Why BFit by Bob’s prioritizes the employee experience, and how this creates a great culture and member environment as a result.
Most gyms strive to provide a great customer experience. However, many go about this from a single viewpoint — focusing on elements of the customer experience that emphasize the member alone, such as removing friction at check-in or ensuring a clean facility.
These elements are of course important. But according to BFit by Bob’s — a local chain of four gyms based in Evansville, Indiana — the member should not be just at the center point of the customer experience. The employee should be considered as well.
“We believe everything starts with the employee,” said Wayne Ellis, a partner and the CEO of BFit. “If you want an exceptional member experience, that only happens through a group of people working together to make it happen. The one thing we hear very often is that we are a family. And it’s through truly caring about each other that leads to an environment where we all truly care about the members and their experience at the gym each day.”
So, how does BFit go about creating a culture where employees feel like family, and therefore, trickle that attitude down to the membership?
It starts with language.
According to Trey McClain, the chief revenue officer of BFit, employees are intentionally referred to as team members or teammates, which may seem like a small thing but has a big impact.
“It’s a very subconscious thing that is communicating you’re not working in this hierarchical structure — rather, we’re all on the same team together, working together to reach a common goal,” said McClain. “Eventually what happens is staff move from viewing themselves as teammates to family members. Because as long as you realize you’re on the same team, you’re not going to work, but you’re going to practice or you’re going to the game. It makes that shared purpose clearer.”
In fact, BFit takes its commitment to its teammates seriously by proactively asking employees for feedback — via MXM’s employee experience survey — on how to make the culture, organization and team as a whole better.
“The very first time we did it, we had a huge return — pages and pages of comments,” said Jenny Chumbler, the president of BFit. “Then Wayne actually put together a summary of what we heard — the positives and the negatives — and we were completely vulnerable in that manner. We put it out there for the entire company to see so people could understand we weren’t just asking them to do this as something to do. We were asking them because it mattered to us. Once we put it out there, we identified to the company the things that were weaknesses we planned to work on, that the employees had helped us identify.”
For example, one of the most common comments in that first survey regarded the brand’s communication. Employees felt they were out of the loop regarding decision making and events from location to location.
The solution? Effectively making employee emails redundant by moving all internal communication to Basecamp, a project management and team communication platform.
According to Ellis, this offered three solutions — the first of which was providing one central location for information sharing.
“Through Basecamp, we’re getting information out to everyone — whether it’s the newest ads coming out or any other decisions that have been made,” said Ellis. “This way, teammates are always involved in what we’re doing as a company. They know before the public knows and aren’t reading a Facebook ad the next day finding out what we have going on. They’re finding out about it first.”
Basecamp is also a source of fun and a place to build camaraderie among team members.
“We just have a good time with it,” said Ellis. “Everybody’s posting pictures, something goofy on there, and laughing about it — and it makes it fun coming to work.”
Lastly, Basecamp serves as a place to provide recognition for a job well done. Leaders will recognize employees for going above and beyond or getting great feedback from members, for example.
“Basecamp has really taken us to a whole other level,” said Ellis. “As a result, I take 20 to 30 minutes with most full-time employees during their onboarding just to show them how to use Basecamp, and I talk about how important it is so they all have buy-in.”
Since the first employee experience survey, BFit has done it two more times — and communication is no longer a commonly reported issue.
However, the key to success in this regard is the business didn’t just ask for feedback. They acted on the insights provided — and that builds trust, said Chumbler.
“Anytime you’re vulnerable, it builds trust and confidence you’re open to feedback and will take corrective action to fix issues,” said Chumbler. “It shows you care.”
Although great customer experience at BFit starts with the employee, the organization recognizes the importance of the member’s perspective, as well.
As a result, the brand also utilizes MXM’s member feedback surveys to keep a pulse on how the club is doing regarding staff friendliness, cleanliness and more.
“When I wake up in the morning, that’s the first thing I look at,” said Ellis. “My iPad is sitting by me on my dresser, and I reach over and grab it so I can see what the members said yesterday. Each manager or assistant manager at each location goes through it as well, and addresses comments directly. Again, it’s letting them know we care.”
In 2021, BFit was named a “Five 9s Award” winner by MXM across three of its four locations, meaning they averaged a score of nine or higher in five member feedback categories.
“These guys are great practitioners,” said Blair McHaney, the president and CEO of MXM. “They went from having no member feedback or limited member feedback with another product, to really understanding the driving metrics of their business. They started to focus on overall staff friendliness and gym cleanliness along with fitness results, and they’re consistently well over nine points across a variety of metrics. They put the feedback into practice.”
