Club management software (CMS) capabilities are constantly improving especially when it comes to features relating to collecting member data, remote access and technology integration. Choosing a provider that sufficiently meets your needs without being superfluous in offerings or price can be a delicate but vital balance for the operations of your club.
For example, the CMS decision was handled carefully at Genesis Health + Fitness, Body & Soul in Ballarat, Australia. It was a challenge to determine the best fit. The leadership team eventually chose Clubware because of how it helps connect members and the 24/7 support from the company. The small tasks it handles add up to an effective software that Mel Tempest, the founder and director, is extremely happy with.
“What surprised me the most about Clubware is what I can actually do with it,” said Tempest. “With the automation features, the software can email or text new members or those who haven’t visited in a while directly.”
Clubware collects a lot of member information including the basics like age, gender and phone number, but it can also go a step further. It can send text or email alerts and automated birthday messages, show if a client typically pays with cash or credit card, determine times of high traffic in the gym, and more.
“If you train yourself properly on your CMS, you can use it to help improve retainment,” said Tempest. “A great way to do this is by giving them some extra love through the abilities of the software.”
Research is a huge part of the process of choosing a CMS but it shouldn’t stop after implementation. To truly get the most out of your program it’s key to know everything it can do. Learning more about your CMS happens in thorough onboarding, independent research and using the software to discover its capabilities. Tempest encouraged asking your provider questions as well as for a trial period to learn more about it.
“When you’re paying for a license fee, you’re paying for a product you want working for you 24/7, 365 days a year,” said Tempest. “Don’t just treat your CMS as a system that tells you when someone’s membership expires. If you learn how to use it properly, it will save you thousands of dollars. Negotiate pricing. Ask about a trial period, how and where they’ll train your team, add-ons, and similar things. Find out what your provider can do for you.”
Many vendors are constantly adding to what their product can do, so keeping track of changes is another way to maximize how you’re using your CMS. Elyse White, the customer service manager at Sparrow Michigan Athletic Club (MAC), has seen their provider, Club Automation, grow as the gym’s membership has. Starting out as a tennis court reservation system, it now offers a phone app and a self-service sign up for programs.
“These abilities are huge for members because then the staff can focus on the members in front of us instead of answering the phone for simple requests,” explained White. “Before, we were dealing with two software systems, and transitioning to one that could do both jobs streamlined so many processes.”
A lesson White has learned from being part of a software change has to do with choosing who receives initial training in the CMS. When MAC switched to Club Automation in 2018, about five employees were taught how to use the software by the company. Anyone who had questions could go to the “super users” before reaching out to customer service. Now, White is the only super user still at MAC.
“I’m the only one people can go to with questions which is challenging because there’s a lot of interruptions throughout my day,” said White. “Of course, I could pass my knowledge on to someone else, but nothing beats being trained by the company itself. It gave me such a great understanding of the software. I know how to use it. And if I don’t, I know how to figure it out.”
To avoid this, she advised including more people in the initial training. Ensuring all managers know how to use the software spreads out the responsibility of being a resource for other employees. It also streamlines operations when everyone knows the ins and outs of the CMS.
As a larger business, Crunch Fitness uses HubSpot, a software company they’ve molded to fit their needs. Unlike Clubware and Club Automation, HubSpot isn’t made for just fitness club operators. It’s a software that can handle large amounts of incoming data. As such, it’s used by many departments throughout the organization like member experience, operations and marketing.
“Every lead that comes through our doors routes to our HubSpot system where it can then be managed throughout a prospect or member’s entire lifecycle,” said Mike Neff, the executive vice president of membership services at Crunch Fitness. “Various workflows can be developed based on an action either a prospect or member has made. It gives us the ability to better understand what campaigns or touch points are working which then helps deliver better targeted messaging.”
One of the primary responsibilities of HubSpot is to serve as a bridge between the corporate office and individual location’s leadership and members. This specialized content is based on certain demographics such as age and location. For example, messaging to those in urban areas filled with working-class people will look different than what is sent to areas near college campuses.
The marketing department also creates campaigns operators can use that are designed to educate members on everything Crunch has to offer. This in turn collects more data about workout habits and interests for their member management systems. This allows Crunch to help improve user satisfaction through a member’s lifetime.
“There are many stages an individual goes through when joining a health club,” said Neff. “After they join, how do we continue to communicate with that individual? You need to think about how you stay engaged with that customer throughout their lifetime with your organization.”
To get the most out of your CMS, it’s imperative to have one that caters to your business’ individual needs. A boutique fitness studio will have different needs than a club with multiple locations or an organization with gyms across the country. Because CMS plays a vital role for any establishment, the decision of which to use, or even to switch if you’re no longer satisfied, holds a lot of weight in the success of your club.