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Building Community



Apr 6, 2023

Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

Many entrepreneurs leave the corporate world to find better work-life balance and gain control of how their day to day affects their mental health. Ninette Wassef, owner of Chrome Cycle Studio in Los Angeles, is no exception. As a lawyer, she worked long hours doing intense litigation work, often forgoing lunch and unable to set her own schedule. While she focused on giving her best to her clients, her own wellbeing took a backseat.

The one thing that helped her decompress after work was her regular spin class, which brought so many benefits to her physical and mental health that she decided to make a career change.

"I have been indoor cycling for over 20 years. It's my other passion, and it just very organically became my second career—opening a business where I wanted to give back to my community that stress relief and that motivation to stay healthy and well while you are in an intense and stressful work environment," Ninette said.

While spin classes can be intimidating, Ninette said there is something for everyone at Chrome Cycle, and she and her staff work hard to make sure beginners get as much out of the experience as regular riders.

Yelp reviewer Kyle M. heard the hype around spin classes and wanted to try it out. After a lackluster experience at another studio, he went to Chrome on the recommendation of a friend and found a new workout home.

"I felt like Chrome Cycle was one of the first studios that I went to that greeted me, welcomed me really nicely, and remembered my name. I think that was a really big one because when they said my name, I was wondering, how did they know my name? How did they remember me?" Kyle said.

Creating community at her cycle studio is one of the most important things to Ninette. Everyone's a beginner at some point, after all, but with some care and attention, they can transition to riding like a professional.

"A beginner who walks in, someone like Kyle who's like, 'I don't even know how to set up my bike yet,' we want to make sure that we keep giving them those tools so that six, seven classes in, he's now setting up his own bike and he is moved from the extreme side to a little bit over, to be more ingrained in the community of the class," Ninette said.

"We also want to instantly, from the very beginning, create that sense of comfort. And we're about a community. So it's not like you're just 'customer A.' We want every customer who walks in to feel like we see them."

Just like any sport or hobby, cycling isn't a perfect fit for every customer that comes in to try a class. Ninette understands this, and if someone chooses to leave a negative review, she addresses them as soon as possible.

"I will reply and ask, 'How can I make this right? How can I make this better?' And I also want to make sure that I try to erase that bad taste in your mouth. I can't make the experience you had better, but I do wanna see… Can I get you back in the door? Can I make your next experience better?"

Sometimes the review might reflect something out of Ninette's control, and while the feedback might sting, she tries to keep it all in perspective.

"Reviews are scary a lot of times. We're in this kind of neighborhoody building and people say, "Oh, it's great there's free parking. But the building needs work, or it's a little dilapidated." I can't control that. So you're gonna knock off a star for something like that. I try to take everything with a grain of salt and focus on the reviews that really are just talking about our service."

She's happy to say that the things she can control—the classes, the atmosphere, and the service—are the subject of her positive reviews. "It is nice to see an influx of positive reviews and people commenting on the service. We usually get five stars for our friendliness, our community, our vibe. The service that we provide itself, the actual class experience, that means the most."

Ninette took her passion for exercise and made it a successful business by making it welcoming to newcomers, challenging for regulars, and by paying attention to the feedback she receives in online reviews. Some other tools she uses to make Chrome Cycle successful include:

  • Welcoming new customers. Use multiple touch points, including greeting at the desk and follow-up emails, to make sure customers know they're valued and that you'd like to see them again at your business.

  • Knowing customers by name creates a sense of belonging. Even if you have to use technology to remember names, making each and every person feel seen and heard will keep them coming back. Consider connecting with them through social media or having a quick chat after their service or shopping experience.

  • Create FOMO (fear of missing out) on social media. Posting behind-the-scenes videos or event photos can excite current and prospective customers about your business. Curate your social media to show them that they won't want to miss out on what you have to offer.

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