On Communication and Customer Service

Recently, I had some trouble with my gym. It was time to re-up my personal training package, and the gym had changed owners since the last time. My trainer tried to facilitate matters, but no one from management got back to me for over a week. Even though they had been told (3 times!) by my trainer that I wanted to take care of it before I left for vacation, I finally received the package information after I had already left.

The price had gone up significantly, even with a discount. So I emailed back after my vacation saying the following:

Wow; that’s a 14% price increase over last time, even with the 10% price break! That’s awfully steep, given that the gym’s physical quality hasn’t improved at all (in fact, there are fewer weights to train with in the lower poundages, decreasing the quality of my experience when my trainer has to substitute).

What’s going on with this??? The locker room is filthy, too.

Management’s response? Silence.

I talked to my trainer about the utter lack of response, and she tried again to facilitate conversation. When she got back to me, she said that management wasn’t planning to reply and that I “just needed to tell [her] what I wanted.” To me, this was completely unacceptable, and I flew into a raging fit. I emailed my management contact and cc’d her boss, demanding lower prices, more weights, and a clean locker room. I quoted their mission statement and press releases to them, saying that I hoped they could learn to live up to their claims.

A few hours later, I received an obsequious apology, letting me know that they were increasing their cleaning and were so sorry for my experience, etc. I relented and re-upped my package. End of story.

Of course, the story could have ended much sooner, and it could have ended without an enraged customer and many difficult conversations between management and my trainer. How?

My management contact could have simply replied to my initial questioning email, saying something like, “I’m sorry you’re not happy with conditions, but we’re still working to improve your location. The 10% discount brings the 30-session package down to previous levels, and we no longer offer the 40-session package that you had.” My response to that would have been vastly different. Even though I didn’t like the answer I got, I would have sucked it up and renewed my package at the quoted price.

So much of customer service is about communication. Even if the answer isn’t what the customer wants, it will still make him happier than an utter lack of response. Had my gym’s management contact realized that, it would have saved us both hours of frustration.