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IHRSA European Congress speaker Shaun Smith talks to Jon Feld about product differentiation and passion

executives, managers and industry suppliers on the topic ‘Bold – How to Be Brave in Business and Win’ at the 12th Annual IHRSA European Congress, which takes place at the Hilton Vienna, Austria, on 1–4 November. Founder and partner of smith & co in


the UK, Smith is former head of customer service, sales and marketing training for BA. T e best-selling author and world- renowned consultant will redefi ne customer experience at the IHRSA event. IHRSA interviewed Smith for the

September issue of Club Business International. T e following is excerpted from that interview:

customer service You helped British Airways diff erentiate itself from its competitors during its well- publicised turnaround. How? One headline at the time said that BA stood for “bloody awful.” It takes a lot of money and time to reposition an airline, because of all the capital costs and complex infrastructure involved. So we started by

Ex-BA executive Smith helped turn the airline brand from ‘bloody awful’ to ‘bloody awesome’

focusing on the one thing that was easiest to infl uence quickly, and that customers notice fi rst – our people. Initially we focused on trying to improve the service. We looked at the complete lifecycle of

our employees: how we recruited, trained, rewarded and promoted them. Our goal was to make sure the way we treated our people was completely aligned with the way we wanted them to treat our customers. Within 18 months, we’d won an award for having the best cabin crew. T e next headline said that BA stood for “bloody awesome.”

feelgood factor What parallels do you see with health clubs? For one, they both have perishable products. Once an airplane takes off , and it’s half empty, you’re never going to sell those seats again. Similarly, with a health club, if you’ve got a half-empty club in the morning, you’ll never sell that space again. Secondly, both industries are

fragmented and highly competitive. You have a number of players in the market, each competing for very similar customers with very similar products. Finally, both rely on a feelgood factor

Smith will be a key speaker at the forthcoming IHRSA conference in Vienna, Austria


to prosper. With the exception of essential business travel, nobody has to fl y. And nobody has to go to a club to exercise. Both are discretionary purchases, and getting people to voluntarily give their money to a fi rm in these sectors is based on them feeling good about the brand.

Read Health Club Management online at

ormer British Airways (BA) executive Shaun Smith will address more than 400 fi tness industry

NEWS Customer-focused experience

customer experience T ere’s a great deal of talk about ‘customer service’ and ‘customer experience’. Is there really a diff erence between the two? A lot of people think ‘customer experience’ is just consultant jargon, but it’s much more than that. Traditionally, customer service has to do with the interaction between employees and customers, but business has become much more complex. Today, we can interact with prospects and clients through a variety of channels, and the processes we use to do so are very diff erent too., for example, off ers a very high quality experience, but I’ll make a small bet with you that you’ve never spoken to an Amazon employee. People interact with Amazon through its website, its logistics and packaging. All of these things create an ‘experience’ with Amazon. It isn’t about dealing with a person.

need for passion In your book See, Feel, T ink, Do – T e Power of Instinct in Business, you claim that “short-term thinking, analysts, and research have replaced vision, leadership, and passion in many large businesses today.” How can the balance be redressed? Look at the ways organisations reduce their costs. One way is to be data-driven and steadily increase the effi ciency of your processes and products, making you less reliant on that expensive component called people. On many low-cost airlines, you frequently don’t receive food or beverages on board, which reduces the amount of cleaning required, which, in turn, reduces the amount of labour. As a result, those companies operate at a much lower staff - to-customer ratio, which reduces overhead. However, if you lower costs in these

ways, you need to increase the quality of the interaction when somebody does, in fact, deal with one of your employees. And that’s where the passion comes in. When customers interact with people, you have to make sure it’s done very well indeed – otherwise you just look cheap. When you take away service completely, without compensating, it can lead to a low level of aff ection for the brand. So you can be a budget operator in the fi tness industry, but you need great processes.

For more details or to register for the 2012 IHRSA European Congress, visit www. or email

october 2012 © cybertrek 2012

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