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Transcription – Show 113 Chris Stevenson

Chantal: You have a creative way that you collect suggestions and complaints from your members. Would you be able to share that with us?

Chris:  Sure, with Net Promoter Score surveys some people will just give you a number but other people will write information, so that is when we collect data. Another way we do it is we do a targeted survey.  So we have a weight loss program called “Just loose it”and at the end is targeted survey. Occasionally we do an overall group-ex or an overall training survey. So, we are constantly gathering all of this data any way we can.  (For this data) we have a binder up the front and it is divided into sections based on areas on the gym. Group exercises, facility improvement, all different areas. But we train our staff on how to take suggestions and complaints. So we don’t have an anonymous box, you know suggestion box like old school, we want to engage with people. So, somebody says, “Hey, I wish you guys had X” then we will say, “Hey, wait a second.” and grab a suggestion book and right in front of that person, eye to eye.

They will say, “I want to know exactly what you are looking for.” And the person says, this is actually a recent one, they said, “I wish you had those fat grips” So of course my person on reception was like “I don’t know what fat grips are but I trust you on this”

So he puts it in the book “Fat grips”.  And he’ll say, “What are they for?” “Oh you put them around the bar, so it forces you to grab wider, so it improves your grip when you push and pull”  So she took all the notes wrote down the member’s name and phone number and email address. Even though we have that stuff in our system. But we want to make sure it is all current. Maybe numbers have changed and then they will initial that. So we do that for suggestions. We also do that for complaints.

So when somebody comes out of a really crowded class and says “Oh my gosh, that was too hot today.” They will say “Let me grab a suggestion book.”

By the way, it is really a play on words, because somebody is getting ready to complain, you immediately throw out the word suggestion.  So you are starting to diffuse that a little bit. And now you dig for details. “So is it really hot there today? Have you noticed that before or is it just today?” Take as many details as possible. The job is not to problem solve, just to gather data information. Make sure people are empathetic and they know that people have been heard right there in the moment and then based on who runs whichever department, the suggestions and the complaint falls into, that manager and that leader will reach out to that person.  So again, you talk about engaging with members. This is another way to engage. So, in the situation with the fat grips, that was a fairly inexpensive product we ordered. So that was a fun email to send. Hey, we heard your suggestion on fat grips and we ordered a pair and you’ll see them next week. So you get a happy memory.

But in the case of members wanting a pool. We will never have a pool. Half of the people who owns gyms and have a pool would love fill it in! We will never have a pool.  But people will look around –  and I don’t know where they’ll ever put it – but they will go “I wish you had a pool” But obviously, we can’t do that. But even replying to that suggestion or complaint. They know they are heard. And we give them options. We’ll say “there’s a private high school down the street that rents out their pool. You can swim there. There is a local college” So it allows them to give some suggestions. And say, “You know what, unfortunately, we can never have a pool. But here are some options for you” So with suggestions and complaints, people want to be heard. Sometimes you can make an immediate impact by giving them what they want. But even if you can’t, people appreciate the fact that you have listened, and it just creates another level of engagement with people.

And then we do have one little secret we do. If it is not a suggestion or a complaint, we call it play-making. But I’ll give you a tangible example. Judy is one of our members. She’s a little bit older and she comes in everyday and of course it’s her routine and does the exact same thing every single time. And part of that is doing lateral dumbbell raises with 3 pounds. Well one day, all the sets of 3 pound weights were being used, and she couldn’t find any. All of the trainers were there and said, “Let me see if I can find some for you.” And eventually they did, but it took a few minutes. But then our trainer Aaron came up and said, “Hey, Judy was looking for weights. And it took me a minute to get it. No big deal. But she wrote it in the book.”   So we needed to order extra 3 pound weights and then reached out to Judy. “We know you had an issue that it took you a few extra minutes to find three pound weights. Don’t worry. We just added three more sets”  So we call that play-making. It empowers our staff to go out there and feel good about making things happen and making people happy.

