Consumers have a choice in regards to what brands they do business with. Choosing what club to patron is no different.
The masterminds behind the Chuze Fitness brand understand this well and are striving to make it easy for a potential customer to say “yes” to joining their club over the competition.
“Everybody is trying their best to compete, and in order to do that you have to put forth a pretty compelling value proposition to the consumer, because they have so many choices now, whether it’s a boutique studio, an at-home platform or a big-box health club,” said Cory Brightwell, the CEO and co-founder of Chuze Fitness.
What goes into an offering that’s easy for a customer to say “yes” to? For Chuze Fitness, which boasts 30 clubs throughout California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, those ingredients include a positive and kind culture that fosters human connection; a valuable, competitive offering; and a brand that is easy for members and employees alike to celebrate.
The Golden Rule
For Billy Grenham, the chief marketing officer of Chuze Fitness, the brand’s kind approach to customer service was apparent prior to him even coming onboard. “Before I joined the brand, I did my secret shopping and I was just so impressed with how the team members were engaging with me, Joe Schmoe, coming off the street and were really cued in on things I was wearing or opening up a conversation,” he recalled.
In fact, Chuze Fitness considers itself a hospitality company, and its vehicle just happens to be fitness. As a result, its key pillars include respect, empathy, love and the Golden Rule: treating others as you want to be treated.
“That’s been something unique about Chuze Fitness and it’s an energy you feel when you cross the threshold going into a club,” said Grenham. “Our operators take a lot of pride in that. They’re trained to make people feel special from the second they walk in, and that’s a really powerful position to be in within the fitness category in general — that you can leave people feeling inspired and empowered in an emotional and mental state, as well as a physical state.”
This positive, uplifting energy stems from an emphasis from the Chuze Fitness leadership team on kindness and stellar customer service. That starts with hiring the right people.
According to Brightwell, when considering a potential hire, Chuze Fitness doesn’t weigh fitness experience heavily. Rather, does the person convey values that align with the company culture?
“We just need folks who come in and are ready to work hard and understand what it means to be kind to other people,” said Brightwell. “Having empathy is really what we’re looking for, and being able to connect to that human condition each and every one of us has day in and day out. When you walk into the fitness facility, how do you make it special and celebrate that for every person walking through our doors?”
Once a teammate is hired, those empathic skills are then cultivated through Chuze Fitness’ onboarding process, otherwise known as “One Culture” training. This occurs within an employee’s first 90 days and provides an overview on the why behind the company and how it strives to differentiate itself through a kindness-based approach.
Additionally, cross-training is emphasized to ensure employees have a full breadth of knowledge surrounding the brand’s amenities and operations. Similar to Karate, there are different “belt levels” employees strive to earn that denote their level of experience, knowledge and training.
According to Melissa Sowell, the chief administration officer and co-founder of Chuze Fitness, the belt levels are a great way to motivate staff to grow. In fact, many of the skills mastered can benefit an employee outside the workplace. “When you have this breadth of knowledge in these belt areas, you can do conflict resolution, you know how to clean, you know how to solve problems, how to think critically — those are basic things an employee can use for the rest of their lives, whether they stay with us or not,” she said.
Of course, it’s important for a kind and empathetic culture to surround a compelling offering.
That is why six years ago Chuze Fitness began moving toward a bix-box model boasting additional amenities beyond basic fitness access — such as pools, team training studios and cardio cinemas — all while maintaining low-membership prices starting at $9.99 per month.
According to Brightwell, adding these amenities was an operational challenge, but necessary to remain competitive. “We knew we were going to be facing a completely new set of challenges as we entered into this bigger-box, high-value, low-price fitness model, but we felt with our background and expertise in operations and hospitality we would work through it and figure it out,” he said. “I feel we’ve done a really good job of continuing to maintain the culture we created 11 years ago, while adding on more amenities to execute and operate.”
Key to this success has been Chuze Fitness’ emphasis on culture and training — in particular, leadership development — and a commitment to excellence.
“As you grow, obviously the folks who started this organization are further and further removed from the day-to-day operations,” added Brightwell. “The biggest factor is finding the right people to fill your shoes as you move on to the next initiative. We’ve always made it a huge point in the growth of our company that there’s no reason to open another club or move on to the next initiative until we have the right people in place.”
Beyond larger, big-box facilities, Chuze Fitness is also striving to create a compelling offering by creating frictionless experiences for the consumer.
Technology plays a big role in this effort. As an example, the brand is currently testing kiosks that allow members to pre-order smoothies prior to a fitness class that will be ready as soon as class ends.
According to Grenham, it’s important for clubs to begin thinking about how they can better serve consumers, each of whom have access to convenience apps and tech such as Uber or Lyft, DoorDash or GrubHub, and countless other examples.
“Technology is playing a huge role in adopting a frictionless or seamless experience when it comes to anything, whether it be ordering a taco at home through UberEats or reserving a fitness class online before you head to the club,” said Grenhman. “The frictionless experience is going to grow and grow, and we need to figure out how we can still maintain the best-in-class customer service and human touchpoint throughout, while also respecting the fact everybody has a super computer in their pockets and not everybody wants to engage with humans all the time.”
A Brand Worth Celebrating
As Chuze Fitness continues to emphasize culture and embrace a bigger-box model, it’s also striving to create a brand employees and members alike feel is worth celebrating. According to Brightwell, the leadership team isn’t OK with the status quo, but wants to stand out in the fitness category among a sea of thousands of competitors.
“Building a brand people want to be associated with has been a huge factor,” said Brightwell. “Take grocery shopping, for example. If someone shops at generic grocery stores, they’re not going to go out of their way to tell you about it. But if they shop at a Trader Joe’s or Costco or Whole Foods, they might say something — because they’re probably proud to some degree. We want to be that for the fitness industry. We want folks shouting from the rooftops and telling their family and friends they workout at Chuze Fitness.”
To achieve this goal, Chuze Fitness is cultivating a brand that takes a holistic approach to serving members not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well.
A great example is the recent self-care campaign held in September 2019, during which Chuze temporarily re-branded to “Chuze Self-Care” in an effort to bring awareness to the importance of unplugging and well-being. Throughout the month, the brand held HydroMassage Happy Hours and special mind-body classes, and even installed phone lockers that incentivized members to lock-up their phones while they exercised in an effort to disconnect.
“There is that traditional working out component where people are making physical transformations daily and that’s an amazing accomplishment, but also to put people in a better headspace than when they entered the room is a powerful opportunity,” said Grenham.
Moving forward, Chuze Fitness is also striving to be a brand that intersects with culture through music, fashion and art to better engage with its target audience. Recently, the brand has held country music concerts at its clubs in Colorado, and hosted fashion shows surrounding its retail line called the California Collection.
“We’ve had art exhibits in our clubs and we’ve had local muralists put up art that reflects the local culture, that really resonates with people from the second they walk in,” added Grenham. “That’s what I really am excited about with this brand — just the different places we can take it, beyond the fitness category, and build a brand people love.”
A Look Ahead
So far, the emphasis on an empathetic and kind culture, the move toward a bigger-box model, and unique brand building efforts have paid off in the form of substantial growth for Chuze Fitness.
In 2019, the brand opened eight new clubs and is projected to open upwards of 12 facilities in 2020, with plans to maintain that trajectory for the next five years.
All the while, the plan is to continue to make it easy for consumers to say “yes” to joining Chuze Fitness, no matter where they’re located.
“There are no compromises when joining Chuze Fitness,” said Brightwell. “You’ll always get world-class operations and a spotless facility to accomplish your fitness goals, even if you don’t have any at the moment. We like to think treating everyone with respect will never go out of style.”
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