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Entries in technology (24)


4 Reasons Health Clubs Should Invest in CRM Technology

It’s a fact: The primary business of every health club isn’t fitness. It’s maintaining good customer relationships by providing excellent service. 

You can have the best facility, amenities, and programs in the world, but if customers have bad experiences, they won’t stay. And sub-par service certainly won’t help generate referrals or lead to new sales. Au contraire: You’ll lose business and your reputation will suffer. 

The good news: Having a robust customer relationship management (CRM) system can help you improve the most critical aspects of your customer service program, and, thus, your members’ club experience. 

Here are four reasons CRM systems are worth the investment for health clubs. 

1. CRMs Reduce Member and Employee Frustration 

In many operational areas, clubs have grappled with inefficiencies that have frustrated employees and customers alike. In many cases, for example, simple administrative tasks that involved actual paperwork have led to major headaches as a result of human error. 

For a long time, that was the case for Beth Saroka, a 35-year industry veteran, and the owner of Onslow Fitness, in Jacksonville, NC, a 14,000-square-foot club with fitness, group exercise, and personal training offerings, a heated saltwater pool, and other amenities. 

However, in 2011, Saroka acquired ABC Financial software, and, in the process, eliminated “tons” of man-hours required for tasks that no one liked to do. 

“Whether it was a simple credit card update, a change of address, or something more involved, such as a cancellation, my staff would have to stop doing more important things— selling or servicing members—to manually fill out the paperwork,” she said. “Then, assuming it was filled out correctly, someone else had to enter all of that information into a computer. In retrospect, that was a huge waste of our time, and rarely resulted in a ‘wow’ experience for anyone.” 

Now, the CRM component of her ABC system boasts a newer feature called MYiCLUB online, a portal that allows a member to log in at any time and make account changes— even cancellations. Not only is it convenient for members, but it also ensures that the club obtains accurate information. 

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Cloud Computing and the Future of Connected Exercise Equipment

Earlier this month, we discussed the basics of cloud computing, and how cloud-based mobile apps can improve the member experience. Now, let’s take a look at cloud computing’s increasingly profound impact on the exercise equipment space.

More and more manufacturers are offering cloud-centered products and systems that explode the member experience—providing a wealth of customized workouts, tracking and reporting on performance in detail, and allowing users to compete with one another.

Among the many IHRSA associate member companies that have soared into the sky are Precor, Inc., with its Preva Network, and Technogym, with the mywellness cloud.

Advantages of Cloud-centered Equipment

The approach confers numerous advantages. It engages the interest of prospects and members; precludes workout boredom; increases satisfaction and utilization; improves results; can increase members’ spending; and, ultimately, has a positive effect on retention. 

The Preva Network, available on units in Precor’s 880 cardio line with the P80 console, permits members to create personal accounts, which allow them to set fitness goals, obtain personalized workouts, track their progress, save their favorite routines, and explore a wealth of entertainment options. Because the system is cloud-based, it can be accessed via the Preva mobile app.

Technogym’s mywellness cloud shares some of the same functionality, and also connects to a wide variety of third-party fitness devices, including wearables, which allows users to store virtually all of their exercise data, and makes it possible for clubs to offer virtual coaching tips.

Because the mywellness cloud is an open platform, it also allows for integration with various cloud-based services and devices. That can be utilized to tap new revenue streams, said Nicola De Cesare, the director of Technogym’s digital division business development team.

One example: a club could monetize a professional weight and body fat scale by offering periodic body checks. The resulting information could be stored in the mywellness cloud, allowing members to track their progress toward their goals.

The Future of Connected Equipment

Jeff Bartee, the principal product manager for network fitness at Precor, sees the connections between equipment and apps multiplying in the future, and, in the process, tying the exercise experience together in a revolutionary way.

“People want to access the data on demand, but in a convenient manner,” he said. “They don’t want to have to use 100 different apps to get the results they’re looking for.”

The possibilities are endless and appealing.

“When customers can share the data from their workouts with their club—whether they’re running on one of its treadmills or riding a bike at home—it enhances the club’s ability to deliver targeted services,” Bartee said. “Trainers can create more personalized workout plans, and clubs can tailor their program offerings to what members really want. If, for example, they discover that 60% of their members like to run outside, they could develop a running program and sell it at a premium.”

 “Customers want the best experience, and, in the end, the clubs that are going to be the most successful are the ones that integrate thoughtful digital strategies with the brick and mortar,” Bryan O’Rourke, president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (FIT-C). “Today, your digital presence is as critical as your brick and mortar presence. If you don’t believe it, you may have a big problem.

“The cloud and mobile are two things that club opera- tors really have to wrap their heads around.”

Read the full article on cloud computing for health clubs in the May issue of CBI.