So that is our suggestions and complaints system. And it has been super effective. And again, we got that data from the Net Promoter Score and from the targeted surveys. With all the data, when it comes to making real decisions, we can use real data to make those decisions.

So with the data, sometimes we think we know what the members want. Why not let them tell us? Because when they tell us, we can get better. So with all this different data, we have a bar class and we were starting to trend down a bit.  We still have a group that liked it. But we noticed in our surveys and our Net Promoter Score and our suggestions that a lot of people wanted pilates. So what we did was we didn’t want to totally eliminate the bar program but we had to figure out a way to incorporate the pilates. We literally created a format called “Pi-Bar” And it is not a place where you eat dessert and drink beer! Although that may be a better place at the Pi-Bar. But it is half pilates and half bar. So literally, based on everybody’s feedback,  instead of bar, we now have Pi-Bar classes. And the numbers instantly tripled. And now it is one of our largest classes. And we probably never would have come up with that without reaching out and getting feedback. And it was incredible.

Chantal: In your bio, you talked about the fact that 40% of the business revenue for Stevenson Fitness is generated from ancillary services. So could you just briefly touch on what those services are?  And give us an insight into how you market them or how you upsell your members to those services?

Chris:  Yeah, I’ll be happy to. So, we have some smaller programs and some smaller things that help our revenue, but the two main ones are personal training and small group training. With those two, it is about getting people involved in the program. So, we do traditional marketing. We’ve done direct mailers that target those small groups and target personal training. Direct mail still does work sometimes, and we had some pretty good returns on it, you just got to make sure that you are really focusing on the right areas and that you are doing, and it is very critical and it’s very strategic.

So figure out what works for you, the traditional stuff like flyers in the club. We do little alerts on our app. So people see that. Facebook ads have been good. Facebook live has been great. And I lump Facebook into traditional marketing because nowadays, it is traditional marketing. It is what everybody is doing. There are always those traditional methods. Sometimes people will say that and kind of wave it off. But there is still some effect to that. You just have to be very strategic. So, don’t necessarily think that traditional marketing is dead because it is not. But just be strategic with your choices.

But what we found the most effective, the biggest return, is what we do internally. So, it starts when we have a prospect coming. So pre-framing in the tour that eventually, they are going to do this stuff. So when we are taking somebody out on tour say, “Hey, when you become a member, we are going to set you up with a personal training session because they are really going to help you get to your goal.” or “We got this great small group training, I’m going to give you a small group training session to get you in the groups. Because that is going to really decrease the time to hit your goals”  So we are pre-framing constantly, even with prospects and then of course at the point of sale, we are always adding that to the solutions.

People don’t go to gyms to buy memberships. The reason people go to the gym and say, how much is a membership, is because they don’t know how to come in and say, “how can you help me lower my cholesterol or how can you help me go back to my high school weight?” or “how can you help me have more energy and get stronger?” They just go in and say “How much is a membership?” So you build rapport and you dig to the real reason they came in.

Lets say someone came in because they wanted to train for a Spartan race. We say, we have a Spartan certified trainer, let’s set you up with a membership and let’s set you up with a small group Spartan training class. So point of sale is a huge push. And then, there is another thing we do internally, where we’ll have trainers set up a posture analysis or body fat testing station or I’ll do a trainer of the month or have them do a workout of the week. Those sort of things.

But one key area that we found to be very successful in that sort of realm is getting trainers involved in group exercise.  So what we’ll do is during a group exercise class, we’ll have a trainer come and in help correct form.  So we’ll introduce them, say our trainer Anthony is going to be here today and he’ll be walking around and helping you guys with form and make sure you do things correctly. So the more you get trainers in front of people, the more involved in personal training, the more you’ll be able to get people into small groups. So again, group exercise is a huge captive audience.  So you have the trainers there assisting or maybe you have them do the last ten minutes of class or a good core routine. And we actually have a bunch of our trainers teach our boot camp classes as well.

