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Unstaffed Hours: Is it Right for You?

unstaffed hours

Adding unstaffed hours could allow you to offer 24-hour access as well as open up a whole new avenue for generating revenue.

Making the change to unstaffed club hours can be daunting but well worth the investment and effort.  With proper planning, you can provide members with more time to workout, capture a whole new member market and increase revenue.

Before taking the plunge there are certain aspects to think about spanning the physical plant and operations.

Physical Plant

Access Control. I highly suggest talking to your club management software (CMS) provider. Find out if they integrate with door control systems that include cameras and tailgating. Members should be able to check in from the outside using a smartphone or key tag. Be sure you can disallow entry to members with balances owed or those who have canceled or expired memberships. 

Secure Offices and Other Spaces. Stand at the door of your club and look at the various areas you have. Think about what you wouldn’t want members to have access to. You will need a way to secure those areas and enforce theft prevention. 

Medical Equipment and Emergency Phones. Are you required to have an AED? Are there other considerations for emergency situations when there is no staff present? Do you need a panic button? These tie into liability. Contact your landlord, legal counsel and insurance company to see what you need to do for any coverage to protect the business and your members. 

Signage. Members may never actually interact with a staff member depending on when they use the club. Be sure to have information for members to feel informed on. This includes rules and ways to contact a representative of the club staff.

Facilities/Utilities. Some clubs will dedicate an area of the club they can section off, and designate it as unstaffed access. In those areas, consider you might be paying a bit more for utilities and services because they will be on more than usual if you are extending hours. This extends to outside lights, maintenance and cleaning. 

Operational Considerations

Market and Promote the Feature. Inform existing members and start mentioning the new access in all marketing and advertising. Make sure staff know how to promote it and answer any questions. For many members, working out in a gym without staff present is intriguing and convenient, but could pose concerns. Staff should be prepared for those members.

Promote Upgrades. Many clubs use 24-hour access as a way to entice members to upgrade. This allows for more revenue per member. Check with your CMS to see if they offer an app to allow members to easily upgrade. A good way to get members interested is to allow everyone access for a period of time and then lock it down to only the memberships paying the additional fee.

How to Access the Club. Since the door will be locked during unstaffed hours be sure to inform your members on how access works. Having a digital key tag is convenient.  Make sure members know they will be denied access when they owe a balance, need to renew or have canceled. They should be able to do this on an app or online. In addition, if they experience issues they will need a way to contact club staff.

Changes to Membership Agreements for Liability. Make sure all agreements and forms are updated with any liability or hold harmless clauses that pertain to unstaffed hours. 

Have a Plan for Member Interaction/Retention. Because a member could join online or in-app and use the club only during unstaffed hours, make sure you have a way of communicating with them. At minimum, a welcome text or email should be sent to them. This can be automated by many CMS systems. From that point forward, use your club app, email or text to keep the members informed. Make sure your members are happy just like you would if you saw them every day.

Being more competitive in the market, retaining members and generating more revenue are the focus of all clubs. Adding the unstaffed hours could allow you to offer 24-hour access and open up a whole new avenue for generating revenue. 

Susanne Nauseda

Susanne Nauseda has an exercise science degree she put to use in the industry for 10 years prior to joining Twin Oaks Software, where she has worked for the last 17 years. Contact her at 860.829.6000 x 269 or snauseda@tosd.com.

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