4Oct07 - Design a great customer experience: find a segment and meet their needs
I was very impressed at the process that Curves' founders seemed to follow to get their original plan. In the post, I talked about how they had figured out what some of the barriers are for women to using conventional gym programs, and how they overcame them, thereby creating a new market, and triggering tremendous growth. [Which, by the way, is still a really good idea] For example,"Not rewarded for my progress. Always measured against a standard I can't meet."
9Oct07 -Making tradeoffs in customer experience design: Curves Smart and what it means for the Curves experience
In this post, I looked at their introduction of new technology to track each workout. The technology changed the happy ritual of heart-rate monitoring from a human interaction to a machine interaction. Personally, I missed it a lot. As I suspected, at least in my local establishment, this change led fairly quickly to a lack of interaction between staff and customers. Here's what I said then...
"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."
Little did I know that this second post would become among my most popular posts of all time. Not only that, but it has attracted an astonishing [for me] number of comments.
Here's what has been happening, I think. These Curves fans are concerned. Things are happening. Things aren't working as well as they used to work. They have questions.
So ... they go to the web to seek out answers. And they are finding, not a Curves forum, but this blog about customer experience and human behavior. They are sharing their worries with each other in the comments on my blog. Yes, folks, this is what your customers are doing when they can't talk to you. They find each other somehow, somewhere, and they still talk. The conversation is happening without you. The brand story is changing, and you're not involved in it.
The posts have continued to grow and expand. The company appears not to be in the dialogue, with the exception of a few brave individual employees.
I'd love to know what is happening to their user base as a result of this change. But I can tell you one thing -- there are people who are raving fans that are upset, and no one is giving them any kind of a forum, and they sound pretty let down by this. Here are a couple of extracts from the comments:
"No matter how hard I work, it doesn't stay in the green, and I feel as though I'm going to pass out or burst into tears. I have no problem working hard, and I admit I'm out of shape, but I am not morbidly obese and I am only 25 years old. I should not feel miserable after I leave."
"Today a staff member told me that I must not be working hard enough...At first the computer coach was great but now we are all getting frustrated about our negative results."
" I feel as though I never can make progress. When I spoke to one of the counselors her response was that since I work out more than 3 times a week the machine may be confused. NOT a good response. I don't want to pay for confusion and I don't feel as though I am making progress."
You could spend a lot of money on research getting findings like these. This is pure gold, and it is just sitting there.
What is clear to me is this. For some users, this change put back a barrier that the previous experience had overcome, #5 shown above. The original system was set up to provide a lot of positive feedback through monthly measurements and progress charts. Positive feedback through staff interactions. But the new system is giving people a lot of negative feedback. It's all about the computer now, not about the people passing on atta-girls to the members who are trying to get fit.
My favorite is this comment...
"The owner of my Curves says that I am the only one having this problem"
People have researched this kind of thing. It's a pretty safe bet that the ratio of people having a problem to people reporting a problem is about 10 to 1. So if you hear about it, it's a problem.
Of course, you won't hear about it if you aren't listening.