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From Restaurant Mentality to Gym Perspective: Unlocking Customer Success

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

Gym weights

When working with new customers, there is a delicate balance between their excitement to instantly take advantage of your product and your need to guide them through the necessary steps for success. In this article, we draw a comparison between the post-sales customer experience and dining at a restaurant versus joining a gym. While customers may expect a restaurant-like experience where they are served effortlessly, it is essential to shift their perspective to embrace a gym-like partnership for achieving long-term success. Just like going to the gym, Customer Success demands commitment and engagement to attain the results promised during the buyer journey.

Customer Success: More than an upscale restaurant.

Customer Success and going to a restaurant seem similar on the surface because they both have a focus on the customer experience. However, there are fundamental differences that make the relationships and outcomes very different. Let’s look at it from the customer perspective. Dining at a nice restaurant is a transactional experience where you peruse the menu, place your order, and wait passively while the kitchen staff prepares your meal. The act of consuming the food is your only active part, leading to a purely receptive and passive mindset.

Often, Customer Success and Onboarding teams encounter passive customers during onboarding and beyond. This detachment arises when customers expect everything to be taken care of, similar to the restaurant experience. It's no surprise that customers expect to be served when sales reps set the tone. Your customers conclude that implementing and using your software is a “piece of cake.” To overcome this issue, it's crucial to shift the customer perspective to liken Customer Success to the gym experience.

Customer Success: An active gym experience

Now, let’s compare the customer experience to the gym. When you join a gym, you pay upfront and you keep paying whether you show up or not. In fact, you don’t get any results until you use the weights and attend classes, even in upscale gyms. You exert your muscles, sometimes to a painful degree. You increase your heart rate and perspire, or “glow.” Afterwards you feel awesome. That’s because your brain releases endorphins, or feel-good chemicals; also known as a “runner’s high.” All those endorphins keep you engaged, motivated, and coming back for more, even when workouts are tough.

Customer Success is like going to the gym because it’s an active partnership. Here are five ways to transition from a restaurant mentality to a gym perspective when working with customers.

  1. Show the journey ahead. Prepare customers for onboarding and beyond so they are ready to roll up their sleeves and lift the heavy weights. Like training for a marathon where planning and pacing are essential for success, customers need to know when to ramp up, cross-train, and taper down. Otherwise, injuries happen in the first weeks, and goals are never reached. I recommend simple visuals and timelines to set accurate expectations and convey the journey ahead and the steps required to reach desired outcomes.

  2. Take complete ownership. Avoid trying to simply delight customers, and instead, be an authoritative partner, much like a professional trainer. For example, while it might delight you to hang out in a coffee shop with your new celebrity trainer and gossip about the celebrities they work with, you won’t obtain the results you hired the trainer for. Instead, a masterful trainer would start you with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in month one to turn you into a fat-burning machine. In month two shift to metabolic conditioning to drive your overall fitness. Then in month three get you lifting heavy weights and kettlebells to build muscle definition. You might curse your trainer during and after hard workouts, but you’ll be thrilled when you fit into tight clothes and are more agile. In a similar way, you command the journey with a proven workable method, like my Orchestrated Onboarding™ framework, that guarantees results.

  3. Deliver results quickly. Offering quick wins to customers releases endorphins, creating a positive cycle of accountability and engagement, just like the satisfaction gained from a good workout. So, start delivering quick wins in a matter of days or weeks. Then, continue with a value journey so customers stick around, buy more, and champion your product.

  4. Deal with the challenges directly. Similar to the way a personal trainer guides clients through tough workouts you can anticipate and address potential obstacles and difficulties faced by customers. Your customers will sweat while migrating data, they will curse when integrating with their existing systems, and users will resist adopting your product. Rather than hoping things don’t go off the rails, have a plan. When I work with companies, we begin with a success plan. A success plan is a single place to capture customer goals and your plan for reaching them. You document how you work together, including roles and responsibilities, quick wins, and risk management. I deploy the agreed upon escalation plan the moment trouble arises.

  5. Implement Change management. Don’t assume users adopt your product just because it’s deployed. Just like you need to change your routine to fit in workouts, your customers require change management to incorporate your products and services into their existing business routines. Just like at the gym, the return on investment comes after consistently showing up and persevering through adversity.

Customer Success is not a one-time event but a long-term commitment that demands ongoing effort and engagement. By adopting a gym-like perspective and effectively guiding customers through their journey, you can create strong, healthy relationships with your customers, leading to sustained success and customer loyalty. Start by showing the journey ahead. Take complete ownership and drive customers to initial value as quickly as possible. Deal with obstacles immediately, and help customers adapt your product. Embrace the proactive and partnership-focused approach of the gym to unlock the full potential of Customer Success and maximize the benefits for both your customers and your company.

DONNA WEBER is the world’s leading expert in customer onboarding. For more than two decades, she has helped high-growth startups and established enterprises turn new and existing customers into loyal champions. Her award-winning book is Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions. Learn more at



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