How CRM Can Boost Your Health Club to New Heights

Software can help you provide meaningful and memorable member contact at every point, in real time.

Remember the legendary Rolodex?

For decades, salespeople used this revolving card system to store customer contact information and other useful details—fodder for personalized conversations that would engage, resonate, and help maintain a successful business relationship.

Fortunately, the sales process became more automated in the mid-1980s with database marketing, a revolutionary, digital form of the Rolodex, which, over the years, evolved to become today’s customer relations management (CRM) software.

Now, IHRSA clubs of all sizes use CRM—offered by a number of IHRSA associate members—to automate and synchronize every facet of customer contact, including marketing, sales, customer service, and support. Using this software, you can learn more about your members and prospects, and store important facts that will help you anticipate what they may want in the future and satisfy their needs.

“What sets you apart is how you engage with people, and how much they enjoy coming to your club.”

Chris Stevenson, Founder and Owner

Stevenson Fitness - Oak Park, CA

Experts emphasize that using such customer data to personalize interactions with members can have a positive impact on the member experience, and as a result, the frequency of club use, member referrals, and retention. In other words, CRM can help you and your staff “manage” customers successfully.

The Retention People (TRP), a customer experience management firm with offices in Bath and Somerset in England and Woodbury, NY, has taken CRM one step further.

“We’re customer experience geeks,” says Dan Albert, general manager, North America, for TRP. “So, we offer customer engagement management software.”

TRP’s Engage Suite gathers a tremendous amount of data and combines it with the company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) program—its method of measuring how satisfied and loyal members are—to equip club staff to connect with members in the most appropriate and personal way possible.

Albert explains the theory behind the company’s approach, along with IHRSA club owner Chris Stevenson, who describes how it works on a daily basis.

More Meaningful Member-to-Club Touchpoints

TRP’s Engage Suite has three core modules—Interact, Digital, and Insight—which offer tools for reaching members at several points: before they come to your club, when they’re present, and after they leave.

Inside the club, the Interact module connects to your club management software, letting your staff know which members are there and working out at any given time. Staff can walk around with a tablet and use the Interact software to identify any members they might want to approach for a specific, relevant reason.

They could, for instance, search for those who are currently visiting on trial membership, or who have been identified as likely to cancel. Each interaction is logged in, so anyone using Interact knows how often individuals have been approached, and how they’ve responded.

The software also will suggest several conversations to have, a valuable tool for helping everyone on your team initiate a dialogue that’s worthwhile.

“Our research suggests that even people who look like they don’t want to be approached don’t mind as long as it’s a good conversation,” Albert says.

Technology Trp Engagement Column

A great example would be helping an individual set a goal.

“A trainer approaches a member as they’re using a specific piece of equipment and suggests that they set a goal of 10 reps today and 12 at the next visit. Then, the trainer can follow up with that member, and ask about those 12 reps. Interact really can make you look smarter than you are,” he says.

Outside of the club, TRP’s Digital module allows you to make automated, but informed, contacts to keep the conversation going. Messages are tailored to specific member groups to ensure they resonate.

Finally, the Insight module enables you to collect comments, opinions, and feedback, and then turn them into actionable items for your staff. You also can survey your members to get an NPS to see just how loyal and engaged they are.

The survey asks one simple question: How likely are they to refer people to your club? The member responds using a number from 0 to 10, and those responses are analyzed to compute your NPS. The result is a valuable metric that lets you see how well your club is doing, and how it compares to others in the industry.

However, all of this begs the question: Is this overkill?

Hardly, Albert says, noting that member communication in any form works as long as it’s relevant. “People don’t mind contact, as long as it’s the right contact. It’s so important to make sure that, when you’re reaching out to them, you’re doing it well.”

The Engage Suite in Action at Stevenson Fitness

Chris Stevenson, the founder and owner of Stevenson Fitness in Oak Park, CA, agrees.

His 7,500-square-foot club, which serves more than 2,000 members, offers cardio, strength training, personal training, group exercise, and small group training. And Stevenson relies heavily on TRP’s Insight and Digital to improve his relationship with those members; it integrates with the club management software he uses.

When the club began using Insight, the club’s NPS was 77, a respectable score by any measure.

But Stevenson wasn’t quite satisfied, so he set 80 as a goal.

“It’s a great tool internally if you share it with your staff,” he says. “It lets them know how serious you are about the customer experience and motivates them to work harder.”

The club now regularly scores in the 80s and is striving to reach 90.

However, Stevenson doesn’t rely on the numeric score alone; the comments that users provide along with their score are just as important, he says.

“If someone gives us a 9, saying that they absolutely love Zack’s yoga class, we’ll share that with the team. But, if we get a couple of 6s, indicating that the floor could be cleaner, we let the team know that we need to improve our system for keeping the floors clean at all times.”

He notes that Insight also is a great member engagement tool.

“Everyone gets a response,” he says. People who are considered detractors (they’re not likely to recommend the club) or passives (somewhere in the middle) are asked for feedback. Promoters (who rate the club highly) are reminded that they’re welcome to share any feedback or suggestions at any time and review the club on Facebook or Yelp.

These first-level messages are automated, but when members reply, personal communication takes over.

“If someone says they hated a yoga class, we reach out and ask for more details. It creates a great opportunity for sincere, one-to-one engagement. Even if you can’t fix a problem, members still appreciate being heard,” Stevenson says.

TRP’s Digital tool is another one that Stevenson Fitness relies on—specifically to reach out to members whose club usage has lagged.

For example, the software automatically sends a message if someone who typically comes in twice a week hasn’t been in for more than a week, asking that member why they’ve been absent.

“People don’t mind contact, as long as it’s the right contact. It’s so important to make sure that, when you’re reaching out to them, you’re doing it well.”

Dan Albert, General Manager

The Retention People - Bath and Somerset, England, and Woodbury, NY

“Sometimes they say, ‘I’ve been out of town, but thanks for checking in on me,’” Stevenson explains. “Or they might say, ‘I sprained my ankle.’ That gives us a chance to offer a complimentary session with one of our trainers to teach them some ankle stability exercises.”

Do they sometimes hear from people who want to cancel?

“Yes. Obviously, we don’t love that. Still, if the experience of leaving is positive, then it increases the likelihood that they’ll come back someday.”

New Tools Are a Major Differentiator

Overall, Stevenson says TRP’s tools have worked so well that his staff now mentions them to prospects as a distinct selling point.

“We tell them that we really care, and once they’re a member, they can expect to get a survey from us once a quarter,” he says. “We tell them we value any feedback they have, and that we’re here to exceed their expectations.”

The impact of customer engagement can’t be underestimated, he emphasizes.

“It’s the biggest differentiator in our industry. Everybody has treadmills. Everybody has dumbbells. Everybody has the world’s best trainers and the world’s greatest group X. But what sets you apart is how you engage with people, and how much they enjoy coming to your club. Isn’t it worth investing in something that’s going to dramatically improve that?”

As Chris Stevenson attests, modern CRM—a real-time, intelligent Rolodex for the 21st century that’s automated, but offers a decidedly human and personal touch—can make a profound difference.

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Liane Cassovay

Liane Cassovay is a contributor to Club Business International.