Dale Carnegie (famed speaker, trainer, and author of the classic "How to Win Friends and Influence People") established the guidelines on delivering an unbeatable customer experience. While Carnegie never sold his classes online—or anything else online for that matter—his teachings on creating an authentic and effective customer experience in-person still hold profound wisdom for delivering an unbeatable customer experience online.
What exactly is online customer experience?
Online custome experience is simply your members’ experience visiting and navigating your camp, club, or gym’s website. It includes how easily visitors can browse around, how effectively your members actually buy classes on your site, or how you handle any complaints filed online (via chat or email). Just as all of your employees are ambassadors for your organization, your website, newsletter, and social media channels leave impressions that determine membership attraction and retention. Of course exemplary staff who provide an unforgettable in-person experience—my Russian ballet teacher shouting “no stomach, no butt!” every 10 minutes comes to mind—will always be the biggest factor in attracting and retaining membership, the online experience is an important extension of how your organization treats its members.
So, what wise words Dale Carnegie have for delivering a genuine and effective customer experience online?
Dale Carnegie wisdom #1
“Don't be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.”
Intuitive links! Flashy buttons! Well-lit photos! Typo-free web copy! The small jobs on the Internet are endless. Perhaps the most crucial small job is load time. It’s been said that: “Your biggest threat isn't a competitor, it's the back button.” Make sure your website and online registration platform can handle thousands of people on the platform all at once because the only thing worse than waiting in line is waiting online. When your website doesn’t load fast enough, it's like a new member waiting for 10 minutes while the receptionist at your gymnastics club searches through her files to find the right form—it's tiresome, frustrating, and unprofessional. Honestly, it leaves parents thinking, “if the receptionist can’t find a form he uses all the time, will this organization really be able to look after my child?” It's a small detail to miss, but it sends all the wrong signals.
Speaking of details, what about just keeping track of members? Oh, Cynthia is now gluten intolerant? Oh, so you changed your address? Oh, Rodrigo injured his wrist? Quality customer experience means dealing with these details immediately. This shows your customers you care and avoids those awkward situations such as addressing letters to people who no longer live together, letting Rodrigo give Cynthia a piece of his oatmeal cookie, or asking Rodrigo to show the class a handstand. Online registration platforms makes dealing with those details much easier, ensuring you can take care of the small jobs so the big ones can really take care of themselves.
Dale Carnegie wisdom #2
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”
How do people’s emotions influence their experience on your website? I’ve shown this before, but it’s one of my favourite examples of how our client Kyle Shewfelt Gymnastics uses a simple yet totally effective visual. Check it out. Although I don’t even live in Calgary and probably won’t be signing up for a tots gymnastics class anytime soon, I have a hard time resisting the allure of that big, red, button. Your website’s design, content, and tone need to reflect how people feel when they are in your brick-and-mortar gym, club, or centre. Appealing to emotion and creating community online follows the same rules as creating community offline: hire enthusiastic staff, remember everyone’s name, and ask your members how they’re doing, constantly. To achieve this, it’s important to have an online registration platform or website that makes it easy for you to reach out to your members (and for them to reach out to you), to keep your social media channels, website, and blog updated with community achievements, and to adopt a tone that brings out the human element behind the screen.
Dale Carnegie wisdom #3
“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”
With a website, and any plethora of social media channels, the conversation with your members doesn’t have to end once they walk out the door. Get to know your members through surveys and questionnaires, follow-up with them via email, and showcase their achievements in your newsletter or other online channels. While your physical location is a prime meeting spot, focusing on your members online fosters yet another community hub. One of my favourite rock climbing gyms radiates tight community vibes online and off. It’s the kind of place that has a committed membership of that participate in late-night climbs and outdoor excursions while maintaining an inviting atmosphere for newcomers to try out climbing on a whim. They replicate this vibe online by creating their own content but also by sharing videos, photos, and tips from climbers--regulars and newbies--within their community.
Having the logistical tools to keep track of your members enables you to successfully take an active interest in your community. If you’re using an online registration platform, you want one that comes with a membership management system where you can add notes about things like their favourite music to workout to and keep tabs on birthdays and special life events. Taking an interest in people also means being on top of their needs: do they have a payment day coming up? Does their membership need to be renewed? Sending gentle (note the word "gentle") reminders and follow- ups makes their lives easier and shows that you care. If Donald didn't sign up for Basket Weaving II, find out why. If Cynthia's mom didn't pay the membership fees on time, send her an e-mail asking her if everything is alright. Each member matters and by becoming interested in each one, you cultivate a tight-knit community (along with recurring and even new business).