As a consultant who helps club owners revamp their personal training departments, I notice that struggling departments often share many of the same issues—in particular, the lack of centralized, automated operations.

At these clubs, trainers use old-style appointment books to manage their own schedules, and clients must speak directly to trainers to schedule, change or cancel appointments. It may take a day or two for a trainer to return the call or they may end up playing “phone tag.” Clients who have several sessions per week with a trainer must be written down each day. The book starts looking like a big mess with erased and scratched-out time slots. Personal training directors often spend two or more days balancing the books and completing payroll, as they must pull revenue reports for an entire department and by trainer and it often requires them to manually record and calculate revenue totals.

I encourage clubs to initiate central department operations. It requires a financial investment but this investment quickly will be returned in saved time and money. Here are some ways this system is so beneficial:

Customer Service Reps: Up until seven years ago, my clubs functioned without customer service representatives (CSRs). A year after we hired an administrative staff to manage our behind-the-scenes operations, our revenues doubled. These individuals support and assist our personal trainers so our trainers can better service their clientele. Our CSRs schedule all training appointments, pull client files and print trainers’ schedules, enter all clients into our database, check in clients for their appointments, answer phones, prepare new client folders, make photocopies, send out birthday cards and so much more. Office support enables our trainers to focus on training and enables them to fill their schedule to capacity. We now employ two full-time CSRs and one part-time CSR at our 5,000-square-foot training studio. By adding this expense to your personal training department budget, you bring a much higher level of professionalism and service to your clientele.

Automated Appointment Scheduler: Our automated system allows us to schedule our repeat clients for as long as we want with the touch of a button. We can view the entire schedule for a trainer or a team of trainers on a given day or for a week. By incorporating an automated schedule, you minimize double bookings and scheduling errors, and you save valuable time and money. An automated system also allows you to check in clients for their sessions and counts their sessions. Our CSRs are responsible for always making sure that our manual client sign-in sheet matches our automated system. This minimizes the chances of a trainer accidently giving away a free session.

Automated Payroll: By using an automated appointment scheduler, payroll becomes less of a headache. Here is how our payroll is conducted:

  • Our CSRs check in the client. An appointment receipt is printed and then placed in a payroll envelope.
  • At the end of each day, CSRs add up how many appointment receipts they collected for each trainer.
  • At the end of each day, our trainers record their day’s activities on a payroll sheet.
  • At the end of the payroll period, our personal training director confirms that the number of appointment receipts match the computer and payroll sheet.

Automated Point of Sale: By using an automated point of sale, we can quickly determine total sales on a given day, for a specific period, for the entire team or for an individual trainer. We can easily determine buying trends and most popular products and services. Our system will even alert us when it is time for clients to renew their personal training services. In addition to all this, it provides a more professional experience.

Who do you go to for help? Multiple companies offer this service. To get a list of the various computer software programs available, visit the Club Industry Buyers’ Guide and click on “computer software.”

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc., has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 20 years and has received numerous industry awards, including the 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, the 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and the 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year. Her million-dollar training studios in Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA, have received Better Business Bureau Business of the Year recognition. McMillan is a fitness trainer, a fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals (including “Go For Fit—The Winning Way to Fat Loss,” “Fit over Forty” and “The Successful Trainers Guide to Marketing”), a featured presenter in various fitness DVDs, an international fitness presenter, and a spokesperson for Nike, Nautilus, Twist Conditioning and PowerBar. She can be reached at http://www.nwfitnesseducation.com/ or http://sherrimcmillan.blogspot.com/.