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How to Choose the Right CMS Partner

CMS partner

Club management software (CMS) isn’t just an added commodity for a health club — it’s a necessity. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of all your club’s processes on paper, especially with the increasing “digitization” of all businesses worldwide.

The right CMS partner can make your life as a club operator so much easier, whether you need a more efficient member payment system or more accurate usage stats. Therefore, it’s imperative to make a smart choice in the CMS you partner with.

To get some tips on how to best evaluate CMS partner decisions, Club Solutions spoke with Travis Shannon, the vice president of information at Leisure Sports:

CS: When you’re in the market for a new CMS partner, what should you consider?

TS: Whether it’s a CMS or any technology, ask what components make up your business, and if you have a good snapshot of them. Determine the priorities of those different business components, as well as how you run your business and how your members see your business, before you start looking at a CMS.

You also need to look at a CMS’s industry reputation. There have been a lot of technology companies that come in and out of the fitness industry, but there are quite a few that have been around for a few years and have good reputations.

If you don’t have a back office and you really don’t want to deal with collections and billing, and you’d prefer that to be automated, you really need to make sure you’re looking at CMS providers that can do that. If you want a bit more flexibility, in that you just use certain components of the CMS, you need to make sure you’re looking at a solution that allows for that.

CS: What questions should you ask to ensure it’s the right fit?

TS: The way to start is making sure you’re structured, using what you’ve put together in your matrix of requirements. The best thing is to make sure you put together some type of document with your requirements and the questions you want to ask the CMS provider, and be structured. Make sure you’re asking the same questions to everybody, and if you come across something that’s strange, go ask the previous businesses you’ve talked to those questions as well so you can really compare apples to apples.

One of the things I like to ask about is the history of the company. How long have they been around? What’s their customer base? You should really get a sense of the viability of that organization, making sure they’ll be readily available as a real partner for you. It also helps to dig into what the game plans are for three, six and 12 months from now. Understanding where that’s going will also give you an indication if this company is aligned with the things that are important to you.

Most of the providers, if you were to give them an example of a couple of your billings, would be able to do a comparison of how that would play out with their processor or how their system might work with your processor if it’s a solution that allows you to choose who you want to process with. That way, you can kind of understand everything you’re getting into.

To ensure it’s a right fit even more, it’s always a good idea to understand what your current pain points are. What are the things driving you to look for a new CMS or look for something different? Understanding what your pain points are now will help you address them and make sure you’re asking those questions as you’re doing your due diligence.

Look at their customer base. Ensure they have a presence in their customer base that’s similar to your business model. That way, you’re not going with something that’s geared toward a large, high-end club when you’re a small boutique, or vice versa. You want to make sure you’re implementing something that has a strong presence and support — that means their customer base has a strong voice as it pertains to new development and the direction of their product line as well.

It’s always a good idea to talk to references, diving into specific customers, or even other employees at the company. Maybe it’s a support team that would be a good idea to talk to, or even a developer. How is that company put together? Does it feel like a good fit for you? Do they share some of the same values you might as an organization?

CS: How does the decision-making process differ if this is your first CMS partner, or if you’ll be making the switch from an existing one?

TS: One of the challenges in converting systems is all the legacy data, all the legacy procedures you have in place. Change in that regard is a lot of work, so when you go in and change something as critical as a CMS, you need to make sure you put forth enough effort from your own organization in that process because it’s up to you to ensure your data is good and correct as it’s converted to the new system. You have to make sure the new policies and procedures get adapted, modified and adopted to the new software. When you’re starting fresh, you have a blank slate.

The challenge is more in coming up with those things initially. You’re not necessarily weighed down by the legacy of your old software or system, whether it’s data or procedures, but it’s just coming up with the procedures in the first place. You have to ask: how do you want to run something? Do you want to do this certain thing? It can be a bit different. There are just slightly different challenges as it pertains to each direction. In either situation, you need to make sure as an organization you’re putting forth the proper resources in different areas to make sure you end up with good results and a good implementation. Don’t just rely on the CMS provider to do everything in the integration.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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