Maybe Your Business Needs Fewer Treadmills Too.

"How many members do you have?" I was standing at the customer service desk of my local YMCA. And I just had to know a question that had been burning in the back of my mind for some time.

"At this location or all of the locations in the area?" the customer service lady behind the desk asked me back.

"Just this one," I clarified.

"A little over 16,000," she quickly summarized for me.

"16,000 members and only 16 treadmills in the entire location," I remarked.

"Oh?" She asked me. "Were all of them taken?"

"No," I commented. "And that is what is so weird."

Or maybe it wasn't so weird.

But it got me thinking about customer service.

See, I'm on one of those 16 treadmills for between 60 to 90 minutes a few times each week.

I run outside as often as I can, but I also supplement running trails with speed training inside on a treadmill. And as the days get a little bit cooler and it rains a little more frequently, I find myself spending more time running inside on a treadmill.

And as I run, I do things like count the number of treadmills. And I ask myself questions like what's the ratio between members and treadmills and who figured out that you only need one treadmill for every thousand members.

My friend at the front desk wasn't able to answer all those questions for me, but her answer to my question helped to reinforce an idea I had already been thinking about regarding customer service.

Better service doesn't necessarily need overkill.

Delivering amazing customer service doesn't mean that you need overwhelming resources, new technology, cool tools, or extra team member in order to make customers feel special.

Better customer service isn't about checking all the boxes. It's about making sure people know you care.

Which has been my experience  when I go to the YMCA. Someone is always smiling at me from the front desk, the ladies who run the nursery are always nice to my kids, and my treadmill is always available for me.

For the last 5 years that I've been a member of the YMCA I can't think of a single time where there were absolutely no treadmills available for me. There's never been a time when there wasn't at least one of the treadmills open and ready for 60 minutes of running. 5 years. 1,825 chances for failure.

And I have never had a bad experience.

Which is what started me asking questions in the first place. Customer service is about how people feel.

According to that standard, the YMCA is doing an incredible job, because I feel like it's the best gym for me and my family.

Customer service success isn't measured by project management tools, reports, or the latest-and-greatest technology. If it were then the YMCA is failing, because they refuse to provide a treadmill for all 16,000 members.

And when you say it like that it seems pretty silly. Planning that way is silly. Strategizing that way is silly.

You might find that the way you're looking at your customer service is silly too.

Maybe what's better than more tools is more smiles.

More kind words. More attention to how people feel people.

Thriving, powerful, growing companies focus on the client experience.  They do whatever it takes to drive a memorable experience.  They do it on purpose.  They make that experience the driving mission of their company

Here are a few other things those type of companies have figured out too:

  1. Better customer service is cheaper than more advertising.
  2. Training your people to be amazing is easier than teaching managers how to put out fires.
  3. Angry customers make it impossible for your employees to stay focused.
  4. It’s cool when you don’t have to bribe your customers and they still brag about you.
  5. You get the benefit of the doubt more easily when you’ve already been a bad-ass a few times.
  6. Empowered employees are cheaper to keep around.  And less crabby.
  7. Buyers want to do business with companies who are serious about “getting it right”.
  8. Spending more money on providing better service doesn’t “cost” you more.
  9. Sometimes the best customer service is a smile, not a discount.
  10. People will pay more to do business with people who make them feel good.

Forget about more treadmills. Create more smiles

It's worked 169 years for the "Y".