This is a story about love, and about customer loyalty, and the various factors that go into why shoppers make the buying decisions they do.
    Let’s start by revealing this: I work out daily, and belong to four – count them four – different gyms.
    This probably sounds ridiculous but allow me to justify. . . explain: One is included in my HOA dues (great for families but not an ideal place to work out). Another I joined in college and costs $20 annually for the rest of my life (No longer my scene but it’d be silly to give that up). A third is my home gym (great for snow days). And the fourth – my main gym – I pay good money for, regularly visit, and love the people there.
    Suffice to say, the last thing I needed was to join another gym. Yet recently my sister insisted I try a new chain. I agreed, and while I was looking forward to a different atmosphere for the day I did not expect to be wowed, despite the fact she kept talking about how cool it was.
    And yet, that’s exactly what happened the moment I walked in the door. Two features immediately jumped out: A Fitness Cinema, which is basically like a movie theater with rows of cardio equipment (super cool. . . you actually work out in the dark while watching movies on the Big Screen!), and a massage room, where members can get daily massages (almost a necessity in my life).
    Admittedly, these novelties sucked me in – and hard. I’d never seen them before in any gym, despite the fact I sometimes feel like I’ve tried out every facility in North America.  Immediately I begin contemplating joining. The Angel on my shoulder says that’d be ridiculously extravagant; the Devil responds that working out is “my thing” so why shouldn’t I treat myself? How is collecting gym memberships any different than, say, collecting purses?
    Deep down, however, logic prevails and I decide five gym memberships is too many. So now the question becomes do I give up my regular favorite gym for this one, or do I stick with the familiar and view this experience as a one-time treat?
    Really, when it comes down to it, I realize the question I’m asking myself is: What’s more important to me: A gym family that I love or the flash and sizzle of some very cool new features?
    It’s not an easy question to answer. At VOWS, we talk a lot about providing customers a great experience and the various components that go into that. One of them is definitely having a standout feature in your salon, something people love to go and experience. This gym, with its Fitness Cinema and massage room, had two that captured my heart.
    And yet people are also a crucial part of any great experience, and my normal gym is full of many – staff and patrons – whom I’ve grown to know and love. It’s not that the new place didn’t have nice people, but I definitely picked up on a different, less personable vibe. The idea of giving up my gym family made me feel empty inside.
    I find myself wishing I could find one gym that had both qualities. If such a place existed, it would earn my love and undying loyalty, no questions asked. But back in reality land, I – as many customers today – am presented with a choice: What is more important to me? I can’t have it all and the time has come to pick.
    Or has it? Fortunately, thanks to a policy that allows me to temporarily freeze my current membership, I’m able to hang on to the old place while trying out the new for several months. This, I realize, is cheating and in no way, shape or form a direct correlation to the immediate decisions most shoppers make regarding where to buy and frequent.
    However this experience taught me – in no uncertain terms in the language that I speak – how important each individual component of a great experience is, and how it’s not easy to weigh one vs. the other in terms of importance.
    Excellent businesses strive to provide all of these components under the same roof so customers aren’t faced with this decision. Bridal salons that are able to do this successfully are thriving and will continue to do so.
    More on each component of a great experience can be found on pg. 72 of our March/April issue. In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be working out in the Fitness Cinema.
    Today’s movie? Bride Wars.