Club Insider

The Ecosystem of Technology

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Bill McBrideBill McBride

Technology is critical and ever-present. Before the shutdown, technology was part of a gym owners' strategy, but COVID pushed us to use technology more than we ever have in the past. As we reset and get ready to thrive in 2022, now provides a good opportunity to review your tech stack. What do you have, what do you need, what do you want and what is the return on investment?

I believe in a "high tech and high touch" model for health clubs. Our members come to us sometimes 2 - 5 times per week, if not every day. So, we sometimes resist new technology adoption because we are not just changing a system or process for our internal staff but also for the hundreds, maybe thousands of individuals that interface with our brand regularly. This is the only industry I can think of, other than Starbucks, Peets Coffee, or other affinity-based coffee shops that patrons frequent daily or 2+ times a week. Maybe in some cases, neighborhood bars...

We are not in a transactional business arena but a service-based relationship arena. Even my coffee example is still transactional: Get your coffee and off you go. Neighborhood bars may be the exception for those who go multiple times a week. However, consumers still don't go to the same hotel, restaurant, movie theatre, cruise or airline two to five times a week. It simply doesn't happen.

This leads to an important aspect of data management and quality control that is unique to our industry. Seeing that we are a destination that members interact with more frequently than most other businesses, it introduces an opportunity for more breakdowns in the member journey. Ensuring that this data is consistent across all systems is one way to help mitigate errors and enhance the member experience.

Like most decisions and processes you implement, you always start with evaluating where the member journey begins. In 2021, the member journey begins online. If your website, social pages and review sites (Google, Yelp, etc.) are where members are beginning their journey, then it only makes sense to have a tech stack that's conducive to having them complete their journey online. Questions that you should be asking yourself are:

  • What does your member journey look like from finding you online to purchasing a membership?
  • Can the consumer buy online?
  • Can the consumer enroll in a trial membership online?
  • What other barriers exist between your prospective member and purchasing a membership and how can you eliminate them?

A common barrier that I hear from clubs is having several systems that fail to "talk" to each other. For instance, if your website doesn't speak to your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, and your CRM doesn't speak to your Club Management System (CMS), then you are inadvertently creating three data silos that you must either sync via API or update manually.

Ideally, once a member joins online, the data they provided is entered into your CMS real-time. This ensures that they have a seamless member journey. From the moment they sign up, they should be entered into a "Welcome" cadence in the CRM system to provide complimentary workouts to get them started on their new fitness journey. This is just one member journey example that is enabled by having the right combination of technology or your member journey "ecosystem."

When it comes to your return on investment, we need to consider lowering our total cost of ownership. This is achieved by consolidating technology vendors and choosing the right (best in class) technologies that "talk" to each other optimally to achieve a seamless member journey.

Customer Relationship Management... Member Management (Billing and Collections)... Member Experience... Fitness Engagement... Organizational Data/ Dashboard... All are critical to successful operations.

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