Background and the challenge
Throughout 2020, the fitness industry saw consumers leaving the club to work out at home and outdoors. The forced closures fueled the acceleration and embracement of digital fitness center software solutions that made it easier for consumers to participate in a meaningful workout regimen anywhere.
In the last 18 months, smaller gym operators have had to pivot their respective brand’s approach to keep members engaged and satisfied and contend with direct and indirect competition from big-box clubs, Apple Fitness+, Peloton, and more. As we emerge from the pandemic, these challenges, along with issues such as attracting new members, improving productivity, reducing costs, and increasing operational efficiency remain.
This challenge was ten-fold for Boston-based co-founders Mark and Matt Harrington as the pair tackled operating three brands, Healthworks, Republic Fitness, and Gym-It, across highly targeted fitness verticals during the pandemic. Their first club Healthworks caters specifically to women while Republic offers a premium experience, and Gym-It provides locals with a more cost-efficient fitness option. To meet their existing memberships’ evolving expectations, attract new members, and streamline their business operations, Mark and Matt looked to club management technology and software provider ABC Fitness Solutions to get the job done.
Choosing the right fitness center software
Healthworks starts with the same formula when introducing new technology or software to address business challenges or tap into potential opportunities. Having come to trust ABC’s expertise and technology, Matt shared that the Healthworks team “always looks to ABC first and then expands to third party solutions.”
At a base level, each brand uses ABC’s revenue cycle management and DataTrak products to manage the business from a financial perspective. They also provide their club managers with a wide variety of reports that allow them to understand who their members are and assess a clubs’ overall health and performance.
Depending on a brand’s individual needs, they then use Join Portal to provide members with online join and membership management capabilities and Gymsales to focus on sales and efficiently manage leads. Finally, their clubs are able to layer ABC+ on top to push out member apps and introduce new programming that meets members’ rapidly changing preferences.
- Embracing Modularity: Healthworks began working with ABC to combine its fitness center software solutions into a single platform rather than navigating between two disparate systems. Given the challenges associated with operating three distinct brands, the company also needed a technology provider who could deliver consistent training, account management, and troubleshooting experience across all of their locations.
More importantly, the solutions had to address each club’s specific challenges. “We do have different needs at the different brands, and it is nice to be able to pick and choose what each has,” said Matt Harrington, of the decision to partner with ABC. “Since our clubs run somewhat independently from one another, often, we will test something out at one of the brands before rolling that out at the others.”
- Scalability and Integration Across Brands: As the company aimed to expand across all locations post-pandemic, scalability was an essential requirement for any solution the company implemented. The ability to integrate multiple functions, including ABC’s Customer Relationship Management, Revenue Cycle Management, and DataTrak solutions into existing Healthworks’ existing systems, was also key.
“The ability to scale alongside our brands is very important to us. We have full faith in ABC to be able to execute on kind of the core part of our business, the billing engine,” shared Mark Harrington. “Their solution is 100% reliable, which is something that we need. More importantly, ABC provided a proven, standardized approach to introducing new solutions at our clubs, allowing for shared training and resources across locations. As a result, we enjoyed more consistency in training and lower operating costs related to setup, training, and implementation.
- The Devil Is In The Data: Leveraging ABC’s Performance Insights the Healthworks team was also able to access their data remotely during the pandemic, which allowed their teams to continue to service and support members despite gyms being physically closed.
“Data is at the center of everything we do,” commented Matt Harrington.
ABC Performance Insights consolidates all of their data in a single warehouse to assess business performance and health quickly. He continued, “if we have information that we rely on that is not sinking up accurately or in real time, it creates a lot of unnecessary headaches as well as work and time to fix manually that we don’t necessarily have.”
- Pivoting to Online Management During the Pandemic: With the pandemic thrusting gyms further into the digital environment, Healthworks looked to ABC to assist in modeling its operations in a format similar to that of traditional online businesses. Given the volume of cancellations and freezes each business had to manage during the nationwide shutdown having this level of support was critical to their operation, and it has also helped them recover.
“We found that our managers were spending 5-10 minutes per cancellation for hundreds of members each month at our high volume clubs,” said Matt Harrington “If you think about it, that means the most expensive person in your club is spending the majority of their time on a task that could be automated.”
Using a combination of ABC’s Join Portal, an online join solution, Healthworks moved most of their membership sign-ups, cancellations, and other membership management capabilities from in-club to online. With new features created during the pandemic, including self-cancellations and batching member requests like account freezes, Healthworks significantly improved the member experience for their customers while simultaneously improving productivity. The technology freed team members to focus on more valuable member interactions and internal operations at a time where gyms are operating with reduced staff.
- Member Engagement Through Digital Products and Services: Keeping members engaged is always a priority, but it was even more important during the lockdown. To extend the member-club relationship outside of the gym Mark and Matt quickly launched a mobile app so members could stay connected to the gym and each other, access their membership benefits, and continue to pursue their fitness goals whenever and wherever they wanted. Working closely with the ABC team, Healthworks leveraged the flexibility of solutions like ABC+ to roll out their first digital products and services within a week of the first shutdown.
Additionally, the team heavily leaned on ABC’s fitness CRM and lead management solution, to maintain continuity in member communications. The intuitive CRM tool allowed club managers to stay in contact with their members and tailor communications based on their member profile, and keep prospective members warm and engaged.
The strategies and solutions brought to bear during the pandemic saw Healthworks simultaneously boost member engagement and increase staff productivity. More importantly the lessons learned and solutions applied, including self-service options and digital fitness, will be retained and support Healthworks as it enters a new phase of growth.
“When the pandemic started, we embraced virtual and remote fitness to keep our staff employed, and our members fit and engaged. Over the last year, as we have started to reopen, we see hybrid fitness as the future,” commented Mark Harrington. “The members of the future will expect their fitness club to be everywhere they are, providing great in-person experiences that expand out of the club to fit members’ lifestyles.”
“We are taking a more modern approach to customer service by helping customers become more self-sufficient,” added Matt Herrington. “By giving members the power to do some basic things on their own, we can spend more time focusing on what they’re here for, and many of the new solutions coming out of ABC are making that aspect of the member journey a better experience.”