The Advanced Training Experience

"There is only one boss. The Customer. 
And he can fire everyone in the company, from the chairman on down, 
simply by spending his money somewhere else." - Sam Walton, Walmart

The sun is just beginning to set on a humid night in late July. I am standing on my porch, sweating profusely with blood trickling from my knuckles. Standing across from me is some poor 20 year old, with a look of absolute fear in his eyes.

Just a few seconds ago, he informed me he was going to go into my backyard to take my brand new lawn furniture.
I politely told him that he could go in my backyard, but he not would be leaving with anything. In fact, if he went on my property, he may not be leaving at all.

Was this 20 year old some crazed maniac who pulled off home invasions to satisfy his obsession with lawn furniture? 

No ...

He was a service delivery driver who got sent on an errand with an unexpected plot twist.

What he thought he was doing was picking up lawn furniture I no longer wanted.

What he didn't know was that I just spent the last 4 hours putting said lawn furniture together, only to find out that one of the chairs had 2 Left Arms and ZERO Right arms.

The blood on my knuckles was the collateral damage of trying to fasten a small army of bolts into areas with no clearance for your hand, let alone the miniature allen wrench they provide.

The sweat was the collateral damage of trying to do this on a humid night in July.

My frustration was the collateral damage of all of the above, plus an absurd argument with their customer service department. 

Rather than take back the extra left arm and send me the correct right arm, they wanted to take back the entire lawn furniture assembly and send me another one in 6-8 weeks ... just in time for me to cover it up in preparation for the winter.

For "The Haters" who are going to say, "Why didn't you check the parts BEFORE you started to assemble the lawn furniture?"

1. I did

2. I figured we could still use the other 95%, while we waited for one arm of one chair.

3. I never would have imagined that the answer to this simple problem was to exchange the entire set.

4. I already waited 6-8 weeks for the original set.

The bottom line, I will never deal with this company again.

I don't necessarily mind that they gave me 2 left arms. 

I mind that they gave me a Bad Customer Experience.

The "Customer Experience"

In Building Great Customer Experiences, Colin Shaw and John Ivens do an excellent job of explaining how great customer experiences are developed.

Essentially, the customer experience is not just based on the quality of the product you receive. It is also based on how you feel and what emotions were elicited.

Would you rather eat a sizzling bone-in ribeye at a Ruth's Chris where the waiter shames you for eating too much red meat or where the waiter applauds your genius for getting the best meal on the planet?

At the end of the day, you are still getting the same product ... a sizzling bone-in ribeye.

But ...  it's how you feel that makes all the difference.

The Advanced Training "Customer Experience"

I have always said that Advanced Training "sells" an experience, as opposed to a product.

The product is obviously a very solid training program, that should meet or exceed the expectations of athletes trying to get stronger, faster, leaner, and healthier.

This product can probably be duplicated by any above average trainer in the country.

What can't be duplicated is the Advanced Training Experience.

Who is the "Customer"?

To really explain this experience, we first have to take a step back and define who the Advanced Training "customer" really is?

To make it more tangible, let's give this "customer" the name Joe.* 
  • Joe stands anywhere from 5'8" to 5'11" and weighs somewhere between 185 to 205lbs.
  • Joe probably played high school football and is looking to earn his way onto a college football team.
  • While Joe does have some natural talent, he is not exceptionally gifted.
  • He is an over-achiever with a strong competitive edge and a healthy chip on his shoulder.
  • Every college either thinks he is too slow, too small, too weak, or all of the above.
  • Joe joins Advanced Training because he knows he needs to tap into every bit of potential he has just to even think about competing at the college level.
  • He doesn't like getting up at 5AM to train, but he is willing to do it to separate himself from the pack.
  • Joe prefers being strong and athletic over being jacked and tan.
  • Joe has a decent social life, but training is definitely a higher priority.
What is the "Experience"?

For Joe, we want to create an experience where he feels elite.

He needs to walk out of the gym knowing he did something no one else can do. 

While some guys in the gym will have bigger arms or a better bench than Joe, not one of them could compete in our Toughman Events or perform any form of overhead movement.

Coincidentally, here is a video of an athlete named Joe doing a reverse overhead chaos lunge.

To satisfy Joe's competitive side, we make sure that every training session has some form of a head to head contest against another highly competitive member of the group.

At Advanced Training, we call this "Challenge".

To make it even more competitive, the winner gets to carry around a Championship belt.

We also document his total strength and athleticism in our Power Point System and post it for all the world to see.

Lastly, we try to keep the membership exclusive, so Joe never feels like he is training with the general population. 

By exclusive, I don't mean that every athlete in the group has to run a 4.4 and bench 225 over 30 times.

I mean we create an environment where the pretenders will quickly weed themselves out and leave the program on their own. The only ones that remain are the overachievers with a healthy chip on their shoulders.

The Transformation

Until recently, I did not put the needs of the "customer" first.

The athletes would give me feedback and I would never listen, because I thought what I knew was more important than what they wanted.

It wasn't until I read Building Great Customer Experiences that I decided to actively seek and implement feedback from our athletes.

It is one of the reasons we upgraded to dry-fit training shirts and started to do more "arms".

While these things represent the physical side of the program, me listening to their recommendations helped make them feel that their ideas were appreciated.

This doesn't mean that we do everything they ask, but all ideas are certainly considered.

Except the ones that make them soft ...


When you take a step back, the Advanced Training "Customer" Experience links nicely to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

  • The physiological needs are met with the training program, protein bars, shirts, etc.
  • The safety needs are met by enforcing clamps, spotters, good form, and not training to exhaustion.
  • The sense of belongingness is created by training in small groups, with guys pushing each other and competing every day.
  • The esteem needs are created by creating an experience that solicits a feeling of being "elite".
  • The self-actualization need is created by helping each athlete achieve their full potential in the gym, on the field, and hopefully, in life.

*Joe was in fact the most common name in Advanced Training History. Here are the actual top 5.
  • Joe (14)
  • Chris (6)
  • Nick (5)
  • Mike (5)
  • Ryan (5)

No comments: