The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



From educational tools and events to promotional programs and public policy initiatives, IHRSA brings you success... by association!

Join | Renew
Pledge Your Support

Search IHRSA Blog
« 5 Signs Your Gym’s Treadmill Belt is Finished | Main | Lessons in Fitness Leadership: Build Relationships Early »

Are You Taking Full Advantage of Your Gym’s CRM Software?

As you well know, operating a health club calls for managing a long list of functions, including human resources, finance, programming, equipment facilities … and members.

Yes, your members need managing, just like every other aspect of your business.

In the past, that called for jotting details down on index cards or Post-it Notes, and calling members who hadn’t used the club recently, or whose accounts had gone past due. It also meant making your best effort to remember their names, so you could greet people personally, and compliment them on their progress.

Member management was a Herculean effort that required nothing short of a photographic memory. But you did it to catch people who might be at risk for canceling, and to do whatever you could to get them back on track.

Fortunately, these days, technology is making that task easier and much more efficient.

In fact, it’s very likely that the best tool you could possibly use to enhance member service might already be at your fingertips. Chances are, it’s one of the features of the club management software suite that you’re currently using.

This software—whether it’s a server-based pjavascript:noop();rogram that you’re running inside your club, or a cloud-based solution that’s hosted on a server offsite—probably has a customer relationship management (CRM) solution that, if fully utilized, can help you to improve member utilization, satisfaction, and retention.

“If you’re not using CRM to the fullest, then you’re missing out on a whole range of tremendous opportunities,” warns Sean Kirby, vice president of client relations for ASF Payment Solutions, a Highland Ranch, CO–based provider. ASF is one of a number of IHRSA associate members that offer CRM applications.

While this particular tool has existed for quite a while, the newest version is more versatile and helpful than ever.

The Intelligence Edge

For starters, you can leverage your CRM software to safeguard your competitive edge—by handling certain procedures in a better way and by improving communication with your members. That’s especially important in today’s marketplace, which gives consumers a wide range of choices, from big-box clubs to small studios and boutique operations.

Billing, for example, can be a particularly sensitive issue, which, if not
 handled properly, can have a negative impact on a member’s feelings about your club—or, if it’s handled well, a very positive one

While, in the 1990s, CRM applications simply allowed you to easily distinguish 
between individuals who needed to be 
billed and ones who were paid in full,
 today’s programs enable you to do that and much more, points out Steve Ayers, the chief revenue officer for ABC Financial Services, of Sherwood, AR.

“Ten years ago, if Ms. Jones was past due on her account, you’d just call her. Now, we have predictive analysis, which indicates the best and most effective way to communicate with her,” he says. “It lets a club operator know, for example, if it’s better, on the first attempt, to notify her by text, instead of calling, or sending a letter or an email, as they might have done in the past.”

You also can use CRM to learn a number of things about a member’s club activities, observes Carole Oat, the national sales manager for Twin Oaks Software, based in Berlin, CT. “You can see who’s enrolled in certain programs, who’s signed up for certain classes, and who’s booking personal trainers,” she says. This type of information can provide valuable insights about your customers, identifying, for instance, who’s staying away, and suggesting whether it’s due to a problem with their workouts or with the club in general.

Knowing what your members are doing, and responding to them on an individual basis also can give your club a more personal feel, indicates Delphine Carter, the senior product manager for Daxko, a software provider based in Birmingham, AL.

“I think loyalty plays an important role in the member space right now—club members really want to feel that,” she observes. “We’ve been conscientious about trying to help our clients provide that ‘neighborhood- restaurant feel.’ ... When you go to a local establishment, you want the waiter to know you and the manager to check in with you.

“We want to foster that ‘I-know-who-you-are’ experience for clubs.”

The Engagement Opportunity

Operators also can utilize CRM systems to create to-do lists to help them deal with the issues posed by at-risk members. “Instead of a Post-it that gets put on a desk, only to be passed on to another desk, we utilize task management, a key part of our relationship hub,” says Carter. “I can, for instance, create a task assignment that says, ‘Please reach out to Delphine. She needs a trainer and some help in reaching her goals.’ Staff members get an email every day identifying such tasks. They know what they have to do, and their supervisor can check to see what’s been completed.

“The Daxko product also employs a proprietary algorithm that helps clubs identify members who may be on the brink of canceling, but who aren’t comfortable reaching out to a staffer.

“At 5 p.m., on a Wednesday, you may have 100 people checking in within an hour,” Carter offers by way of example. “Without an algorithm of this sort, how in the world would you know which one might need you? It predicts, for each member who comes in, how likely it is that they’ll still be making use of the club in 90 days.

“Identifying which members are dissatisfied makes it possible for you to approach them, find out what they need, and help them reach their objective—in order to renew their connection with the club.”

You also can reinforce member engagement by reaching out to clients via their mobile devices.

“When a member has access to a mobile app that customizes their entire experience—that’s a real plus,” says Saranda West, a senior product manager for Daxko.

It makes them
 feel as though 
they have a bond
 with the club, all 
of the time, even
 when they’re
 outside the
 building.  For many, that app is their lifeline. If, for instance, they take group exercise classes frequently, the app is where they’ll find the most up-to- date information on their club’s offerings.

“The app also gives clubs the ability to reach out to members wherever they are via emails, texts, or push notifications.”

Apps also serve as a bridge to social media, another member-engagement tool that continues to evolve.

“We regard social media as an integral part of our platform,” says Ayers. “Some clubs want their customers to be able to check social media while they’re in the club, so they tie their member accounts into Twitter and Instagram. They want to foster engagement wherever the member is.”

This sort of digital integration, notes Kirby, will undoubtedly increase in the future. Already, today, for example, when members in the club make purchases via a mobile app, the club can access that information. In the future, Kirby predicts, even more types of data will be shared with certain parties, seamlessly, to produce additional benefits for members, and make life simpler for club operators.

“For instance,” he suggests, “maybe their attendance and workout information will be automatically sent to their insurance provider, who’ll give them a discount.”

Kirby continues, “Another example—IHRSA is supporting the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, legislation that would allow people to pay for memberships with pretax dollars. In the event that PHIT becomes law, CRM could be a useful tool for handling those transactions.”

The Process vs. the Point

While they emphasize its many benefits, the experts CBI spoke to warn that it’s important to remember that CRM has one major limitation: It’s not personal.

“Technology should be used to cultivate engagement with members—not replace it,” counsels Kirby. “You can’t take CRM, implement a repetitive, automated process, and conclude that you’ve cemented a relationship. There’s much more to it than that.”

He cites both the sales process and the onboarding of a new club member as prime examples of procedures that still require a human touch.

If a prospect responds to an online ad, and their personal information is captured in the club’s CRM application, they could receive a series of automated emails encouraging them to join. While that might seem like the start of a beautiful friendship, it’s actually a missed opportunity, points out Kirby. “If no one has gotten on the phone and reached out to that person, there’s no real interaction. Simply dispatching a series of digital messages doesn’t create a relationship.”

The same holds true for systems that allow clubs to automatically reach out to at-risk members every 30, 60, or 90 days. “Is this a CRM advancement? Absolutely,” Kirby acknowledges. “Clubs need to do everything they can do to ensure that customers are getting the most out of their membership in order to hold onto them as members. CRM is useful in initiating that interaction. But someone should be approaching them in a personal, one-to-one way.”

Technology provides a tool...but people are the point.