Whether trying a new fitness class or hiring an electrician for the first time, customers can be intimidated by new experiences. As small business owners, you have the opportunity to alleviate any anxiety or intimidation that customers may feel in order to win their business and keep them coming back.
Ninette Wassef, owner of Chrome Cycle Studio in Los Angeles, understands that spin classes can be nerve wracking, especially for new customers that have never ridden a stationary bike before. Rather than seeing this as a barrier to acquiring new customers, Ninette works attentively with her staff to make each class rewarding for beginners and advanced riders alike.
While sweating it out on a stationary bike might seem anything but comfortable, Ninette believes customer comfort and safety are of utmost importance. To create a welcoming environment, Chrome Cycle classes focus on creating a sense of community just as much as getting customers in shape.
“You’re vulnerable coming into a new experience and doing something where you look around and everybody knows what they’re doing,” she said. “So, first and foremost, we’re about community, making our community feel safe, welcomed, and part of this experience, whether it’s your first class or your thousandth class. It really doesn’t matter.”
Ninette shares the three stages of creating customer comfort, beginning before the customer even walks through the door and continuing long after they’ve left.
Before: Be proactive with the customer experience
As a customer-facing business, being proactive with the customer experience is key. For Ninette, that begins hours before each spin class.
At Chrome Cycle, staff members look at class rosters and memorize names beforehand so they can greet each customer on a first-name basis, making them feel special as soon as they walk in. Employees also pay extra attention to new riders, giving them a tour of the studio and teaching them how to get set up safely on their bike.
Yelp reviewer Kyle M. said he was worried when he first arrived at Chrome Cycle because he was a beginner and fairly inexperienced at spinning. However, when the staff knew his name, he instantly felt welcomed and more comfortable asking questions about the experience.
“I felt like Chrome Cycle was one of the first studios that I went to that greeted me, welcomed me really nicely, and remembered my name,” Kyle said. “I think that was a really big one because when they said my name, I was wondering, ‘How did they know my name? How did they remember me?’”
To make your customer feel even more comfortable trying out a new class or using a new service, touch base beforehand and walk them through the process. This will help them feel informed and prepared, while also humanizing your business.
During: Prioritize customer needs to encourage open communication
Once the experience begins, it’s important to know your customers and their needs so you can properly address their questions and concerns. At Chrome Cycle, instructors start their classes by asking who is a beginner so they can pay extra attention to their form.
Once the lights turn down and the music turns up, Ninette and her staff work hard to make Chrome Cycle feel like an inclusive space where riders can connect and cheer each other on. The instructors are at the forefront of this effort, motivating riders with personal shoutouts to make each individual feel seen.
“Depending on how many advanced riders or beginner riders, they will tailor their instructions to those people,” Ninette said. “We don’t want to make you feel like we’re scolding you or making you feel like, ‘Oh, you’ll get there one day, you’re just not good enough yet.’ No, it’s about building that ability to get there through positive reinforcement.”
When interacting with customers, clear and timely communication is essential. Walk them through your process, explain the steps you’re taking, and check in frequently to ensure they feel comfortable. If your customer is feeling unsure or out of place, they might keep silent about it, and you may lose out on valuable feedback as well as a return customer.
After: Maintain communication to build lasting relationships
The customer experience doesn’t end when customers walk out the door. Maintaining communication after they leave can keep them coming back—and even better, spreading the good word about your business.
Social media marketing is an effective and increasingly important way to keep the conversation going with your customers. In addition to following up with riders over email, Ninette follows them on social media from the Chrome Cycle account. She even tags riders afterward so they feel recognized.
“A lot of times I will post a story, and I’ll tag five or six people in class, just because I know they’re taking the class and I know their handles,” she said. “[This shows], ‘Hey, we see you, we see you working in that class.’ And then that sense of the community extends, not just for that hour you’re in class, but all week long.”
Another way to make customers feel valued is to respond to Yelp reviews, whether positive or critical. This shows customers you care about their feedback and are willing to put in the time to foster and improve their experience.
“I think it’s important to reply when anybody puts anything in writing about you or your business. Period,” Ninette said. “First of all, no harm can come of it. Second of all, you let people know: ‘Hey, we’re looking, we care, this is important to us.’ Third of all, you can correct a record, or even more importantly, you can address a concern.”
Photos from Chrome Cycle Studio on Yelp
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear from Ninette and Kyle, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.
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The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.