Two experts share how to ensure your CMS technology can keep up with your club’s needs long after COVID-19.
Club management software (CMS) has been a lifeline for many club operators over the years. But after enduring a pandemic, gym members’ expectations and priorities have changed. How can we ensure CMS technology is keeping up with these needs?
“As we continue down the recovery phase of the pandemic, the focus of the fitness industry will shift more and more toward growth,” said Karl Koutroupas, the vice president of strategy and customer insights for Exerp. “Operators will aim to both improve the performance of their existing clubs and gain market share — acquiring other clubs, opening new clubs, expanding internationally, franchising, etc. Most CMS vendors today don’t support international expansion, complex operating models, centralized governance and control of a chain of clubs, or advanced customer relationship management capabilities to enable operators to achieve the growth they desire.”
In addition to growth capabilities, Mike Alpert, the COO of Smart Health Clubs, said the CMS industry is heading toward providing an integrated and consistent member experience. “In the past, club management systems were primarily involved in the backend operations — mainly member management and billing,” he said. “Now they are evolving it seems to the front-end member experience functionality as well.”
In order to contribute to a better overall member experience, Alpert said CMS technologies should have the capability for members to book classes and services online or through the gym app.
“Members don’t want to have to wait,” said Alpert. “So, whether it’s the ability to be able to book a spot in a class or the ability to be on a waitlist and be notified via push notification when a spot opens — members want to know when they come in, they don’t have to wait. As we come out of COVID-19, that will continue to be really important. And club operators need to be able to provide the simple mobile user experience that most members are used to from other services they consume, like ecommerce and on-demand apps.”
Koutroupas agreed empowering members with self-service is a must-have.
“Members expect the ability to do everything such as joining your club, upgrading their membership, buying and booking personal training sessions, reserving a specific bike in a cycle class, going on/off freeze, and much more from their own device,” said Koutroupas. “Not only does self-service provide more frictionless member experiences, but it also removes administrative workload from gym staff so they can focus on higher-value initiatives like engaging members most at risk of terminating their membership.”
Overall, Koutroupas said it’s important for a club’s CMS technology to enable the flexibility and agility to meet its unique needs, adapt to the ever-changing fitness industry, and to properly address business opportunities and threats. He said this is especially true for large operators where manual workarounds and poorly integrated solutions don’t scale well across their chain of clubs.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the true importance of being adaptable and how the industry is ever changing. While cases may be dropping and restrictions may be lessening, Alpert said what worked for your company before March 2020 will no longer be sufficient. “Club operators who think this is over and it’s going to be business as it was yesterday are in for a rude awakening,” he said. “You really can’t depend on what worked before. You have to look forward.”
Looking to the future, Smart Health Clubs is hoping to expand its technology roadmap to encompass the demand for more fitness and wellness services.
“Members want to get a comprehensive picture of their fitness and wellness,” explained Alpert. “I think it goes well beyond the simple club calendar and four walls of a club. I think the future club management system has to be able to give clubs the ability to provide more virtual options such as on-demand, livestreaming, nutrition counseling and fitness training solutions.”
Additionally for the future, Alpert said CMS should also be able to provide a robust integration with third-party insurance. He is positive the gap is going to be bridged between healthcare and fitness, and the experts in both are going to come together to start promoting exercise as medicine.
Alpert said in the last 50 years, the cost of healthcare in the U.S. alone has gone up 820%. During that same period of time, the entire GDP has gone up 168% and wages have only gone up a paltry 16%. He said it’s a system that’s not sustainable and the public isn’t going to accept it anymore.
“With the profound announcement that United Healthcare made back in June with Peloton — and others are following — insurance companies are going to be willing and anxious to start paying for a lot of the wellness services if the clubs can show outcomes,” said Alpert.
Overall, with the ever-changing industry plus the new importance of health and fitness and the shift of member expectations, your facility needs a CMS technology that can serve your needs. Doing your own research to ensure your current CMS provider can keep up is a great way to ensure your business will continue to grow long after the COVID-19 recovery stage.