In a previous post I deconstructed the Curves experience -- how this organization has been successful at meeting the needs of people who want to be fit, but don't fit into the approach of other fitness organizations. In today's post, I want to look at a change they are making, and examine the potential impacts on customer experience. This is a great example of the trade-offs you need to make in customer experience, and why they can be so difficult.
Curves is adding an RFID application backed by software called Curves Smart. You get an RFID tag that you swipe over each piece of equipment as you go through the circuit. At the end of your workout, you can see a report of your progress against targets the software sets for you. It's colorful and graphic and interactive. While you are on the equipment, you get flashing lights signaling your progress -- green for 'good stuff', and yellow for 'pick up the pace, lady'.
This program looks like it will help people on a number of levels. You work harder, but also more efficiently, so you will get fit faster. [At least that's what I hope!] It's like having a personal trainer and a customized program that adjusts for you each time. But it's available for a very nominal cost, far below what a personal trainer costs. There is rapid feedback, which should be motivational.
Part of the ritual of Curves has been the heart-rate check. Everyone on the circuit stops and does a 10 second heart-rate count at the same time. It's part of the routine, ensures you aren't about to expire from heart failure, and also ensures you are working hard enough to get some benefit from the exercise.
But the happy ritual is also that the fitness coaches stop the music while this happens, and ask everyone "are you ok?". With the new equipment, this ritual has been dropped. The new equipment has a heart rate monitor on one piece of equipment. It's all automated now.
The new system clearly adds to the quality of the workout. And likely puts Curves in a place where they can compete with gyms that have much better facilities. The members using this system are likely to get much better results, for a modest investment in the equipment.
Here's the problem. There are now two classes of member. We are not all-in-it-together anymore. There are key-tag people, and no-key-tag people. And something has been taken away from everyone, but especially from the no-key-tag people. It's the happy ritual of pulse checking.
Some people have complained about this. The staff response has been to show people how to check their pulse on the new machine (which works for you even without the magic RFID key-tag). But I think what we are all really missing is the staff contact. It showed they cared. Now they can safely park behind the desk and attend to critical paperwork without hopping up to shut off the music during the pulse-check.
So even though there is a big investment in something better, there is also a loss. And this is why designing customer experiences is always a challenge.