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Health clubs and leisure centres have done a great job of attracting new members. The harder job will be keeping them.
Recent research by Leisure DB found that a record 10 million Britons – one in every seven of us – were registered as belonging to fitness centres and gyms last year. And in the wider leisure sector, UK consumers are expected to spend £129 billion this year, according to Mintel research.
But with the number of gym and leisure centre openings rising at a faster pace than new membership signings, competition to retain recently active subscribers will be fierce.
A compelling customer experience strategy will be key to winning the loyalty of new signees and gaining new customers. That effort must begin at the front door: first impressions last and a smooth and welcoming experience at a leisure centre’s lobby or reception hall will set the tone not only for that customer’s visit but most likely for the life of that membership.
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It’s vital, then, that reception and access for customers is stress-free and simple. To achieve that, an increasing number of centres are applying technology to the issue, and with positive results, in the form of personal concierge software.
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Automation systems like these can handily package access, registration, bookings, payments and other services into one digital platform. They can also gather customer data that can be used in the formulation of new sales campaigns and upselling programmes or to give insights to other revenue-earning enterprises. Crucially, they can bring long-term capital savings by reducing the amount of manpower necessary to provide customer services.
From a business perspective, it makes sense for that initial experience to be an uncluttered one; delays and congestion at the gates risk upsetting not only existing customers but also prospective members or first-time visitors. It is also potentially costly, tying up critical manpower in unnecessary firefighting tasks.
The goal of concierge software is to get customers from the door to their workout station, the pool or any other activity as quickly as possible. Self-service access equipment can play a core role in that.
Self-service improves the speed of access
From facial-recognition video entry systems or radio frequency identification chips embedded in membership cards, wristbands or keyfobs, allowing customers to access premises without the need for stopping to check in at a manned desk can greatly increase traffic flows.
Similarly, RFID-accessed information panels can enable subscribers to register, gain entry and even make purchases for their workouts without having to stop at a receptionist’s desk or sales point. Panel units typically require less space than a manned desk, and therefore more can be deployed in the same lobby area, facilitating the processing of more customers.
Alternatively, the reception experience could offer a personal touch through the use of roaming staff who can connect to the software via tablets or smartphones. Again, this liberates desk space, and frees reception staff to address customers on foot and be more responsive and flexible to a wider range of their requirements.
Implementation of a cashless payments system would further accelerate the journey from entry to workout by providing customers with easy settlement options from their personal devices, bank cards or even through their RFID-enabled membership passes. This enhanced convenience would also reduce the security risk of holding cash on the premises.
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Importantly, payment systems can feed into customer relationship management platforms, providing data that identify customer preferences and help tailor incentivised sales plans. Similarly, it would provide a powerful tool for prospecting for new ways to monetise services and potentially increase membership conversion rates.
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This sort of convenience doesn’t come without some cost. As well as the initial layout for the software and associated equipment, such as self-help information panels and video-entry platforms, there’s the need to monitor and maintain the system to ensure its smooth operation and to upgrade it according to changing business priorities.
While a combination of a concierge approach with tablet enabled software and attendant manpower can be struck to limit initial disruption to staffing roles, any displacements would need careful management. In our experience Operators are not displacing staff, but are eager to free them from the constraints of the reception desk, to engage with their customers throughout the centre, improving customer experience and increasing revenue and sales through prospecting new members and in centre class sign ups.
As growth continues in the leisure industry and competition intensifies, innovation will be central to providing streamlined customer experiences that health centres will need to attract and retain members. Today’s consumers are increasingly looking for fulfilling outcomes from their services and less so the bells and whistles of gimmicky bolt-on packages. Concierge software provides the means to begin providing that trouble-free experience the moment your customers set foot in the lobby.
If you’re interested in finding out how personal concierge software could improve your customer experience, get in touch and one of our team members will contact you to help.