It’s not only what you say, but sometimes what you don’t say, that irritates your customers.
Similar to poor communication, a lack of communication can also be damaging if you’re trying to maximize positive customer engagement. Case in point: my gym, Planet Fitness, just dropped a dumbbell and they didn’t say excuse me.
Here’s what happened.
When I signed-up for membership a little more than one year ago, automatic monthly billing was set-up via card credit. I haven’t had any problems. The process has worked fine.
Last week, my credit card on file with the gym was deactivated due to fraud concerns. Once I received the new card, I made a special trip to give the gym my new card number. I figured it would be easier and faster to handle it in person rather than calling by phone.
It was neither. To my surprise, I was informed that Planet Fitness no longer offers billing by credit card. I was told that, based on a recent change, payment is now only allowed via checking account direct withdrawal or debit card (seems the same to me).
The reason given: Planet Fitness had credit card collection problems. Apparently, large numbers of gym members were reneging on recurring monthly charges with their credit card supplier. Really?
So, existing members, upon the need for any reason to update their on-file credit card, must switch to the new payment system. Or, leave the gym, I suppose.
Since I figured I could update my account in about 60 seconds after walking in, I was taken aback by all this news.
It just didn’t make sense. After all, recurring monthly billing via credit card has been common for a long time. At the same time, I’m also thinking: I don’t care – that’s not my problem!
What annoyed me the most, though, was the lack of communication. How come Planet Fitness didn’t alert members, meaning me, about the new policy? Payment terms are a big deal. This isn’t the way to handle an important change.
It’s not like it’s hard to find me. My membership application has a mailing address, telephone number and email address. I checked. Plus, I do go to the gym, which requires a personal check-in each visit.
I was further annoyed upon hearing something about incentives being offered to switch to debit cards (must be a secret). Again, that would have been nice to know.
The final annoyance was learning there was no way to update my account right then and there in the gym. It was comical.
Do I have a debit card on file, I was asked? No, I’ve been paying via credit card. But, hey, I do have a debit card and so let’s switch. Well, that’s no good. We need a cancelled check to get the bank account and routing numbers. Who carries a checkbook today! By the way, just wondering: if a prospective new member walks in without a checkbook, how does she get signed up?
It’s always tough when a non-decision maker has to explain an odd or challenging policy to customers, which is what happened to me. The manager wasn’t there – there was nothing more the staffer could do.
So I walked out shaking my head.
Well, he did refer me to the Planet Fitness website. I could access my account online and enter the bank details, and I wouldn’t need to give them a cancelled check. And so I eventually did, sans incentive.
Look, in the scheme of things, this interaction at Planet Fitness isn’t a big deal. My overall gym experience has been positive and has gone as I hoped. Further, I do understand that Planet Fitness can run their company any way they want. There may be consequences, for them or their customers, but that’s business.
But the cavalier disregard for simple communication with existing customers annoyed the heck out of me.
Simply put, the story I just told didn’t have to and shouldn’t have had to happen that way. It wasn’t necessary. Instead, tell me you’re switching your payment system, explain why, and let me know what and when I need to do something. The rest is up to me. Not hard, right?
Don’t let a lack of communication create a lousy experience for your customers. Planet Fitness kept its gym members in the dark about a major payment system change. The result is a reduced balance in the brand’s customer satisfaction and positive engagement account.
Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success. Contact him at hchimoff at gmail dot com.