In many respects, there are signs that our industry is progressively embracing technology. For example, we are seeing that small operators—once intimidated by social media—are using these digital communication tools in increasingly creative ways. The innovative, scrappy campaigns of single-site studios sometimes outshine what established players are doing with sizable budgets. In many ways, technology is leveling the playing field. However, the growth of technology adoption in health and fitness also has shown some downside.
Nowadays, in an effort to cater to the growing “digital native” population, we see more and more operators haphazardly bolt on hardware and/or software solutions that do not make sense given their available resources, internal systems and current business problems.
So how do you decide if your club needs that shiny new piece of technology?
Start with Your Business Problem
As a health club operator, you do not need to be an early adopter or a digital visionary to make sound investment decisions in technology. Instead of looking at the features and functionality of a product, begin by figuring out if the piece of tech in question is going to: 1) make you money, 2) save you money and/or 3) improve the experience of your customers and/or employees.
For instance, as a hypothetical, let us say you need to increase your personal training bookings. Various online scheduling software vendors offer a variety of solutions to this problem. In fact, there are a host of solutions at various price points. The features and functionality of each solution should be properly assessed (based on your unique situation) to make the best strategic decision. One way to test if the adoption of new technology may work for your club is to use the Davis’ Technology Acceptance Model. Developed in 1989, this model is now widely used to predict the acceptance of technology in a working environment.
Ask Questions about Usefulness and Ease of Use
The Technology Acceptance Model is based on two parameters: perceived usefulness (PU) and perceived ease of use (PEOU) from the perspective of the end user.
Davis defined usefulness as enhancing performance. For the problem identified above, PU would refer to evaluating your employees’ perception that the software will indeed be useful enough to increase bookings. Ease of use, on the other hand, is viewed as the perceived belief that using a system will either hinder or improve current processes. For example, is it believed (by the testers) the new software will increase the ease with which your employees, members and prospects are able to make and manage bookings?
The model has 6 questions/items that help you measure each of the two concepts (PU & PEOU). You can use the data from these questions when having to make an operational decision about the adoption of new technology at your club.
To answer the questions, you will need the ability to test and/or pilot the technology. During the test/pilot period you and your staff should answer the following questions honestly (they have been tailored for our hypothetical, but you can tailor them to your specific problem):
Business problem: Increasing bookings
Suggested technology: Software for booking
Suggested measure: Scale for perceived usefulness (PU) & scale for perceived ease of use (PEOU)
Ask the following questions for PU:
- Does the software enable people to book faster than currently possible?
- Does the software increase our productivity?
- Does the software enhance our effectiveness?
- Does the software make it easier to manage bookings?
- Does the software improve overall job performance?
- On a scale of one to 10 (10 being the highest), how do I rate the technology for being a useful tool for the job?
Ask the following questions for PEOU:
- Is it easy to learn how to use the software?
- Do I find it easy to make it do what I want?
- Are my interactions with the software clear and understandable?
- Do I find the software flexible to interact with?
- Will it be quick and easy for me to become skillful using it?
- On a scale of one to 10 (10 being the highest), how do I rate the technology for overall easy to use?
When using the scale for other business problems, replace “software” and/or “bookings” with the solution you are evaluating. This method is a great way to get the data you need from your field staff, empowering you to make an informed, strategic decision using the people that know your business best. The process also has the added benefit of instilling in your employees that their opinion matters. When your employees are enrolled as part of the evaluation process, technology adoption is generally quicker and more successful. On the other hand, you may find out that the technology is not an improvement/solution to your problem after all, saving your organization valuable time and money in the long-term.
Michael Rucker, Ph.D., is accredited by the American College of Sports Medicine. In 2016, Dr. Rucker was recognized as one of the 50 most influential people in digital health by Onalytica. He currently sits on IHRSA’s Innovation & Technology Advisory Council. Dr. Rucker is a peer-reviewed author and currently functions as the vice president of technology for Active Wellness. You call follow Dr. Rucker on Twitter at @performbetter or visit his website: michaelrucker.com.