Face Time

Face Time

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In this digital age, it’s possible to go for days without seeing another person and still be in constant contact with others. Texting, emailing, social media, video-chatting: All which create a level of communication unheard of in previous decades. But guess what? Health club members still prefer in-person interaction with staff than communication via technological device.
A study in the recently published IHRSA Member Retention Report, lays out the details on this topic. Conducted in partnership with The Retention People, IHRSA’s study draws on survey responses from more than 10,000 health and fitness members in the U.K., who answered questions about their exercise habits and membership behavior between July and September 2013. The survey showed that an overwhelming 87 percent of respondents value interactions with fitness staff. The clincher? Less than half—43 percent—of respondents feel they have such interactions.The other clincher? Despite everything you constantly hear about how crucial it is to have an effective social media campaign—to get out there on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to try to speak personably and familiarly with members via those platforms—only 34 percent of respondents said they value social media updates. Almost twice that number—65 percent—said they value receiving emails.
Considering the numbers, it’s worth devising a strategy for increasing face time between staff and members in your own health venue. This goes for sports facilities, too. The nature of the exercise business is interdependence—whether you’re talking gym, niche studio, or batting cages. Members depend on trainers, instructors, front desk folk, and support staff, and vice versa. So anything you can do to foster interdependence is going to result in a happier customer base—which, in the long run, means better retention, more word-of-mouth advertising, four-and-five star ratings on social media, and ultimately more members.
How do you make interactions between staff and members the norm at your facility? Make proactive interactions a requirement for the job: Staff should know, even before they’re hired, that you have high expectations for warm, interpersonal, and in-person communication with members on a daily basis. Have a greeter at the door, and give them a script that includes introducing him or herself by name, welcoming members, shaking their hands, and offering to help them with anything they need. Instruct front-desk staff to smile and to try to learn members’ names. Trainers and class leaders should also learn members’ names and should go out of their way to talk to members. In the weight room and cardio court, and on the ground at sports facilities, they should circulate and check in with members, ask how they’re doing and whether they need anything.
As for out-of-club communications, remember almost twice the number of survey respondents prefer email to social media interaction. Maybe it’s time to step back from your social media activity and refocus on effective emailing; the more personal the better. Consider a gym management software that allows for direct email blasts and the ability to group clients into categories. For example, create an email group called “New members” to track clients who have just signed up. Then, devise an email campaign where your staff sends a “checking in” email once a month for the first few critical months of the client’s membership.
Service of this sort takes your club or sports facility to the next level. If members feel you truly care about them, they’ll be coming back and telling their friends to do the same.

