors, it will continue to deliver a poor to mediocre customer experience.
Blair McHaney, president of Confluence Fitness Partners Inc., is an industry veteran and former president of the Gold's Gym Franchisee Association. He is the only fitness industry person certified in customer experience management by Medallia Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.