So, we pre-frame the tour, we trial at point of sale, we set up all kinds of internal marketing and then, the last thing, I think this is key, and it is funny because it sounds simple, but it is just not done enough and we do it for many different things at our facility,  but we create a culture on inviting people to do things.  So, we literally train our trainers to go out on the floor and build rapport and start conversations and it is funny because it is going to sounds simple but if you run a training department or you’re worried about your trainers, do your trainers to actively approach people on the floor and introduce themselves and say, “Hey, I’ve seen you work out. I’d love to train you. Let’s set up a session. I’d like to take you through a complimentary session.”  So, we train our trainers to invite people to do things. Our leadership team, in addition to doing the normal boring office stuff, I make them do loops, once an hour. So they are out on the floor and they will start conversations like “Have you done a training session? Oh my gosh, let me set you up for a training session. I’d love for you to try that.” Our front desk, our reception books complimentary training sessions because they are inviting, because a lot of times people are hanging out on the desk and they talk, and we train our staff on building relationships. That is our first core value is build real relationships. So they are building relationships. So, the front desk is saying, “Have you done a session yet. Oh my gosh. I’m going to set you up with Nicole. You have got to do a personal training session.” So, the power of training your entire staff to consistently be inviting to people, and I don’t mean welcoming them, but literally inviting them to do stuff, it’s huge,  but not to go to a tangent,  but like group exercise. They build their classes by coming 5-10 minutes early, checking people at the front desk, hanging out before class and saying, “Hey, I never seen you at my Zumba class before. I’d love for you to come take it.” So creating that sort of an inviting environment can be very very powerful in growing our small groups and growing our personal training and like I said, any excuse you do to get people in front of trainers and small group trainers is great.

When we see a drop in your (a members) use, we’ll ping you.  And we’ll say, “Hey, we miss you. Where have you been?” Part of that too is our opportunity to say, “You know what, let’s do this. Let’s get you set up with a complimentary session with a trainer to help get you back on track.”  So, those ‘we miss you’ emails lets you know we care. We wish you were here. And also gives us an opportunity to get you in a small group or with a trainer. And we’ll deal with cancellations. When people come into unfortunate times and they come into cancel, we’ll say, “What’s your reason for cancelling. You know what, why don’t we do this. You still have your membership. It is still good for another month. Let me at least give you two complimentary training sessions and see if we can get you, because I know you want to get happy. And I know you want to exercise, maybe that will be what you need.” So that is another way to get people into groups and let them experience it. And if you’ve got great trainers, which we think most people do, I know we do, and you have great small group programming and small group training, then it’s all sold for you. You just got to get them in there.

Chantal: They are such good examples Chris, thank you so much for sharing those. And I think it is a good reminder because quite often we set out with good intentions to do all those things that you are talking about. And we encourage our trainers to get out there on the floor and interact with members. But it is one of the things that sometimes just falls by the wayside. And I think your example of making sure that once per hour people are going out and doing the loop and I think when you get your team doing that consistently, then that means the members become more used to it. And therefore, you are not facing a brick wall. Because I know that a lot of trainers that I’ve worked with in the past get quite nervous about doing that because they are scared that people are going to reject them or not want to speak to them. But if your members know that it’s a trainer coming around and say, “Hey, how are you doing?” and perhaps offer them a session then they are going to be a lot more receptive to hearing from that trainer and having that conversation than if it is only happening once a month or once every six months. 

Chris: Of course. I think two things to kind of piggy back on that, one. First, I do it.  As a leader, I am out there doing it. Again, you’ve got to lead by example. If I told my trainers to do it but I didn’t do it, like a general manager of operations, and they did not do it, my trainers wouldn’t do it. So we all go out there and we all do it. We lead by example. And then secondly, you coach up the technique. I would never say, “Hey, go ask those people to train with you.” We coach up. You build some rapport. You introduce yourself. You’ll have a conversation. And then you’ll work your way into “Let’s do a session.” It is not simply like, “Hi, I’m Bob the trainer. I love if you would  train with me.” You know that’s very off putting. So we teach them how to go up and build rapport and you know, the body language and start to build a relationship and how to segue into those questions to make it a much more pleasant process.

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