Implementing a centralized virtual service operation can ensure your club runs efficiently, allowing on-site employees to focus on serving on-site clients. Moreover, virtual, cloud-based platforms are becoming increasingly popular for their low costs and flexibility.
A quality member-service experience can be the differentiator for folks choosing to stay with your club long-term. Conversely, a poor experience could send the same people to your competitors or cause them to give up their membership entirely. (Photo by Thinkstock.)
CONTENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY: Arise Virtual Solutions
With 2017 upon us, retaining the influx of new and trial members is a hot topic in the health club industry. It’s no secret that members of the New Year’s resolution crowd have the desire to improve their health. In fact, a University of Scranton study showed self-improvement and weight-related resolutions are among the most popular resolutions made. Unfortunately for health clubs, the study also found that 92 percent of people fail at their resolution. IHRSA data translates that statistic to the health club industry, showing 50 percent of all new health club members quit within the first six months of joining, and a whopping 80 percent of the New Year’s resolution crowd drop their membership by the second week of February. If you are wondering what you can do to stem the tide aside from the traditional trial offers and marketing gimmicks, you should consider making your own resolution to rethink your member-care strategy with the benefits of a centralized virtual service platform. Doing so offers three benefits.
Benefit 1: Centralized Service Empowers Your In-Club Employees to Focus on the In-Club Member Experience
Your on-site employees’ No. 1 priority should be serving members who are active at your club, ensuring they have an engaging experience with your brand that encourages them to keep their membership. Investing in a centralized member-services force does just that, offloading many of the customer service demands pertaining to those members who are not at the club.
On-site employees have a lot on their plate: managing and scheduling instructors and programs, ensuring facilities are clean and stocked, and doing everything they can to go above and beyond for your members at the club. They likely don’t have the time to properly call prospective members or execute retention campaigns (especially during peak times). Even if they did, such campaigns are certainly not their top priority. As such, performance levels are likely to be far lower than if handled by a centralized member-service operation. Moreover, a centralized member-service operation will help provide a more consistent brand experience versus individual franchise employees handling this function.
Benefit 2: Virtual Platforms Provide Access to Brand Advocates, which Translates to Higher-Quality Service
When you go a step further with your centralized member-service force and leverage a virtual, Uber-like contact center platform, you expand your resources beyond the traditional 20-mile radius of a brick-and-mortar call center. A virtual platform offers access to fitness enthusiasts on a national level—as well as your current members—with strong brand affinity to create a customers-serving-customers effect. The value of this peer-to-peer [P2P] communication has been documented as being incredibly powerful. Imagine having like-minded fitness and wellness buffs available to handle the questions and concerns of your members, instead of the likely offshore alternative.
When you have these sorts of brand advocates representing your brand, you facilitate a higher standard of customer care in all campaigns but particularly with member retention. Imagine having your best customers encouraging people in the New Year’s crowd whose visits have fallen off to get back to your club with incentives before they are in line to cancel their membership.
Benefit 3: A Virtual Platform Provides a Flexible Workforce to Meet Fluctuating Demand Patterns
The wellness industry suffers from large fluctuations in demand at different times of the year, particularly at New Year’s with resolutions crowds, but other times as well with people getting beach-ready for summer, etc. Member-service operations that follow a traditional brick-and-mortar call center paradigm are burdened by high-demand periods and unplanned events—often constrained by the number of employees they have at the center leaving calls on hold and providing a poor member experience.
Leveraging a virtual platform to power a member-service operation allows for the flexibility to quickly upscale resources via a large network of qualified agents who are available to log in and virtually serve customers. Conversely, if volume is light during certain periods, you can downscale resources far easier than you can in a brick-and-mortar operation. This sort of adaptability helps keep your customers happy by eliminating the anger of being placed on hold, as well as by more closely matching call patterns. In turn, being “right-staffed” drives higher levels of agent utilization, thus decreasing total costs by trimming excess capacity.
Next-Gen Member Service: The Crowd in the Cloud
A centralized member-service operation makes the most sense for the vast majority of club operators because it provides a consistent member experience and allows on-site employees to focus on serving customers. The only question that remains is how do you power such an operation? If you are on the fence about a cloud-based, virtual platform, keep in mind that a CCNG survey showed that 70 percent of call center executives with on-premise operations plan to move to a cloud-based infrastructure in short order. Moreover, of those organizations that already use cloud-based platforms, the leading reason for doing so was to achieve the benefits described: to improve the ability to scale resources up and down, followed by improving cost efficiencies.
As a final thought, your members have significant buying power when it comes to picking which club to join. So it goes without saying that a quality member-service experience can be an excellent differentiator for folks choosing and staying with your club long-term. Conversely, a poor experience could send the same people to your competitors or cause them to give up their membership entirely. Considering the improvements in service quality, flexibility and total cost provided by a centralized customer service operation powered by a virtual platform, make your resolution this year to level up to the next generation of member service by leveraging the crowd in the cloud.
Taylor Jones serves as the Senior Manager of Marketing & Business Development at Arise Virtual Solutions where he is responsible for managing digital marketing strategy and business development efforts. He has a keen interest in what companies need to create strong customer experiences and successful customer contact operations. Jones holds an MBA in Leadership from Queens University of Charlotte and a B.S. in Applied Mathematics & Spanish from the University of South Carolina Honors College.