Getting to know your clients is hard—and it’s not supposed to be easy. You need to master the idea of catering to people who will start out as strangers. But while it might seem difficult, there is one simple way to get the information you need to make your studio’s supply very sustainable. All you have to do is ask.

Tashina Bailey, the studio manager at The Bar Method Portland, says that her studio has a feedback culture. Whether new clients or returning clients are attending classes, Bailey’s staff is well trained on how to ask them what they think and what they’re looking for from their studio visits.

“It’s a unique skill set to have, and the person has to be able to pay attention to very specific details, like talking to multiple clients at once and knowing when to talk to a client one on one,” she says.

Bailey’s business background has helped her know how to train her staff to make people happy and anticipate their feedback. She has her master’s degree in business and 10 years of experience in human resources, a perfect fit for running a business so tailored to managing what people want and need.  

When it comes to feedback, Bailey’s staff doesn’t hold back in asking for it. And if they’re not asking directly, they’re putting a suggestion box in the locker room. But they also participate in MindBody’s program that delivers feedback, ratings and general thoughts about the studio from clients on a regular basis.

When the studio receives its ratings summary and catalogues it, the staff makes an effort to reach out to anyone rating the studio less than a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.

“It’s a great way to pull things out before they become real issues and you could lose a client,” she says. “Most clients won’t say anything about what they want or are looking for, and then it’ll fester and by that point it’s too late and you’ve lost a client.”

Since so many different kinds of clients come to a fitness studio for a variety of reasons, you need to keep an eye on what people are looking for. Are they looking for a sweat-inducing workout? Or are they more about the social aspect of finding a community of like-minded people? It could be a bit of both, but pay close attention to the way people utilize the space in your studio. If you find a bunch of clients hanging out and chatting before or after class, think about hosting a wine and workout night or other types of events to get them back in your studio with each other more often.

Bailey says that for her studio, it’s a difficult and challenging workout that comes with a price. She says it’s important to recognize that your clients are all making an investment, no matter what demographic they fall into. Testing what works and what doesn’t is as simple as trial and error, but as Todd Zenger reported to the Harvard Business Review, it’s well-thought out trial that leads to less error. In other words, be strategic with how you use the feedback you receive. Use surveys to plot out different ways clients might react to deals and new offers to help you get a sense ahead of time, as opposed to just making a suggestion and seeing how it goes.

“At first we really had to throw a ton of stuff at the wall and see what stuck,” Bailey notes. “When we first started, it was about introducing people to the Bar Method, but now it’s about learning about them and getting them to come back.”

For clients coming in through ClassPass or deal sites like Groupon or Lifebooker, it’s often about marketing what’s being offered as the best deal possible. A great marketing tool is to provide something tangible that comes with their deal package, plus a special offer–like giving new clients branded socks while promoting a new-client special. People are more likely to keep coming back if they think they’re getting the best deal possible, which can come in the form of another deal on top of the first one, or simply a new deal for someone who found the studio by paying full price in the first place.

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