You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Or maybe you can.
From time to time, even the hottest studios on the block leave a new client feeling cold. If a new client comes to class and doesn’t receive the experience they were expecting, or complained either to you or through social media, there are ways to create opportunities to make a second impression.
DON’T WAIT FOR THE COMPLAINT
You cannot create the opportunity to make a second first impression unless you know that your first impression was not satisfactory.
While an unsatisfied new client is never ideal, it’s much easier to correct a bad impression if that client comes to you or your staff directly. Dealing with an issue or complaint in-person and in real time is your best opportunity to have that client walk out of your studio smiling. Make a point of speaking directly to new clients after his or her first class. It also significantly reduces the chances this client will take to Facebook or Yelp to give you a bad review in public. Bad online reviews can create hundreds of bad first impressions you may have to undo, rather than just dealing with the one issue.
Ask new clients about their experience in the class, their impressions of your studio and how you stack up to other fitness classes they have attended in the past. Don’t interrupt or attempt to finish the new clients sentences. Give them the chance to provide whatever feedback they wish.
Not everyone is going to feel comfortable giving his or her most honest opinion in person. Another way to actively solicit new client feedback is through surveys. When a new client signs up at your studio, put a question on your registration form that asks for permission to send an email survey about their experience in your studio. You can create and send email satisfaction surveys to your client email list by using a program like SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo.
If you do find out about an unhappy new client — either through a phone call, email, staff conversation or, worst of all, on social media — reach out to the client directly using the same platform they used to voice their dissatisfaction. If you got an email, respond by email.
No matter when or how you interact with the unsatisfied new client, hear them out and listen actively by asking relevant questions and checking in by saying, “What I understand you are telling me is…”
Investigate the validity of the complaint
After acknowledging that you are aware the new client is unhappy, the next step is to look into the complaint. Was a staff member unprofessional? Was your equipment different or more well worn than the client expected? Was the work out too challenging or not challenging enough? Did the client not like the music? Was the instructor rude or did the client just perceive them that way?
You can’t please every person, but the client may have a point. Negative feedback can help you identify areas of your business that could be updated or improved. Maybe an instructor was rude or you could use a new set of yoga blocks. If you investigate the complaint and find it to be valid, correct the situation, tell the client you’ve addressed the issue, and invite them back to give your classes another try on the house.
Get the client back in class
Finding the right remedy to entice a dissatisfied new client back into your studio can be a challenge. The way to motivate a client back into the studio depends on why they had a bad experience.
If the new client did not like the instructor, you may want to offer him or her a free class with someone else, or better yet, with you. Offering a free make-up class also is appropriate if the new client happened to give your studio a try on the day the furnace broke, there was road construction in front of your building or any other uncommon act of fate.
Some new clients may be trying the activity for the first time, and found the class they attended was too advanced or the rapport among the regulars intimidating. You may consider offering a discount or free personal or small group training to go over the basics. You can also recommend a different instructor or class time that might make the new client feel more at ease. This is also a good solution for new clients may find your classes are too crowded or didn’t like the playlist. Making an earnest effort to help a dissatisfied client feel comfortable gives you a chance to give that client an authentic client experience while smoothing over any feelings of ill will.
If the new client is so turned off by their first impression of your studio that they won’t give you another chance, you may want to offer a refund. Giving a refund may not be good practice from a revenue-generating perspective, but it could potentially deter that client from giving your studio bad reviews online or spreading toxic word of mouth.
Empower your staff
As much as it can feel like you are in your studio 24/7, you can’t be there for every single class. Consider creating a policy for dealing with unsatisfied first-time clients. By creating a policy and educating your staff on the policy, you will empower them to handle the situation correctly even if you are not there.
Train the staff to ask first-timers about their experience right after the class. Give them conversational questions to ask, such as, “How do you feel?” or “What did you think of the class?” If an instructor or other employee gets the feeling a new client wasn’t thrilled with the class, set a precedent that allows that staffer to offer the client a discount or free class to give you another try. A new client satisfaction policy could be as broad as every new client gets a second class free when they register for their first class. While some studios offer a free first class, this type of offer incentives every client to come back to your studio. Standardize your studio’s response to an unhappy first-timer and increase your chances of getting a second chance to make a first impression.