In fact, managers and assistant managers receive bonuses based on Net Promoter Scores. “If we aren’t at 9.2 for cleanliness and greetings, then they don’t get their bonus that month,” said McClain.
Just like the employee experience, the key to BFit’s positive member feedback is that the organization truly cares.
This is showcased in a variety of ways, but a great example is in the leadership’s emphasis on getting to know the members by name.
“That’s part of our onboarding process — teaching the staff the importance of knowing everyone’s name,” said McClain. “Author Brene Brown talks about how everybody wants to belong, be known and be loved. So when Mark comes in, and I ask him how his kids are doing, that communicates to Mark we value him. This is important for kids, too. We teach teammates that calling the kids in the nursery by name is the most important thing they can do — because if they drop off their little girl and you call her by name, mom can now go workout in peace because she knows her daughter’s being cared for. We try to really make that a priority.”
In fact, hiring people who are inherently friendly for the front desk and other front-facing positions is another key focus for BFit.
And they’re willing to course correct if a bad decision has been made.
“We’re not afraid to move the people off who don’t set a good tone for our members,” explained Chumbler. “It’s very important for us to keep that morale high for both members and teammates. So if we notice within three to six months they’re just pulling everyone down, we’re probably going to have that tough conversation with them. We have a high standard and we stick to it.”
By understanding the importance of the employee and member experience — and how these relate to one other — BFit shared the framework through which it filters all decisions.
This involves asking three questions: How does this impact the member experience? How does this impact team members? And how does this impact the company?
Looking toward the future, the organization is using this framework to workshop two key areas it feels are important in operating clubs of the future. This is accessibility and connection.
“The increased digital offerings, wearables, etc. are intended to help people be active and fit wherever they are, and at BFit we are addressing these trends in some very specific ways,” said McClain.
For example, in May 2022 BFit launched a new app powered by ABC Fitness Solutions that connects with members’ wearables — allowing them to communicate with others in groups or challenges and chat with their trainers.
In addition, they are also rolling out Echelon-connected cardio equipment members will be able to train on and link up with a global community through, in addition to boasting other virtual options.
“We’re constantly trying to find how we can engage our members where they’re at,” explained McClain. “The new app, for example, allows us to give people workouts they can do even when they can’t be in the gym. They can stay connected with their trainers, they can do virtual coaching right through the app — all in their BFit world. People are more fluid than they’ve ever been, so finding ways to connect with people where they are on their fitness journey is key. We want to be that resource where they can go to BFit and we’ll help them get to wherever they want to be, wherever they are.”
And as a bonus, the new mobile app also makes it easier for members to manage their accounts, furthering a positive member experience.
“One of the friction points historically has been members being able to see their accounts and manage the information on their accounts,” explained Chumbler. “So through this app process we’ve been able to hopefully diminish that friction point with our members as well.”
All of these best practices will culminate in an exciting project for BFit: A new, 40,000-square-foot flagship location scheduled to open in Q4 of 2022.
This location will feature expansive cardio and strength training offerings, a large turf area for functional fitness, on-demand virtual cardio via Echelon equipment, a recovery room with a massage studio, nutritional coaching, and more.
“We are excited to have a facility that will allow us to meet members wherever they are in their fitness journey and walk alongside them,” said Ellis.
In addition, BFit will soon add a third membership tier to provide customers with additional options and an added revenue stream across all its locations.
This third tier — called Prime X — will provide members with access to an exclusive room called Ignite featuring a workout circuit, Inbody body composition analysis scanners, Echelon bikes and rowers, and an Echelon Reflect Touch Smart Fitness Mirror, plus recovery offerings such as Therabody percussive therapy.
“Gyms took a huge hit from COVID-19, so the question is how do you drive more revenue with the space you have?” said Ellis. “We’re listening to our members, understanding what they want and how we can answer that need — and the Prime X membership is one solution.”
Whether it’s focusing on the employee or member experience, or designing the club of the future, one thing is clear: BFit is not afraid to innovate and pivot in service of the family atmosphere it has created.
“Our company isn’t afraid of continuous improvement,” said Chumbler. “We’re not afraid to put action steps in play. We understand change is uncomfortable for people and we have to maybe assist some to transition through change a little bit, but we’re not afraid to change a process or a procedure or a strategy — as long as that change aligns with the three questions of, “How does it impact our teammates, the members and the company?’”