Customer service is an integral part of our job as indoor cycling coaches. For the studio or gym that you teach at, their most vital assets are their members. Without them, we would not and could not exist in business. The practice of customer service should be as present in every class, every time, all the time.
Renee Evenson, an accomplished Customer Service author, emphasizes that the customer is the reason you have a job. ”What has happened to customer service? More often than not, customers are met with boredom, indifference, and even rudeness or condescension. When they are greeted with a friendly smile, they are thrilled. When they are approached with a helpful attitude, they are likely to tell their friends. When they get good service, they are grateful. Customers should never have to feel grateful for being treated well. Being treated well should be the standard.”
So now you are thinking, how does an indoor cycling instructor apply customer service basics in class? All you really need to do is to recall your interactions at your bank, your doctor’s office, at the movie theater, on the phone with your cable TV company, at your car dealership…..you see, customer service is everywhere, and if you have had a negative experience, the impression is long lasting – so are positive experiences.
Here are my 10 commandments for Customer Service basics:
1. Attitude Is Everything: The attitude you bring to each class is a reflection of your character as a coach, as a motivator and as a professional. Regardless of the bad hair day, the bad day at work, the traffic jam, the weather….your participants are expecting no less than 100% from you. This is a tough one – remember that you are a performer and the studio is your stage. Just ask yourself this: when you attend a Broadway play, what are your expectations from the performers on stage? Do you really care enough that one of the performers has a sick child at home, or her car broke down, that her basement flooded in last night’s torrential downpours or that her debt is crushing?
2. Learn Their Names: Make each and every student feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals; and, make a sincere effort to learn their names and then call them by name during class. People value sincerity; it engenders trust. Research has shown that using first names to address students creates an instant connection that allows them to focus on the task at hand and make a concerted effort to carry it through. So when you notice someone struggling in class, a little encouragement – “Hey Annette, I know you’ve had a long day, just dig a little deeper…” will go a long way.
3. Be The Part, Dress The Part: First impressions matter. Whether this is your first class at a new facility, or you have been teaching at the same facility for years, appearance is the first thing customers notice about you. Specifically, for indoor cycling instructors, wearing the appropriate clothing and cleats, being well groomed, maintaining your enthusiasm and a good demeanor will go a long way to establishing a benchmark in your customer’s minds and helps you create your unique persona.
4. Be a Good Listener: At the start of each class, ask if someone needs help setting up the bike, especially for new students, and then ask your regulars if anyone has any injuries or if they have encountered any discomfort during the previous ride. Take the time to identify their needs by asking questions and listen to their words. For new students, help them demystify any objections to riding the bike by helping them understand that they can ride at their own pace and comfort level. I always say in my classes: This is not a competition.
5. Appreciate the power of “Yes”: Do what you say you are going to do. If you promise a unique ride profile, a themed-ride, or if you promise to address a problem with some bikes or the studio’s A/C, make sure you follow through. Do not over promise and under deliver. Be aware of what you can and cannot do.
6. Go Above & Beyond: With so many competing indoor cycling studios around, what can you give your customers/riders that they cannot get elsewhere? What can you do to make the experience memorable, repeatable and consistent? Just think of dining out – why do you patronize a particular restaurant? Is it the service? The atmosphere? The quality? All these factors are important in group exercise classes. Simply put, if a customer does not feel special, they are more likely to seek another instructor or another studio altogether. The feeling of exclusivity is partly responsible for the tremendous success of Soul Cycle.
7. Encourage Feedback: This is very important to me and it is what I refer to as 360 Feedback. As an instructor, your students’ feedback is important for continuous improvement and course corrections. Ask and you shall receive!! I recently created an online survey (of 10 questions) to seek feedback from my participants. I wanted to solicit suggestions from them on incorporating new ride routines (such as focusing on HR Zones) and what makes them come to class, amongst other questions. The responses were overwhelmingly positive – I learned that the majority of participants come to class because of the motivational approach to class and because I call them by name to encourage and inspire them.
8. Be Courteous. Be Aware. Be Respectful: As an adult, you are not going to receive praise for being courteous, but your students will appreciate courtesy. It sends a positive message and reinforces your character. It’s the simple things you say: “Thank you for making the time to be here today”, “I appreciate your dedication and loyalty”, “It means a lot to me that you came today in this awful weather”. Say it with a smile, say “thank you – you’re welcome….”. Be tactful and use finesse to diffuse situations such as when a class is overbooked (for studios that do not have a reservation system) or when dealing with disruptive behaviors.
9. Do The Right Thing: As an indoor cycling instructor, you have a professional and ethical obligation to the safety of your riders and to the image you project. Avoid contraindicated moves, correct such moves off the mic, do not disparage a rider or a fellow instructor, promote fellow instructors, avoid criticizing the studio’s management (always have an open dialogue with management – if something is wrong, let them know – do not wait for your students to let them know). More importantly, be open to constructive criticism and be gracious in accepting responsibility when called for.
10. Seek to Improve: I know many instructors who were certified more than 10 years ago, but have never taken any continuous education classes, have not renewed their certification and seem to be stuck in a time warp. You owe it to yourself and to your customers to stay abreast of technological advances in indoor cycling, to re-certify as needed, to continue to learn and better yourself. The ability to improve speaks volumes of your inner desire to grow, to be better, to seek higher ground and to never stop learning.