How can a club management platform help prepare your club for an influx of members?
Expanded interview with Mark Harrington, Jr., President of Healthworks Fitness and Republic Fitness, from the June 2021 edition of Club Business International.
Using a club management platform for top-to-bottom gym management.
As clubs prepare for an increase in membership, they need to expand how they use their club management platform or club management system (CMS) to embrace seamless online joining to allow members to join from anywhere, at any time right from their own devices. For clubs, this means prospects would be able to use their own mobile device to complete the membership sign up process, which is a quicker, more scalable solution in the long-term.
Clubs should also consider embracing a partial or completely hybrid approach to engagement by diversifying their club offerings to meet members’ evolving needs, including offering virtual class options, increasing classes, and enhancing our amenities.
Adopting deeper technology allows clubs to put the members first by engaging members when they need it and where they need it. Through our club management suite, we’ve been able to leverage broadcast-based communications – such as relaying the latest in safety and public health news, to more personalized notifications such as changes in billing status, and other updates that are unique to our club processes – to keep members always informed in a timely manner. It has enabled us to scale how many and how deeply we engage with our premium members through direct messaging, follow ups and questions. The ability to track every stage of a member’s club journey is invaluable and allows us to provide more personalized experience for our members.
Based on your experience with clients, what have the key challenges been (e.g., influx of members, keeping up with bookings or adjusting booking parameters, adjusting pricing and fee structures)?
One of the key challenges we faced early on was implementing new processes to address the sudden closure of gyms. To supplement lost revenue and limited services, we created a new membership tier in ABC focused solely on our virtual offerings. We also changed the requirements around how customers freeze their membership.
While these new options have been great for members, another challenge we noted was maintaining a consistent brand and voice across virtual and in-person experiences with members. In particular, without current and prospective members coming into the gym and engaging with team members, we needed to recreate that sense of community and connection online. To support this endeavor, our club management suite and CRM helped us monitor member usage online to schedule automated communications — such as booking reminders for current members and routine follow-ups for prospective members — as well as identify and alert team members when they needed to have more personalized interactions with members.
How can club management help operators get out in front of potential issues?
A huge problem that clubs face, especially as more people become interested in joining gyms, is missing out on sales opportunities. With an influx of potential members, it can be difficult to stay up-to-date on where leads are in the sales process. Our data shows that it takes 7-10 touch points to convert a lead to a member. By using a customer relationship management (CRM) system, we can track where leads are at in the funnel and enable our team to automatically and personally engage prospective members.
We also pull data from our club management platform that tells us when and how members should be billed. We use this information to program our communication and ensure our team is personally intercepting at crucial communication points.
How can speedy access to your gym data support operators in ramping up club reopening?
One of the biggest changes we’ve made due to the pandemic is sharing data across our locations in ABC. Having a centralized club management platform gives my team and I access to all of our clubs’ data no matter where we are. Additionally, our staff can now work across locations to support other teams in their reopening efforts. Moreover, from an internal communications standpoint, the system enables us to rapidly disseminate information to all of our gyms based on local, state, and industry safety standards and regulations. These communications also offer guidelines and actionable insights to allow teams to quickly implement changes at their respective clubs.
How can technology work to help drive communication to members and lapsed members? How do you target/attract those gym members who have lapsed?
The big thing our CRM allows us to do is segment communication based on where someone is in the process. So, we can automate and tailor communication based on how long a member has been in the funnel, their membership tier, and whether they come into the club or not. Generally, with prospective members, we focus on high-touch communications, such as phone calls and texts, which phase out over the first few weeks to mass-email communications. On the other hand, current members receive more infrequent but consistent messaging that is personalized and targeted towards keeping them engaged with the club and their fitness goals. An example of this is that we are able to use information we have on our members and local vaccine eligibility guidelines to determine who is likely to be vaccinated and more open to coming back to the gym. This allows us to thoughtfully yet strategically reach out to healthcare workers and those above a certain age, who are likely to have been vaccinated already, to see if they’d like to unfreeze or start their memberships. Being able to refine our communication process this way makes it possible for us to automatically send check-ins to members who have lapsed with information on new classes, amenities, deals and other offerings, which in turn decreases the likelihood they will cancel the membership.
What about the need for hybrid models based on in-person and virtual programming?
Our club management suite has been a great tool for managing hybrid models because it allows us to streamline information, resources and communications across our virtual and in-person programming. The system automatically documents members’ interactions with staff and engagement in programming allowing our teams to stay up-to-date on their previous interactions with the club. With this information we’re able to not only personalize our communication to each member’s unique journey but also provide consistent real time messaging online and in-person.
What about creating virtual gym memberships and tiered packages? How does a club management solution take those needs into account?
During the pandemic, we’ve been focused on providing our members with fitness solutions wherever they are. And we found that in order to create virtual memberships tiers effectively, clubs need to enable a more immersive experience for the member – so they will use it more often with their clubs brand up front and center. This starts from the moment they wake up with a reminder from their personalized program and end the day with a full recap of their activity data.
Because some industry leading CRMs for clubs can customize the whole flow in ways that are unique to its own operations, this empowers members to tap into every facet of the club itself. It can be as simple as checking into the club with a barcode or purchasing a drink.
We know it is the human connection that fuels the club – and a CRM like ABC which understands this will motivate the member to connect with their fitness community through participating in challenges or social encouragements. With our club management suite, we’ve been able to easily create new membership options and tiered packages for our members to ensure we are offering them the best fitness experience options possible.
In particular, we’ve used ABC to implement a virtual-only membership for members who are uncomfortable coming into the gym and converted our in-person package to feature access to virtual programs and content. Our club management suite also easily provides members with on-demand fitness content and live-streamed classes as well as the ability to manage their bookings right from their phones. Finally, the system made it possible to customize communications based on a members tier. For example, our in-person members tend to enjoy face-to-face interactions and calls so that is how we communicate with them. Alternatively, we contact our virtual members through fully-automated digital follow-ups because we’ve found that members who want to workout virtually have a preference for text and email-based interactions.
How can a club management platform automate and streamline the function of unfreezing and restarting memberships?
We’ve used ABC to help automate and streamline membership management by automating billing requests and allowing members to freeze or unfreeze their memberships online. This works by automatically sending an email to the member confirming their request was received and then assigning the request to a member to complete. Since the system allows us to segment our audiences based on a variety of parameters, we can also pull reports on frozen or cancelled memberships to proactively identify members whose accounts are paused, schedule automated communications, and enable personal touchpoints to stay engaged with them abandoning their membership entirely.
What about gym employee management and payroll?
ABC has been helpful in encouraging a culture of accountability among our employees. The days of a manager being able to walk into the gym and engage with employees is behind us. Recognizing that, we’ve found that we can use our club management suite as a way for managers to stay connected with our employees, especially since many of our teams are remote and in different locations. Managers can periodically check-in with each employee and help them identify opportunities for growth and, in reverse, team members now are able to track their own progress and that of their peers, which allows them to take ownership of their work and better collaborate with one another.
As far as payroll is concerned, ABC is especially useful for employees who are paid based on commission because we are able to easily track KPI’s and tasks and accurately issue payment initiations. Using the system also offers more flexibility in the competitive offerings that we’re able to provide to our trainers. The end to end capabilities of a robust solution has been game changing for our club and probably would be for any club.