Harvey Mackay, the best-selling author and business guru, once said, “No business can stay in business without customers. How you treat, or mistreat, them determines how long your doors stay open.” Indeed, a good enterprise focuses on the quality of its products. But a great, long-standing one focuses on the people who will buy them. In many ways, the customer is the most important aspect of a company. Not only do they play a key part in its success and sustainability, they are the entire reason behind the business. Besides, once you attain loyalty and favour, you’ll have converted mere customers into unofficial sales representatives.
Featured Image: Business Times
Jeffrey Liu, the 32-year-old CEO and co-founder of GuavaPass, considers customer service “mission critical”. Established in March 2015, GuavaPass is a surprisingly young company for the milestones it’s already achieved, having expanded into no less than eight countries within its first year. A digital platform and mobile application that connects users to a smorgasbord of workout classes from fitness boutiques all over Singapore, it works as a subscription service, and provides a wealth of options from parkour to pole-dancing.
A year after its inception, the brand rolled out GuavaLabs, its offline arm nestled within Mandarin Gallery that gives trainers and studios a dedicated, well-equipped space to run classes. A second, larger outlet at the OUE Downtown opened in March this year, with added features such as a juice bar, an activewear retail corner, as well as a flagship aqua boxing studio (STILL Boxing) – the first of its kind in Asia.
To keep himself in tune with what’s happening on the ground, Jeffrey puts great emphasis on building a relationship with his clients and consumers, never shying away from injecting a bit of the personal touch. The American-Hong Kong entrepreneur, in fact, makes a point of being a customer of his own product as well, which allows him to interact with (and sometimes befriend) other patrons. Catching up with him for a chat, Jeffrey gives us a glimpse of his philosophy towards customer service, and shares how his approach shifts between online and offline scenarios.
ETHOZ: As the CEO of GuavaPass, what’s your relationship like with your customers?
Jeffrey: Despite being the CEO of GuavaPass, I am also a customer of GuavaPass. Therefore, I get to interact with customers whenever I take a class or attend various events or community nights. I try to take classes several times a week depending on my travel schedule. I typically go for HIIT classes or STILL Boxing in Singapore.
ETHOZ: What is your approach to customer service, and how has it evolved since the start of the company?
Jeffrey: I take customer input seriously as they can help influence how we build our product and service. As our team grows, we have significantly more expertise and can provide more valuable support and insights to our customers. We did many customer appreciation initiatives in the early days and still do today. The first handful of GuavaPass customers received random gifts when they showed up for their first class like a Lululemon towel. It’s important to be hands-on at the start to build loyalty with early members as well as have a close feedback loop for our internal growth.
ETHOZ: How important is customer service to you, and why?
Jeffrey: Customer service is mission critical. We strive to build up a community of fitness enthusiasts and have to ensure that they are all happy customers. The daily comments, suggestions, and feedback we receive help us to figure out what matters most to our customers. We’d go as far as legally possible [to ensure a customer is satisfied], but also staying true to the values of our company! I’ve made many friends from both customers, studio partners and GuavaPass investors. One of my best customer service stories actually ended up with me joining them for a class after their billing issue was sorted out! It was impromptu. There was a billing date mix up. This was over a year ago!
ETHOZ: How do you deal with negative feedback or unreasonable behaviour from customers?
Jeffrey: With social media being one of the easiest ways to reach businesses, whether that be through positive or negative feedback, it’s very easy for customers who have missed out on a promotion or are unhappy to take to one of our accounts and complain. We’re okay with taking responsibility for our mistakes, so if and when we do, we’ll do everything in our power to investigate and make the customer happy again.
ETHOZ: We often hear the phrase, “The customer is always right.” What’s your stand on this saying?
Jeffrey: It’s a good rule of thumb but we have to be flexible as well. Customers have the right to let us know when they are dissatisfied and we do our very best to meet all customer needs. However, not all customer requests are in line with our values and policies, and sometimes, we have to make a difficult decision to let the customer know we can’t honor his or her requests.
ETHOZ: GuavaPass started as a digital platform before it introduced GuavaLabs, a physical fitness studio. How do customer interactions and expectations differ in virtual and physical situations? Is one easier to manage than the other?
Jeffrey: We strive to provide the same level of customer service both online and offline. Although we are an online service, our core product does facilitate an offline experience through taking physical classes at studios in each city. With GuavaPass, we provide an online experience to browse, discover, and book classes to take. Our members end up enjoying unique experiences with our studio partners. With GuavaLabs, we are providing a pure offline experience where members can meet each other, take classes together, try out new concepts, and provide feedback to us in real-time. This initiative allows us to build an even stronger physical community around healthy living and wellness.