In order for a relationship to succeed it must be nurtured. Resources should be poured into the bond to ensure it flourishes, hopefully preventing it from crumbling over time.
At Wellbridge, a health club company based out of Denver, Colorado, no relationship is more important than that between the business and its customers.
“Members come to Wellbridge for the reputation and the tradition the name carries in the community,” said JoAnna Masloski, the COO of Wellbridge. “This status was built through a variety of activities, quality programming, first-rate amenities and because the members and associates share a passion for an active lifestyle.”
Wellbridge’s relationship with its members is rooted in three standards of service: results, hospitality and community. Although Wellbridge has 21 clubs spanning nine different brands, these standards are held at each individual location, whether it’s Colorado Athletic Club or New Mexico Sports & Wellness.
Those standards make up what Masloski called “The Wellbridge Experience.”
One important component of “The Wellbridge Experience” is results. And, that starts with member onboarding.
“With onboarding, everything we’re trying to achieve is helping them adhere to a program and meet their goals,” said Amy Thompson, the national director of personal training for Wellbridge. “So when we talk about results, naturally that’s different for every single person, and we feel it’s our job to truly understand what the person is there for, whether it is a performance goal, a weight loss goal, a corrective issue, health reasons or simply lifestyle.”
To truly understand what a member is searching for, each new member is enrolled in an initial coaching session with a personal trainer. The intent is to engage them in their goals, no matter what area of health and fitness they’re interested in.
“If they go to that coaching session and say, ‘I’m interested in tennis, or I’m interested in group fitness,’ our trainers are capable and invested in getting them engaged [in that activity],” explained Masloski.
As a part of onboarding, building a close relationship with the member is also key. Wellbridge’s staff go above and beyond to ensure members reach the results they desire.
For example, as a part of the Well Start Program, which receives referrals from medical professionals, staff will meet new clients at their cars, and walk them directly into the building to ensure they feel comfortable. An employee also calls before the member’s workout to remind them what to wear and answer any questions they have. Finally, a call is made after their session to check in on how it went.
“Everything starts with getting to know our members better to connect and engage, because that’s when you can truly help them to reach their result,” said Thompson.
In addition, Thompson added that to truly help members earn results, you in turn have to earn their trust. “It’s a very personal business,” she said. “People share a great deal with us, whereas other businesses they may not. So to be able to impact someone’s life, it all starts with trust. For any fitness professional, that’s the basis of everything we do — trust.”
A second important component of “The Wellbridge Experience” is hospitality. The company works closely with front desk teammates to ensure they make a positive first and lasting impression with members. “We want that person walking into our clubs feeling this is truly home away from home,” said Tom LaCasse, the Wellbridge experience and training manager.
To accomplish this, Wellbridge utilizes one-on-one coaching and role playing with staff. However, the goal of the training isn’t to force employees to give canned responses to members. Instead, Wellbridge wants each employee to provide a response that is tailored to the member, personally.
“For example, if we have a member who is walking in the door and they’re carrying a yoga mat, our front desk teammates might say, ‘Good morning, great to see you in the club. Your yoga instructor Lori just walked in, and she’s absolutely fabulous. Have a great class,’” explained LaCasse. “We make each interaction unique to that particular individual. And we want to make sure they feel that way every single visit.”
To an extent, hospitality at Wellbridge can look different from club to club. But ultimately, the feeling that members are provided is the same. “We still have the expectation staff treat every member equally, with a great greeting, making sure they know where they’re going and feel like they’re really wanted in the program,” said LaCasse. “We have expectations we teach to, but then we also teach our clubs to make it unique to that particular club as well.”
These standards don’t just rest on the shoulders of front desk teammates. According to Masloski, it begins from the top, down. “All employees have to engage in it,” she said. “I need to practice those things. I need to smile at every person. I need to talk to them by name. I need to shake their hand. I need to look them in the eyes. I need to do what I expect. Each of us, on the executive team, all the way down, and then all the way back up.”
The final component of “The Wellbridge Experience” is community, which like the other standards, is rooted in its employees.
“I’m obsessed with the concept that the employees will treat the members in direct proportion to how you treat the employees,” said Steve Datte, the regional director of Colorado Athletic Clubs. “So, I really try to start most of my culture building with the staff, versus dictating doctrine on how the members should be treated.”
Datte explained that just like staff are expected to create great communities for members, he too strives to create a great community for employees to work within. One of his favorite things to do is plan a meeting with managers with an itinerary outlining a full day of discussion topics. Then, when the managers show up, he instead takes them to a movie.
“Create experiences for [employees] that they’re wowed by,” said Datte. “And then at the end, discuss how and why they felt good or what it did, and send them back to try and create those same experiences at their clubs.”
Wellbridge staff are also empowered to run their locations like it is their business — giving them the autonomy to make decisions based on the community’s needs and requests. “When my general managers have an idea, 90 percent of the time I will tell them to go for it, unless it’s a train wreck from the beginning,” said Datte. “We discuss various ways of doing things and then let them decide how they are going to run it.”
Once community among staff has been established, Wellbridge also strives to build community among members. Staff make a point to introduce members to other like-minded individuals, and host competitions and events to foster friendships.
In addition, Wellbridge staff are encouraged to get out and about in their local communities to make a difference. If employees want to take time to volunteer, they can do so without having to take formal time off. “We always try to find ways to be involved in what’s going on,” said Datte.
At the end of the day, “The Wellbridge Experience” is about more than just fitness. It is a lifestyle, a way of life Wellbridge’s staff and members live out day after day.
“People want equipment and trainers and things like that because they think that’s what’s going to get them results, but we all know that that’s temporary,” said Masloski. “They really have to engage in it as a lifestyle in order for it to be a permanent fixture in their health and their wellness.”
And, this lifestyle is fostered across all brands within Wellbridge’s portfolio, something that wouldn’t be possible without the empowerment of each and every employee.
“That’s a big part of the Wellbridge business, is empowering our teammates to be able to make decisions on behalf of the member,” said Masloski. “So giving them autonomy in doing that — not having so many policies and procedures. It’s actually being able to listen to the customer first, and then respond to what the customer is actually saying.”
This flexibility, in addition to buy-in to the overarching mission of Wellbridge, has allowed the company to create a bond with staff and members that is hard to break.