Faulty electronic fund transfer (EFT) — the four words no club owner wants to hear. Unfortunately, they happen and health club industry surveys say to expect 4-7 percent returns on all EFT billing accounts. Why the variance? Demographics of course, such as average income of clientele, ease of access, distance to/from the gym and satisfaction level.
Set yourself up for success by having key personnel hold a variety of college degrees and a diverse team that works to guarantee fresh, new and exciting workout experiences for your members. Create a positive culture and atmosphere that will be a major contributor to your success.
State-of-the-art facilities bring in new members and as the volume increases, so do the EFT returns. Initially, follow-up may take only a few hours. During this time, returns are manageable — meaning less than 30-40 per month. Beyond that, efforts to pursue uncollected revenue will require more and more time, impact the bottom line and affect human resources and future revenue. Look for a solution through a club management software provider.
Implementing an organized and structured sequence of follow-up procedures is key. Members that are delinquent should receive an initial letter sent out to them within 24-48 hours notifying them that their dues are uncollected. The letter should be clear, understandable and explain to the member that they have not met their contractual obligation. Show the member the amount due along with an applicable service charge assessed (typically $20, but that can vary). The service charge should be inline with the dues amounts charged and bank fees in the area and state. Also, it needs to be stated in the club membership agreement and posted on the entrance door and at the front desk.
Additional letters go out at further intervals, if the account remains unpaid and one or two phone calls per week are made. The key is that these procedures are done without fail each and every month. Integration with the billing system is critical. Members need an easy way to respond — by phone, mail, web, or of course, in person. A strong system allows club personnel to see a return file showing who the non-payers are, and immediately flag their check-in and accounts receivable record. If the member does try to use the club, they can be stopped at the front desk and gently told they need to clear up their account. By using the response methods it allows members to easily provide new billing information.
Executing these actions allows a club to recover more lost revenue and get members back on billing for future months. Providers usually keep the service fee that’s billed to the member and the club gets 100 percent of its dues. This is appropriate as it covers the costs to pursue the revenue — paper, postage and admin fees. If the account is never collected on, the club pays nothing. This keeps the pressure on the provider to do its job and recover revenue.
The results allow club staff to have greater focus on doing all the right things to continue growing the business, spend more time with members and less with computers. Talk to your club management provider and explore the options available for returns management.
Carole Oat is a national sales manager at Twin Oaks Software and a former club owner and operator for 15 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.829.6000 x 281.