Keeping Up Appearances, of Your Online Presence

Keeping Up Appearances

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Recently, here in New York City, I was helping a friend research options for a swimming facility. We visited Yelp.com, which, as everybody knows, is the place to go for the inside scoop on any and every business imaginable. A search on Yelp for “gym swimming pools” pulled up a long list of gyms, health clubs, and fitness centers that have pools. At first we were overwhelmed. Then we realized how easy Yelp makes it to weed choices out. Does it have less than four stars? Forget it.
That’s for starters. Once you begin reading the reviews, it becomes crystal clear which places are worth trying and which ones are better off ignored. For one club that received two stars, for example, we found the following reviews: “Limited availability for lap swimming and the club does not adhere to its weekly pool schedule,” “There have been lots of problems ranging from overcrowded, stinky locker rooms with broken lockers to lack of morning classes for people who work,” and, simply, “Horrible!”
The same gym had one highly positive review—but the negative voices drowned it out. This is all well and good for consumers. But what if you’re a gym owner, where your facility has a low rating, and comments are negative, even though you know you deserve better? The fact is, online customer reviews can make or break you. In order to ensure a healthy digital profile, one that won’t damage your chances of drawing in prospective clients and winning new members, you’ve got to take action.
The first step is to know what’s out there about you. Take a look at Yelp and other similar customer review sites (such as Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, Epinions, and Google+ Local). Are there reviews for your business? Keep in mind that having reviews is a good thing—just as negative reviews can have a negative impact, positive reviews can have a positive one. You want people to be able to find you on Yelp (if they can’t, they’ll wonder why you’re not there); you just want to control the impressions they form when they do. So take a look, hope you’re there, and read carefully through the reviews you find.
Now, here’s the thing: On Yelp and many other sites, you can respond publicly to comments that are posted. That’s right—you have a chance to set the record straight, and if you handle things graciously enough, you might be able to turn a negative review into an opportunity, a chance for the marketplace to see how reasonable, generous, and responsive your facility is. When my friend an I found a response to a negative review of a local gym, we were impressed: The response included an apology, an explanation, an assertion that the customer was right, and an offer to make up for the bad experience. We kept that one on the list of places to check out.
If a mere response feels inadequate to you, or if you’re overwhelmed by the number of customer review sites out there or the daunting task of keeping track of everything said about your facility online, keep in mind that there are companies that help you clean up your online presence. Reputation.com, Reputation Changer, Big Blue Robot, Metal Rabbit Media—these are just a few outfits that find ways to push potentially damaging online content further down in search result lists and pull positive materials to the top. Some of them are pricey, but when it comes to presenting your best face to potential customers, the cost may be worth it.

customer satisfaction

Have You Created a Survey for Your Sports Facility?

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When my son was five and had great enthusiasm for building with blocks, a friend of mine asked him if he’s going to be an engineer when he grows up. “Maybe when I retire from professional soccer,” he replied. Almost from the time he took his first step, the kid has known that sports will always be an important part of his life. And so, since more or less that time, and he’s eight now, he’s used sports facilities of various sorts, engaging in some kind of training or game or competition or workout. But it was only recently that a facility did something that seemed so obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn’t encountered it before: It offered me a chance to fill out a survey.

The facility is a huge, multi-sports complex that caters to all ages. My son joined a soccer league there this fall. When the season ended a couple weeks ago, I got an email asking me to fill out a survey online about our experiences with the facility. Now, I don’t fill out every survey request that comes my way, but I leapt at the chance to do this one. Youth sports are so central to my life, as they have become central to so many families’ lives; like it or not, our plans revolve around when practice is, when games are, what the weekend commitment will be, and where tournaments are taking place. So it seemed important to make my voice heard in this regard, and I welcomed the chance to do it.

What impressed me was how thorough the survey was. There were questions you’d expect: “What sport is being evaluated?” “What gender is your child?” “What grade is your child in?” But then there were more intriguing questions: “What gender is your child’s coach?” “Did you play sports during high school or college? If so, at what level?” And then statements with which to “strongly agree” or “disagree,” or to remain neutral about: “The coach is approachable”, “The coach defines success as more than winning/losing”, “The coach treats players with respect.” Other questions solicited opinions about the coaches’ and facility’s communications with parents, about ways in which participating in the given sport helped the child, about what sources of information were being considered while answering these questions (discussions with children, coaches, or other parents, for example).

I realized that as much as the survey allowed me to voice my opinion, it also allowed the facility to gather an enormous amount of feedback about how its operations align with its clientele’s values. I liked almost everything about the facility, for example, but I did not feel that it made its Athletic Handbook policies clear to parents, and I heard other parents voicing the same complaint. If we all note on our surveys that this is an issue, will things improve? Will we know more about the policies upfront, and be kept better informed about what is expected of us and our children? That remains to be seen, but at least the facility now knows that that’s what we want.

Have you created a survey for your sports facility? Websites like surveymonkey.com make it easier than ever to design and distribute surveys. If you haven’t done it yet, think about all the data you can gather to help you better gear your services to your clientele. Better serving them can lead only to desirable outcomes — I know I’ll definitely be signing my son up for soccer lessons at the facility this spring.

