How to Use VOC to Create Fitness Fans for Life

Blair McHaney Uses Daily VOC to Improve Customer Experience and Front-Line Engagement at Gold’s Gyms in Washington

January 23, 2014

It’s always exciting to exchange ideas with a like-minded customer-centric executive. Our interview with Blair McHaney of Gold’s Gym of Wenatchee Valley reveals his deep commitment to customers, an understanding of the importance of creating a customer-centric culture, and a passion for embedding VOC metrics and methods into the daily operations of his gyms. Hear, in Blair’s own words, how he puts customers and customer experience first, and how he is implementing the Medallia VOC software system.


Blair McHaney, president and owner of Confluence Fitness Partners, a Gold’s Gym franchise in Washington state, shares his commitment to providing an excellent customer experience to his members as well as former members, which Blair refers to as “alumni.” Understanding that this excellence requires a company-wide commitment, he has fostered a culture of empowered and enlightened employees. Further, he and his staff work hard to create processes that create lifelong fans of both Gold’s Gyms and fitness. Taking action on daily VOC is embedded into the gyms’ operations.

Blair McHaney, president and owner of Confluence Fitness Partners, a Gold’s Gym franchise in Washington stateConfluence Fitness Partners leverages insights into the Voice of the Customer captured daily through use of the Medallia system. Medallia not only summarizes and analyzes customer feedback, but provides reports and tools to help organizations focus on improving those areas of customer experience that will yield the most significant results in terms of customer satisfaction and improvement to the bottom line.


We’re often invited to review the latest in customer-centric applications, as well as to provide functionality and usability consulting, by software providers. We learn a lot about how the applications work and what problems they are designed to address. But customer-facing apps are only as good as their use by those who purchase and implement the solutions. So, whenever we learn about a new software offering, we always ask the provider to connect us with a visionary customer-centric executive who has improved his or her customer experiences by using the product. In this way, we can truly understand how the offering can impact the customer experience and improve the relationship between the client and its end-customers. We also hope to gain insights from these innovative users to educate us, our clients, and our readers.

Gold's Gym adToo often, however, the app providers give us names of their customers who use the software, but not in innovative customer-facing ways. Rather, these clients implement the solutions to make life easier for employees, which does trickle down to improvement in customer experience, but isn’t the primary focus of the implementation.

Medallia Connects Us with a Visionary User

I was delighted when Michelle de Haaff, VP of Marketing at Medallia, makers of a software solution to infuse the Voice of the Customer in daily activities and decision making (see sidebar, below), connected me to Blair McHaney, president and owner of Confluence Fitness Partners, a Gold’s Gym franchise with two locations in Washington state. My conversation with Blair was extremely insightful, and a lot of fun, as we violently agreed over and over again about the importance of focusing on customers and how making customer experience your priority is the key to success.


Ronni Marshak: Please provide me with a bit about your background.

Blair McHaney: I’ve worked out my whole life since I was 14. Being in the fitness business was all I ever wanted to do. We opened my first club in 1983, when I was 20 nothing years old. I think that has something to do with being in a small rural area where everyone—I mean, everyone—seemed to know my parents. So when you have a small business in a small area, you take service very personally, and, it sounds goofy, you also don’t want to disappoint your family. You don’t want people getting back to your dad saying you don’t do a very good job. So that’s how we started thinking about customer experience way back in 1983.

Became a Gold’s Gym Franchisee. We moved, and grew, and bought bigger locations, but what we always wanted was to be a Gold’s Gym franchisee. Finally, in 1996, we bought the franchise, converted our local brand to Gold’s Gym. We doubled the size and tripled the membership base, and then added a second location later.

As a Gold’s Gym Franchisee, I became highly engaged with other franchisees. I was eventually asked to serve on the board of directors for the Gold’s Gym Franchisee Association, a separate organization, owned and operated by franchisees. I served on the board for seven years—two years as director, two years as VP, and three years as president.

So that’s my background: always interested in fitness, fascinated by how to do things differently, and how to be successful by having loyal customers. It’s great to have a great sales discipline, but you have to also fuel a good customer experience discipline.

Ronni: Tell Me about Gold’s Gym’s Commitment to Customer Experience.

Blair: There are about 450 Gold’s Gym locations in the U.S., about 350 are franchise locations, with about 130 different franchisees. And there are different levels of commitment within that franchisee base. In other words, some aren’t as committed to customer experience as others are.

As I look out at people who really operationalize Voice of the Customer and really get their hands in the dirt and do something about customer experience on a daily, weekly, annual planning basis, some of the best practitioners are in the Gold Gym brand. That’s because there’s been a tremendous amount of commitment towards being really curious about how to get better…(more)

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