Building a Stronger Fitness Brand By Unmuting The Frontline - Q&A with Devin Murphy from Barry’s
In February 2022, hundreds of leaders from service businesses across the world gathered together online to take part in the Global Frontline Experience Summit, an event we are delighted to sponsor and host again after its hugely successful first run in 2020. It was a phenomenal event with a contagious heaping of inspiration, excitement and possibility for anyone working in the customer experience and frontline service space.
If you missed the summit, brought to you by our Frontline Magic Community don't worry! All of the sessions are available right here, and are just as powerful the second time around.
Devin Murphy is the Senior Vice President of Operations at Barry's, the international fitness brand famous for high intensity workouts and highly motivating, immersive atmospheres. Devin joined Barry's in 2014, and has helped lead the growth of the business from 14 studios to 82 globally, building vision and processes to scale Barry's values based culture and experience, for clients and employees alike.
Join us for a moderated Q&A where Devin answers questions on how you can improve your customer experience at the frontline and seriously grow your customer service gains.
The Power of the Moment
Devin begins her presentation with a relatable anecdote that reminds us of the “power of the moment”. Bad luck struck via an electrical failure in a New York City studio. The lights wouldn’t turn on that morning when the instructor opened the doors at the bright and early hour of 4:30 am. So, at 4:45 am, after putting his limited electrician skills to the test, the class instructor had to make a call. To cancel, or to find another solution?
With a determination to keep the class on for Barry’s customers, the instructor offered a 5 am weights only class by candlelight, free of charge. Additionally, other managers were contacted and clients were sent to studios nearby that had empty spaces via Uber, also free of charge. The electrical problem wouldn't stop the instructor's commitment to delivering an excellent client experience. “Anyone who had woken up that early was going to be able to get the workout that they had wanted,” said Devin.
By 10 am, the lights were back on and the music was pumping. But most importantly, clients who set their early alarms, despite having a few changes to their class still received an awesome experience. Devin talks about “the power of the moment” and the “empowering the frontline” which can make or break a client experience.
Barry’s teaches managers that we can “all do our jobs perfectly from now until the end of time and things are still going to go wrong”. Spontaneous problems need innovative solutions, which can be best fostered in environments where frontline employees are given the autonomy to voice opinions, make decisions and create awesome experiences beyond policy and procedure.
Now for some questions from Christina Trippi, as well as the guests of the Summit:
Q: How else do you [empower your frontline] at Barry’s? And your organization is so widespread now — how do you get that consistency across the globe?
A: Devin starts off by highlighting that Barry’s is a values-driven organization, “It is [Barry’s] compass for conversations, as well as decision-making performance”, which gives everyone a “shared language”. In addition, Devin mentions the importance of family values, “family value is all about the trust, support and respect of one another''. These values are baked into everything they do, and trickled down to every employee.
Creating an engaging work environment creates employees that naturally want to represent a brand. Employees at Barry’s are “all obsessed with our product so we choose to spend a lot of time in the studio”. That builds a natural rapport with clients which improves both employee and customer experience.
Every studio has a general manager and experience manager which creates the intersection between employee engagement and customer experience. “So knowing great client experience starts from actually engaged, happy employees”. They have someone dedicated in each studio to really oversee the customer experience, which creates new ideas that spread to other studios.
Q: I’m curious, can you share some of Barry’s values with us?
A: The process of creating them was global and every employee could participate in a survey.
- Family: Regardless of the department all Barry’s staff work within our family.
- Work hard: At Barry’s, both staff and clients work hard to achieve their goals.
- Innovation: Devin says “we never kind of settle, which has been huge in helping Barry’s get through COVID”. Innovation has meant they have a willingness to pivot and change with the times.
- Fun: The studio should be a highlight of a client’s day. Devin’s motto of choice is “If we’re having fun, they’re having fun”.
- Honesty: Honesty is a very important value at Barry’s. For example, providing a space for their instructor to give honest feedback to their managers, and vice versa.
- Fearlessness: The ability to tackle tasks with courage and optimism.
Q: Sometimes when you say “you’re empowered”, it’s so vast that it cripples people… have you experienced that?
A: Devin agrees that the idea of ‘empowering frontline teams’ can feel overwhelming and it can be tricky to know where to start. She says that the key is making empowerment “scalable”, and providing the tools, technologies and parameters to set teams up for success. For example, at Barry’s they have a client milestone program where their clients are celebrated for reaching various training milestones. Barry’s understands that the instructor knows their clients best, so managers leave it up to them to choose how the client would want to be celebrated. Are they the kind of person to want balloons, party poppers and peer recognition? Or are they the kind of person who would appreciate a subtle high-five at the end of the class? Managers leave it up to the frontline to decide. This strengthens relationships, builds trust and empowers instructors to really own the client experience.
Q: People today, they don’t want a job, they want a purpose or mission. How do you drive that inspiration, that purpose to your team and how do you get them to adapt that purpose and mission?
A: Devin explains that Barry’s has a “hyper-engaged culture”, so through high levels of engagement, frontline workers have internalized a purpose in their personal way. A big part of that internalization is being Barry’s customers themselves, and experiencing the incredible emotional, physical and mental transformations that working out can have on peoples’ lives. Barry’s vision is to transform lives, and that can mean so many different things to different people. Getting your vision out there and working with employees to help them understand how that vision relates to them is so important for driving authentic motivation, connection and culture.
Now for some questions from the guests of the Summit!
Robert asks: What’s your biggest challenge in first getting your frontline to speak up?
Encouraging fearlessness is the first issue Devin brings up. A lot of frontline workers find it scary to bring up ideas, issues, etc. She says “they're scared of bringing problems to light”. So it’s important to create a language and platform that allows employees to use their voices.
That includes empowering workers and giving them tools to exercise autonomy. Establishing parameters to work within can give direction for employees to use their creativity effectively. For example, at Barry’s, each studio has a dedicated budget per month to spend on the client experience. The frontline decides what to spend the budget on, so they can create a more engaging customer experience. That gives employees a sense of empowerment to make moves and create positive change.
Lizzie asks: Does Barry’s set a framework on how you use shared knowledge or feedback between the studios and amongst the team?
Devin explains that Barry’s has a couple of ways and programs to use shared knowledge or feedback. Internally, every studio completes a daily manager summary, which is both qualitative and quantitative. Quantitatively, it’s to let leadership know how the studio is doing against the budget and goals. On the qualitative side, leadership is also informed about client feedback, their upcoming milestones and the highlight of their day. Devin acknowledges that “it may seem overly warm and fuzzy” but it allows themes to be seen. For example, if feedback gets repetitive or the same issues come up, those problems can be spotted and resolved.
A huge thank you to Devin for sharing her experience, wisdom and knowledge, and to Christina Trippi for hosting this insightful Q&A.
Have more questions for Devin? You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Want to see more presentations from the Global Frontline Experience Summit? We’ll be releasing blogs every week diving into all the juicy insights from our incredible lineup of speakers. In the meantime, you can join the Frontline Magic Community to receive updates, frontline news and more!