The Who, What and Why of CMS
Who says discussing club management software (CMS) has to be a drag? With new developments in technology allowing gyms to manage contracts, payments, scheduling and communication with members, CMS is now more exciting than ever.
Overall, a good CMS provider can assist a club in improving productivity and driving revenue through processes such as self-service websites, mobile interfaces, email reminders and most importantly, advancing the member experience.
“The single most interesting thing about CMS is its ability to do most of the heavy lifting so that you can connect with members on a more intimate level,” said Adam Zeitsiff, the president of Jonas Fitness Inc. “A CMS tool should engage members and get them more involved with the health club at their convenience and help retain your members for years to come.”
At Columbia Athletic Clubs in Sammamish, Washington, members have access to an online portal where they can view their account activity, get statements, track purchases, look at a trainer’s schedule and even book a class or training session at any of the company’s four locations. These are available through Columbia Athletic Clubs’ CMS, provided by Jonas Fitness.
“The whole member experience goes through this software,” said Mike Curti, the accounting manager at Columbia Athletic Clubs. “It takes a lot of steps out of the way [when] we used to work with paper and pencil. It is automating those tasks and making it easier on everyone. And it will only get better as everyone invests more and more into it.”
With new advancements in software technology, it is easier for gym owners, operators and managers to engage with members and make sure everything in the club runs smoothly.
Last year, ASF Payment Solutions entered into a partnership with Textmunication, a mobile marketing specialist. Both companies wanted to discover opportunities to better help health club owners communicate with their members and prospects. These days, everyone is on the go, so the quickest way to reach out is through mobile activity.
“After a lengthy meeting we developed an integration in several areas that we felt would benefit our clients in their attempt to create impressions with their members and prospects using SMS (Short Message Service),” said Stephen Wilson, the marketing manager at ASF Payment Solutions.
Now, instead of sending out emails, gyms have the ability to send an SMS as a text message directly to a member’s phone. Other SMS capabilities include lead generation, automated billing alerts, new member welcome alerts, birthday alerts and attendance or non-attendance alerts.
SMS has generated a lot of excitement among club owners, and Wilson believes this enthusiasm is due to the continued development of new ways to communicate with members. “Whether it is communication with their trainers and members about personal training appointments, lead generation or member retention, SMS can be used as another contact tool for promoting personal interaction between the club and its members,” he said.
While SMS serves as a great tool for sending essential information, updates and providing access to member data, Wilson stressed it is crucial to ensure mobile communication never replaces personal interaction. “We tend to get lazy with software, but nothing replaces face-to-face contact,” explained Wilson. “The constant reminder is that SMS is creating only one type of impression with the member and is not a replacement for personal interaction.”
As club owners it is imperative to determine which messages should be automated and which ones should be presented personally. “We are tying to encourage people to use tools such as management software and SMS, but maintain face-to-face interactions as well,” continued Wilson. “Generally software tools by themselves are less effective and you need that one-on-one contact.”
Jonas Fitness Inc. also recently began experimenting with mobile and tablet platforms. It released a new tablet-optimized version of its flagship product, Compete, in order to provide on-the-go access to essential information.
“The tablet-optimized version brings executive reporting and analysis to the palm of your hand,” said Zeitsiff. “We also have some exciting new features being released into our products that we’ll be announcing very soon. These features include text message alerts, integrations with more third-party providers and some pretty awesome software enhancements.”
Mobile communication is certainly the way of the future. According to Carole Oat, the national sales manager at Twin Oaks, many clients use mobile as their primary method of signing up new members, via the club’s website that integrates with Twin Oaks Software.
Why Should You Choose One Provider Over Another?
Deciding on the perfect CMS provider for your club can be a challenge. As Curti explained, depending on the size of your facility, there might not be a plethora of options. “There are not that many companies for intermediate size clubs like ours,” he explained. “If you are really big like 24 Hour Fitness or LA Fitness, you make your own software. Then for the gyms that are really small, who only have one club, there are a ton of options. But when you have a few clubs like us, there are only three or four main players.”
There are a few factors to consider when weighing your options. Does the provider have the capabilities needed for your club? For example, if you have multiple clubs like Curti, making sure the software can integrate information from all locations is essential.
Additionally, does the software company have necessary expertise and resources? Ensure your provider of choice has experience in the industry, as well as sufficient financial resources to devote to product development.
Watch out for additional or hidden fees. “Do not pay additional fees for wire transfers or same day or next day deposits. That should be included,” said Oat. “Likewise, encryption fees and prepaid storage fees should also be included, as all PCI compliant providers (which is anyone who processes billing) have to incur this cost as part of doing business.”
Finally, does it protect users’ data? With various new regulations regarding Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance, it is crucial to guarantee your CMS provider has taken the necessary steps to safeguard user data.
While thinking about CMS may sometimes be a drag, it is also essential for growing your business. “An effective club management software solution can change the face of a club’s business and help increase profits,” said Zeitsiff. “If improving their bottom line doesn’t get a club owner excited, I don’t know what else will.”