Should You Ever Deviate from your Customer Service Systems?

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

On a recent trip to Santa Monica, my husband and I stopped into 24 Hour Fitness Express. Armed with a free three-day pass and dressed to sweat, I was ready to climb the Stairmaster and pretend to work off the previous night’s dark chocolate lava cake dessert.

Only there was a problem—I hadn’t carefully read the fine print (my inner lawyer had obviously accepted this time as vacation), which clearly stated the special offer was open to “Local residents only.”  No way midtown Manhattan could be “local” to Los Angeles.

Membership Counselor James Sandoval took this all in stride, smiling like he could have been Manti Te’o’s twin brother (if he had one).  “Let me talk to my manager,” he said.

James reported back within a matter of minutes.  24 Hour Fitness Express was prepared to honor the three-day pass nonetheless—not just for the first day, but for all three days.  Wow!  I had steeled myself for paying the gym’s day rate. Gratefully, I accepted this unexpected gift—a real bright spot in my morning.

From a customer service systems perspective, though, did this make sense?  Clearly, the Club had systems for membership. Systems for marketing to local residents.  In-gym systems for welcoming people. If systems = efficiency, what would make a company deviate from their systems?

After my workout, I asked James and the Club’s Manager, Ivana Spasic. If we weren’t local, why be so generous?  They shared several important facets of the Club’s philosophy—and their approach to customer service:

  • We recognize it’s hard to work out and simple to walk out; let’s make it easier for people to stay
  • We’re committed to helping people get fit and healthy in a friendly and welcoming environment
  • We see ourselves as ambassadors for the whole network of 24 Hour Fitness clubs

When have you made exceptions to your customer service systems rules? How did that work out for you?

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