The Personal Approach To Collecting Feedback

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I have a confession to make. I never, ever fill out surveys. I feel irritated when any business interrupts my day with an email seeking my feedback. The impersonal nature of the questions, the idea that I’m just a source of data to be collected, the time it takes to respond — all of these things push my buttons. It’s not that I don’t understand why businesses do it and how the information they gather is useful; I know it’s so that services can be better tailored to consumers. But I can’t help feeling that the cost of filling out a survey, no matter how short and sweet the survey might be, isn’t worth the benefits I reap.

That’s why a recent Q&A on IHRSA’s blog caught my interest. The association asked two club presidents and a chief executive officer what methods they use for eliciting feedback from members. Each of the respondents said they use email-based surveys to gather information about customers’ experiences.
I know not everyone feels the same way I do about responding to questionnaires; some people are more generous with their time and opinions. But I also know that I’m not alone. We’re all overwhelmed with emails all the time; how many of the people who receive a request to complete a survey actually go ahead and do it? How many hit the delete button and move on?

I was pleased to see that email surveys aren’t the only methods clubs are using. The respondents to IHRSA’s question also reported using suggestion boxes throughout their facilities, including “give us feedback” links on their websites, and training employees to make note of customer opinions and share those opinions with management. It’s this last method that speaks to me the most. If I’m at the gym and a smiling employee approaches me and asks how I’m doing, how my workout is going, and whether she can talk to me for a few minutes about my experiences, I’m going to be all ears. And mouth. That is, I’m going to happily talk about it. This is the personal approach to collecting feedback.  A human being genuinely interested in how I feel and having an actual exchange with me rather than half answering cookie-cutter questions — that feels worthwhile to me.

If your club has the resources to invest in in-person information gathering, go for it. It’s by far the best method. If not, or if more details than can be gathered that way are needed, try a mix of methods: email surveys, web-based links, old-fashioned suggestion boxes, and opportunities to interact with staff. Whatever you do, don’t just rely on email surveys alone. You’ll be missing out on the thoughts and opinions of a significant portion of your membership if you do.

How to Keep ‘Em Coming Back

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We know that in most cases, the longevity of a business is only as good as the clients it maintains, so keeping clients happy and ensuring they come back is one of the most vital things you can do for your business. While it’s important to continue to secure new members, it’s also essential to keep the ones you have. That’s why we’ve outlined a few keys to keeping your customers happy and coming back.

  • Great Product – Offering a quality product is the best way to keep clients happy. Not giving them a reason to complain will in-turn give them no reason to leave. Maintaining your gym or facility in the best condition possible will prove to be one of the best ways you can retain your members. Check out our blog post on Club Vitals for help on good equipment maintenance. Additionally, making sure you have well-trained staff and trainers is also an integral part of offering a quality product.
  • Excellent Value – Giving new members a great introductory offer and following that up with other money-saving promotions is a good way of showing customers that you care about them. Always make sure you price services appropriately.
  • Courteous Customer Service – Showing customers that you’re out to make their lives as simple as possible is a smart way to keep them coming back. We know that “not giving them a reason to complain” can often be easier said than done. Rise to the challenge of taking care of whatever problem they might have. By appropriately and quickly addressing their concerns, you’ll show that you are truly interested in their health and well-being.
  • Referrals – Having a member refer your business is the ultimate compliment. Not only does this boost your sales and profits, but you’ve just further ensured that this customer will keep coming back – and coming back with friends too! Don’t forget to reward your members with perks for bringing in a friend. See our post on Perkville on how to start rewarding your members with minimal time investment on your part.

What all of this boils down to is making sure your members are happy. Doing whatever it takes to make this happen will ultimately lead to the success of your business.

Thanks for reading and come back soon for more tips!


