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(Editors' Note: This article is part of Club Industry's report, "Technology's Role in the Future of the Fitness Industry," which can be downloaded for free by going here.)
All owners and managers should periodically take a minute and validate good procedures are in place and up to date in regards to their club management software (CMS) and billing functionality. Talk to your existing CMS provider and review what is available, how and for what cost. In today’s economy and electronic world, it’s important to have options. For club management, that means having a choice between either web-based software or, if need be, a secure desktop server option with online capabilities.
Here’s a checklist to review in club technology:
- Website management and online joining. This functionality increases operational efficiencies and allows potential new members to sign up online. The software should be safe, secure and able to be website integrated, custom-branded with your club’s logo and unique enough to seamlessly mirror your site. This alone will increase the number of new members by 10 to 15 percent per month without extra investment of staff.
- Returns management. Returns management streamlines the process of collecting delinquent dues. This service should be provided at no charge, collect more than 60 percent of the declines and allow the staff to focus on taking care of members and their duties. In many cases the billing company can collect potential lost revenue. Members should be able to pay delinquent dues online, clear up their account and update billing information, all integrated with the club software. Have it automatically create and include applicable service charges to streamline club efficiencies.
- Credit card account updater. Is your billing company providing a credit card account updater program to help reduce declines by getting account updates automatically, including expiration dates and card numbers? Periodically have a cost comparison done to compare current merchant rates as well. Interchange plus pricing on all credit card transactions is the best and has little to no mark up, keeping clubs profitable.
- Marketing and communication. It is important to market and communicate with members and prospects at least once per quarter. A strong mail-merge component will allow for custom, personalized email follow up, joining offers or notifications. Create pieces for new members, renewals or other items that require touching base with members and guests. This will lead to more traffic and revenue. Buddy referrals are still the best source of leads available in the fitness world. Focus on it and reward clients for bringing in their friends. Other items to communicate are the start of new classes, club hours, newly hired or recently promoted staff, upcoming renovations or equipment additions. Perhaps even going to a 24/7/365 model.
- Customer relationship management (CRM). CRM is integrated with the software for prospect, new member and retention follow up of potential and existing members. Make sure the functionality is there to auto schedule follow up calls, emails, tours, contacts and all other needed steps to ensure success. For facilities with in-house sales staff, a program for lead management is key.
- Optional online booking and scheduling. This functionality allows for members to sign up for classes, book a personal training appointment or even purchase a personal training package and pay for it online. Allow for recurring monthly personal training package renewals to be billed electronically as well and add the sessions to the member’s account. Gift certificates and possible rewards programs are sometimes beneficial depending on the facility and its clientele.
- Electronic paperless agreements. Go green and do all types of forms, waivers and agreements within the club management program, both in-house and online. Keep them stored for easy retrieval anytime and from anywhere. Members can view and see them from the club website member portal.
- Automate when possible. Automate key reports, emails, even daily and monthly processes to help relieve some of your staff’s clerical duties. Utilize live journal functionality to put in last-minute card or billing details. Take in-house payments and update records immediately.
As with any technology, CMS programs need to periodically be updated and checked for validity. Work with an experienced CMS client representative to view reports and test data details. Keep in mind, especially if utilizing monthly EFT billing, the accuracy of detail and that the expected revenue deposits tie out can be the most important thing to maximizing business success and being profitable. Your CMS provider should feel like a business partner. Do they pass the test?
Carole Oat is the national sales manager for Twin Oaks Software, a well-recognized industry leader and a former large club owner and operator for 15 years. Oat has written and published more than 50 solution-based articles for the industry since 2000 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twin Oaks is based in Berlin, Connecticutt. The company services health clubs and fitness centers of all sizes throughout the United States, Canada and internationally, providing award winning software and support.