On a map, I can draw a 1 km circle around my house and easily find half a dozen yoga or pilates studios. There is a lot of choice in downtown Toronto if you want to work out.
I'm sure daily deal coupons bring new customers in from all over the city but most of their business probably comes from people who live or work in the area.
I've visited four of these studios in the past year on a combination of daily deals or new student specials. Each have a very good selection of classes and excellent teachers.
So, how do I choose who I give my long-term business to?
It all depends on the person at the front desk.
The winning studio greets new students with a smile and an explanation of the studio and where everything is located. On each subsequent visit, she smiles and says hello. That's it.
The classes last an hour or more, so does it make any sense that I base my decision on ten seconds from the person at the front desk, rather than the class itself or the instructor? Honestly, the quality of the classes and instructors is pretty much the same, so yes, it comes down to the first ten seconds of each visit.
Sometimes these seconds are fine, sometimes they are exceptional. Sometimes they are downright terrible.
Here is an example of what happened to me last week at a studio I will not be returning to after my 10-class pass is finished.
I enter the studio. I glance over at the front desk person who is writing something, her head buried in her desk.
I take off my shoes. I'm the only person in the waiting area. I walk over to her desk and scan my card. She does not look up.
My card scan does not work. So I try again. It goes through on my second try. At this point I've been standing directly in front of her for 15 seconds, close enough to touch her, and she fails to acknowledge my presence.
So, I appropriately acknowledge them as a studio that does not deserve my business. How much does that cost them? $1,000 or more per year?!
A long, long, time ago, in another life, I worked at Zellers. Though it's now long dead, I learned a lot about customer service there.
One of the rules we had to follow was the 10-foot rule: On the sales floor, when a customer came within 10 feet of you, no matter what you were doing, you had to stop and acknowledge them with a greeting or a smile. It was a small thing, but hard to maintain consistently if you were engaged in something, as customers would inevitably be encouraged by your openness, to chat or ask for help. But I understand fully why they had this as a rule.
Whether your business is online or in-person, never underestimate the power of simply acknowledging the presence of your customer. So many businesses don't bother, so you'll be miles ahead.