Have you made your 2013 New Year's resolutions? Did they include any health and fitness goals for the year? In honor of that particular resolution, I thought this was a good time to make the connection between bodybuilding and the customer experience.
Yea, bodybuilding... it's something I know a little bit about. In my younger days, I was an amateur competitor, so I'm quite familiar with that world. It's a lifestyle I still embrace today.
Here are the lessons from bodybuilding that translate well into the world of customer experience. There's actually a lot more here than you might expect!
It's not a hobby; it's a lifestyle
You don't have to be a bodybuilder to make health and fitness resolutions, but you do have to make a lifestyle change. Just like you live and breathe diet, training, and rest as a bodybuilder, so must the customer experience efforts be woven throughout your organization. It's not a department; it's a way of doing business.
You must make a solid commitment
If you can't put in the time and the effort and commit to the sport, then you better forget it. As a way of doing business, customer experience requires a day-in and day-out commitment from the entire organization, top down and bottom up.
It requires discipline
Bodybuilding requires a lot of discipline, drive, and determination. Do the right thing and make the right choices. Every day. No missteps. Ultimately, so does the customer experience.
Set goals and stay focused
Keep your eye on your goals. As a CX professional, your goals are to design and to deliver the best customer experience possible. Don't let anything distract you from achieving those goals. A lot of competing priorities may come along, but stay the course.
Relationships are important
In bodybuilding, relationships can go one of two ways: total camaraderie or full-on enemy. The former tends to be the more-common relationship; we help and encourage each other because we know what it takes and we're all trying to achieve a common goal: an awesome physique. In the CX profession, I believe we all tend to lean toward helping each other; we're all working toward this common goal of helping businesses deliver the ultimate customer experience. We'll achieve more if we work together than if we work apart.
Trust must be there
Lee Labrada, a former professional bodybuilder, was quoted as saying, "I’ve made many good friends in bodybuilding, though there are few I’d trust to oil my back.” I've witnessed this type of behavior. This is not the perception you want your customers to have about your business!
You won't go far without training
Training is obviously an important part of any sport and getting ready for any competition. Fine tuning your training at the right time during your pre-contest period is key to peak performance and appearance at the right time. Ensuring your employees have the proper training to deliver the best experience every time is important to a positive customer experience.
Well-rounded preparation is key to success
In bodybuilding, training is only one part of the prep equation. Fine-tuning your diet for optimal contest results and many hours of practicing your posing routines are also necessary to get ready for a contest. (OK, and so are shaving, tanning, and a few other things!) In business, employee training is not the only thing that's important to delivering a great customer experience. There are so many facets to creating a customer-focused culture.
The right people, the best tools
I can't say it any better than 8-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman: If you want to be the best at something, you have to pair yourself up with the best people, the best tools.
Feedback and continuous improvement are important
Even before you compete, you're looking for feedback from trainers and friends on the quality of your physique. After a contest, you learn from the judges what you need to improve upon to come in in better shape for your next one. Not all that different from your customer feedback, right?
In the bodybuilding world, this refers to the number of times you repeat a motion. In the customer experience, repetitions come in the form of consistency. Consistency in experiences leads to predictability, which leads to trust.
Don't ignore your weakest muscle groups
Don't ignore your weakest performers or your weakest touchpoints; just because they are weak doesn't mean they aren't important. Determine what's most important to your customers and focus there.
You can't convert fat to muscle
Fat and muscle are two different things. Sure, you can decrease your body fat to show off more lean muscle, but you cannot convert one to the other. While this one sounds a little strange, think of it this way: not everything can be changed. Or this way: you might be trying to change one thing when you should actually be doing something completely different to achieve your desired outcome. Figure out what you're trying to do and revisit your process for doing it. Might be time to change your processes.
Be aware of the competition
Your competition is never far from your mind when you're competing in bodybuilding, but it's also far enough out of your mind that you know you need to focus on your own performance, improvements, and physique. This is true for businesses, too. Businesses always have an eye on the competition, but they should primarily be busy focusing on their own performance.
Symmetry, shape, and proportion in all things
Three of the bodyvuilding competition judging criteria are symmetry, shape, and proportion. Obviously, you need to be in great shape: lean and muscular. But your body also needs to be symmetrical and proportionate. Your body must be balanced; the left side, even if it's your weak side, must be as muscular as your right side. And all the parts need to flow together nicely and be proportionate. I can think of a lot of ways that symmetry and proportion relate to customer experience, but I'll call out two of them: (1) Employee experience is as important as customer experience (if not more so), and (2) Treat customers the way that you'd want to be treated.
You will be judged
In a contest, bodybuilders are judged both individually and in comparison with their competitors. Your customers look at your brand, your business, not only on its own merits and performance but also relative to other choices that may be available. Make sure you always put your best physique, er, foot forward.
Scoring and ranking are a fact of this life
Yea, there's a score in competitive bodybuilding, too. It's based on certain evaluation criteria. And there's a ranking of competitors, as well. Some would call this aspect of the sport highly political.
Politics are bad news
The politics of the sport are toxic. The politics in your office are toxic, too. Create a culture that frowns on office politics - one where politics aren't even part of the equation. I believe transparent cultures are less likely to be embroiled in politics.
Loyalty and your fan base
Bodybuilders can be a loyal group - to their sport and to their fans. Notice I said, "can be;" there are some exceptions. It's important to remember that loyalty is a two-way street. There's no question about how this translates to the customer experience.
Go hard or go home
Arnold Schwarzenegger was quoted as saying, “The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.” Anybody can lift weights, but what sets a competitive bodybuilder apart? Not everyone has what it takes to prepare to - and then - compete... and become Mr. Olympia. What's your advantage? Your biggest advantage is your ability to differentiate yourself through exceptional customer service and experiences.
Look good naked
There's a quote on The Naked Corporation website that reads, "If you're going to be naked, you'd better be buff." There's no question about this in bodybuilding, but what about the customer experience? OK, your frontline's not going to be wearing teeny-tiny bikinis while talking to your customers, but transparency will serve your company and your brand well - it will show your customers how well you've prepared for their moments of truth.
There are no shortcuts
OK, some take shortcuts, but they eventually (will) pay the price. Someone once said, “Bodybuilding is not a race, it is a marathon.” It's a long, hard road. Results don't come overnight. You work at it every day. Customer experience is a journey, as well. Change and process improvements take time. Brands and businesses evolve, as do customers' needs. You're in it for the long haul!
Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights. -Ronnie Coleman