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Most health club owners and managers work “in” their clubs, but not “on” their clubs. Their daily responsibilities resemble that of a fireman more than that of a health club executive. For example, their days are spent putting out fires, cooling off heated issues and dowsing smoldering problems. They get so caught up in the day-to-day minor details of running a club that all they can focus on are the symptoms, and not the root of the problems. This type of management is called “reactive management.” It’s hectic, stressful and inefficient, but worst of all, it can become routine.
By definition, a reactive business responds to an unanticipated event after it occurs, while a proactive business puts strategies in place designed to anticipate these possible challenges. Even though they both face similar hurdles and issues, the proactive business tries to take care of them ahead of time in an effort to manage their business more effectively and efficiently.
Reactive versus proactive management can come into play in many different areas of the club, none more important than client relations. Even though you can’t anticipate every situation, your club can emphasize proactive strategies by better utilizing you club management software. Here are some creative ways to use your software to be more proactive and take control:
Member Retention: Communication is the key to retention, and your club should have both a new member marketing plan as well as an expiring member contact strategy. With new members, your software should help you set up a series of e-mails and phone calls to ensure that your new client knows everything about the club and is getting the most out of their new membership. Their first impression should be that you care about their fitness and want them to get acclimated to the club and comfortable with their lifestyle choice.
You should also have a plan in place for contacting your paid-in-full members prior to their expiration date. Sending them a simple message thanking them for their patronage and detailing their future options will go a long way. You would be surprised how many clubs just let their members leave without even contacting them.
Low Usage: By using your software to detail your members who are not using the club regularly, you can identify the ones who are most likely to drop their membership. You should contact them in an effort to re-integrate them into the club. Yes, most clubs are scared of the dreaded, “Oh yeah, I am not using the club so I am going to cancel. Thanks for reminding me” call. But if you get creative and send your low-usage members a free coupon for training, you will not only give them a push to get back into the club, but you can possibly sell them on a training package.
Billing: Would you rather find out that 10 percent of your credit card EFTs were returned because some big retailer got hacked, or would you like to preauthorize your billing file to automatically update those credit cards? Clubs who use their software to send their Visa and Mastercard EFTs to get updated prior to billing can see their credit card returns lowered by up to 40 percent. This not only makes them more money, but lessens the time and effort needed to follow up with the returns.
Training Session Reminder: Why wait for your members to purchase another package when you can contact them and remind them they only have a couple sessions left. Even smarter, you can sell them on a better package that saves them money if they commit to more sessions. Instead of selling them six at a time and hoping they sign up again after the last training session, you can set them up to get six sessions a month and have their payment auto drafted at the beginning of every month.
Since no club can be proactive all the time, it helps to include proactive elements in any reactive strategy. In other words, your best defense is offense. Take each reactive situation on its own merit, and when you find yourself spending too much time reacting to the symptoms, then you know it is time to take a step back and refocus on what you are doing and how you are doing it.
Eric Claman owned two clubs in Torrington, Connecticut: Pinewoods Health and Racquet Club for 23 years and Energy Fitness for four years, before selling both and accepting a consulting job at Twin Oaks Software Development in 2011. He can be reached at 866.278.6750 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.healthclubsoftware.com.