The Building Blocks of Customer Loyalty

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While much of the battle is attracting new customers to your business, a key element to a successful business is retaining these customers you worked so hard to get. Like any crucial business activity, it is worth putting time and effort into doing it right. Sometimes following up is difficult and takes a large amount of work, but in the long run it will pay off for you 100 times over. Don’t let your customers slip away as keeping an existing customer costs far less than getting a new one. Below are tips to keeping your customers happy and coming back for more!

Send thank-you notes 

Take the time to tell customers that you genuinely appreciate their business. The thought will remain with them for a long time. A small gesture like this will stand out in their minds because most of your competition won’t send that you notes.

Mail postcards 

Make the message of your postcards meaningful if you want to have customers look forward to receiving them. Customers should want to keep the cards handy, especially if you keep it exciting with a “Health tip of the month” or “Quote of the month” type of theme. In these cases it may be best to avoid being promotional as they will appreciate information that is beneficial for them.

Send email updates 

Provide customers with information on product sales, special events, customer service updates, etc. Thinking of them as your personal press releases will ensure customers receive information at least once per month and will help build momentum. Over time, it gets them excited to be involved with your gym or facility and motivates them to give you referrals.

Follow up on health issues 

If you find out a customer has been sick, call periodically just to offer support. Send flowers or a card if the situation warrants it.

Offer referrals 

Keep records of which of your customers are self-employed. A great way to encourage loyalty is to refer people to your customers’ businesses. If they do, record the information which will enable you to help them through referrals, and chances are, they will return the favor.

Ask for post-sale feedback 

Demonstrate that you care about the quality of your service. Call customers and ask questions such as: Are you pleased with the service you received? What would you like to see improved? What product or program would you like to see more of? If you could change anything what would it be?

Send out 20 “great job!” cards per week 

This is both a fun and exciting task. It helps boost morale and keeps everyone excited. A simple card that tells a customer that you think he or she is doing a great job really goes a long way.

These tips will help you take your company to an entirely new level. Following up on all aspects of your customer interactions shows your customers that you are actively involved in keeping them thrilled with the service you provide. And when you ask customers for feedback and implement their suggestions, they feel a sense of ownership in what you’re doing and become even more loyal to your business. This is a great way to build your empire.

Good Customer Service Results in Higher Member Retention

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Providing good customer service is essential for member retention and spreading the (good) word on your club or facility. It’s important to ensure that staff members give meaningful service to your customers in order to show that you value their patronage. There are a few simple steps that gym and facility owners can take in order to deliver excellent customer service.

Greet members

Greeting members when they check-in is an easy way to build relationships with your customers, especially with membership software that displays their information upon check-in. This makes personalizing the greeting a more effective way of connecting and showing that you value them. It’s also a great opportunity to speak with them prior to their work out and find out if they have any questions or concerns. Sending them away with a sincere parting will ensure they leave with a positive feeling and experience.

Address and listen to members

Identifying and addressing problems is another essential component of keeping your members happy. By being proactive, you’ll be able to nip issues in the bud. Additionally, frequently asking members their opinion on what can be improved will assist in finding and fixing any problems. Gym and facility owners can easily do this by utilizing their software to send out an occasional email requesting opinions and comments from members.

Reward members

Rewarding members for being loyal customers will show your appreciation for them and the business they give you. Even the smallest show of gratitude can go a long way to improving the image of your club or facility. Using your management software, you can identify long-time members and reward them with a free month of membership or personal training session.

Make Good on Promises

Gaining and keeping loyalty from your members is integral to the success of your club or facility. Keeping promises and making promises you are sure to keep will cement member loyalty to your facility. Members that feel you are undeserving of their trust may reconsider giving you their business. The rule to this one is simple, keep any promises made.

By following these steps, you can be sure that customers will always remain happy and that you’ve pushed your club or facility to its fullest potential. Adjusting customer service to be completely about your member is a full-proof way of increasing member satisfaction and retention, ultimately leading to the total success of your club or facility. As always, stay tuned for more ideas and news from EZFacility.