Enhance Health Club Member Experience with Cloud-based Mobile Apps

Cloud computing technology can help health clubs save time and money, as well as increase data security, but the benefits don’t stop there. The use of cloud-based mobile apps help health clubs to enhance the member experience in a number of ways.

Much of the cloud’s present potential is being exploited by mobile apps, which access data from various cloud-based services. This avenue is one that introduces promising new opportunities for clubs and their members. Clubs may continue to rely on their websites, but, today, apps seem to be where the action is at.

Cloud-based Apps Support a Mobile-first Strategy

“It’s irrefutable that a ‘mobile-first’ strategy is emerging, which means that you may need to rethink some aspects of your business model,” said Bryan O’Rourke, the president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (FIT-C), based in Covington, LA. “For example, you’ll have to figure out how to align the functionality of your mobile offerings with your programming, while making sure that both meet your members’ needs.” 

O’Rourke pointed to SoulCycle, LLC, based in New York City, as a brand with a well-honed mobile strategy. Its mobile app, accessed via the cloud, allows members to reserve specific bikes in specific cycling classes, access instructors’ playlists, and even purchase the same sort of apparel that their instructor is wearing. Apps can also make it easier to offer different pricing levels and to develop new revenue sources.

“It’s not about technology—it’s about the user experience,” O’Rourke said. “It’s about making things easier for your members; it’s about creating an affinity with your brand.”

Increased Convenience and Cost-savings

That sort of functionality, now fairly common in the case of chains and larger club companies, is quickly percolating down through the industry’s other strata.

The Gainesville Health & Fitness Centers (GHFC), a regional, three-facility operation in Gainesville, FL, is currently working with two cloud-based providers—MINDBODY, Inc., for its personal training and premier groups programs; and Mercury Systems, for its smoothie bar and other in-house retail sales—as well as a third one for its rehab center.

Once members have created their own MINDBODY account via a mobile app or a web browser, they’re able to review schedules and fees, make purchases, sign up for training sessions, and check to see how many they have left.

One extra benefit: “We’ve noticed that our costs have come down,” said Mike Kline, GHFC’s CFO and CIO. “Our credit card fees are a lot less than when we had to run cards through machines manually. We’re also able to track things much better.”

The cloud propagated by Mercury allows members to prepay their accounts online and, then, access their balance when they come into the gym—a convenience both for them and club management.

“We don’t have to have servers,” Kline said. “Mercury backs them up, and they worry about the data.”

Read the full article on cloud computing for health clubs in the May issue of CBI.


Cloud Computing 101 for Health Clubs

Cloud computing technology has become increasingly popular in the business world—it provides new opportunities to streamline business processes, secure critical information, and enhance the client—i.e., club member—experience.

At this point, however, industry observers note, the use of cloud computing hasn’t yet become widespread in the health club sector.

The clubs that are using it—most likely in conjunction with their member management software—are, in a sense, pioneers. They’ve taken the first steps on a path that may well lead to a technological revolution in this industry.

If you haven’t yet made the leap, consider the following your personal copy of “Cloud Computing 101.”

How Cloud Computing Benefits Health Clubs

Remember when the only thing you could do on the Internet was send e-mails? Well, just think about what you can do on the Internet now.

Cloud-based services have the potential to change the way you run your business, and how your members interact with your club. The possible improvements they offer are numerous and, it seems, open-ended. They provide new ways to engage prospects and members; maintain the connection, the dialogue, with members both inside and outside the club; can lead to new revenue streams; and, importantly, can make running your business easier and more efficient.

If you were so inclined, you could manage your club 24/7—at your leisure.

Cloud Computing Basics

To begin, it’s important to define what cloud computing is—and what it isn’t.

“It’s essentially the use of a network of servers and power generation that’s remote, and hosted over the Internet, to manage and process data and crunch numbers,” said Al Noshirvani, the CEO of Motionsoft, Inc.

The Rockville, Maryland–based firm offers member management software in both hosted and cloud-based versions. A number of other IHRSA associate member software providers do so as well.

A hosted solution, also known as software as a service (SaaS), is a product that’s run on remote servers located at a host’s—typically, the software provider’s—facility. One of the biggest misconceptions today is that cloud-based and hosted solutions are the same, when in fact, they’re very different, Noshirvani said.

“The majority of clubs in this country aren’t utilizing cloud solutions,” he said. “Most are using hosted solutions, and, because of that, people aren’t taking advantage of the possibilities the cloud provides.”

Security and Cost Savings

Transitioning to the cloud means not only increased security, but, also, big savings. Clubs don’t need to invest in expensive hardware, because cloud services are available on most devices via a simple Web browser.

“The cloud is an ‘infrastructure modality,’” said Bryan O’Rourke, the president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (FIT-C), based in Covington, LA. “That means that, since you don’t own your own servers, you don’t have to have a hardware infrastructure. The cloud opens up a world of possibilities—at a lower cost.”

Read the full article on cloud computing for health clubs in the May issue of CBI.

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