2018 Club Solutions Leadership Retreat

Our president, Blair McHaney, has been in sunny Palm Beach, Florida this week attending the 2018 Club Solutions Leadership Retreat!  He has been keeping busy networking amongst 40 other attendees and 16 sponsors, each from a broad cross-section of the fitness industry.

Upon arriving at the Welcome reception, Blair even got to test out his own cake decorating skills! This fun dessert challenge was then followed by four round table discussions that would help each attendee position their fitness clubs for the future.  These discussion topics included “The Changing Landscape of Fitness Technology,” “Leading From the Top Down,” “Mapping the Member Journey” and “Member Success – PT & SGT.”

This leadership retreat finished up with more fun filled activities, such as the Palm Beach Olympics. Blair got to compete with the other attendees during physical and mental challenges on The Breakers Beach. And finally, a Luau Dinner, sponsored by ABC Financial was the grand finale!

The Club Solutions Leadership Retreat is such a valuable event to attend and is not your typical tradeshow.  The networking that goes on here is second to none.  Nothing can benefit your business more than sharing ideas within your own industry. If you really want to understand your fitness club customers and members, as gym operators, this is the retreat to be at!

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Free Webinar: The Four Habits of Exceptional Clubs

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Exceptional clubs don’t happen by accident, and they appear in every strata of the marketplace – low-price, mid-price and high-price. Their common denominator is the conscious choice to make customer experience their strategy and the adoption of the habits that make it successful.

Learn what “exceptional” really means and how you can put your club(s) on the “exceptional” path. If you want to learn how many of the world’s best companies, including fitness organizations, drive customer experience strategy, this webinar is for you – regardless of the size of your organization.

PRESENTER
Blair McHaney, president, ClubWorks Inc.


Blair McHaney is the former vice president of strategic initiatives for Medallia, an operational customer experience management (OCEM) technology company. He is a subject matter expert on operationalizing voice of customer systems, a Medallia Institute educator, a club owner for more than 30 years and president of ClubWorks, which is Medallia’s partner for operational customer experience management in the fitness industry.

Register Here

I had a fantasy while flying to Orlando…

Alaska Airlines flight 16, seat 8F.  Heading to Orlando.  Medallia’s annual event is always incredibly stimulating and fun.   But right now I am waiting for someone to pick up the remains of my small “Tapas” snack to allow me a little more room to type.  If only my forearms were 3 inches shorter I could type without deforming my hands.   It seems that every flight in the last few years has been 100% booked.  This must be very good as far as I can tell for the airlines.

crowded-plane

But let’s forget about what is good for the airlines for a minute and just think about the experience of flying and how one might design a far better flying experience.  There are 178 seats on this flight, 12 of them in first class.  I wonder what the math looks like if instead of every coach row having 6 seats, every row had 4.  And instead of 27 coach rows they were reduced to 24.  Removing some 66 seats or 37% of the capacity.  How much more would the airline need to charge per ticket in order to have higher margin than they have now?  How much more would the customer be willing to pay?  How many of these customers are out there?   Would the price of a seat need to be the same as it currently is for a first class ticket?   It doesn’t seem so.  First class tickets (of course I am not talking about free upgrades) are priced 2-4 times a coach ticket.  I have no idea what the calculus is for determining all of the different fares but they seem quite varied.

With the removal of 37% of the seats could the airline charge 50-60% more for the ticket?  It sure seems like there would be a market for this.  At least the math works if the customers are there.  GOOD LORD I would buy that deal all damn day even if it didn’t come with free food and beverage!  It seems it would AT LEAST be worth an experiment.  Every airline seems to be chasing the exact same space – make more money by crowding more people in.   This assumes that what people value is simply cheaper fares and moderate service. I wonder what would happen if an airline decided to attract people who value SPACE and excellent service.

Here is what the boarding experience might sound like:

“Hello folks, this is a completely full flight today but no worries, you are flying our new ‘Respect Class’ and there is no need to be anxious about overhead space as you are guaranteed to have your very own space over your designated seat!”   

“You will also enjoy 7 inch wider seats, 7 degrees more recline and 4 inches more leg room than our standard flight.  The center isle is 24 inches instead of 18 inches so you can avoid those awkward moments to and from the lavatory when you must decide which side of your body you will thrust into the face of the poor bastard in the isle seat in order that another passenger may pass.”   

“Speaking of lavatories! Ours are occupied on average 37% less and are 6 inches wider than standard in order to prevent those painful shoulder dislocations required in most airplane lavatories.” 

“Your Internet connection will be 37% better and we predict you are 37% more likely to have an outstanding experience. If you do, please don’t be shy about posting comments out there!”

“Also, since there are far fewer of you, boarding and deplaning takes about half the time as our standard flights.”    

Okay, that’s my fantasy and if you have flown much lately you know why this is my fantasy!  There are certainly exceptions to the “always bad to mediocre experience” and they seem to occur when I fly Virgin America, or I buy (or get upgraded) to first class.  It is amazing how much better the flying experience can actually be.

flying first class

Now think about your health club.   People experience the same anxieties in overly crowded clubs as one does on overly crowded flights.  Things like attending a class, getting into Team Training, having an open treadmill, finding a vacant locker, taking a shower, having kids get the attention needed in the Kids Club, all of these things have increased value when a club is not over-crowded.  My hunch is that with the proliferation of high-volume/low-price clubs, there may be an opportunity for growth in the higher-price and more-space model.  How might you capitalize on having all your members fly “Respect Class” instead of what coach class is becoming?   Look, I sure don’t have the answer here.  I am just positing the question.  But I do know that I’d pay for this flying experience every time.

A conversation about customer loyalty

Customer loyalty in the fitness industry tends toward either extreme, as clients generally either commit to their new routine or fall off and spend the remainder of the contract’s term wishing they could cancel. A well-structured onboarding process is key to a successful customer retention strategy, according to Blair McHaney, owner of two Gold’s Gym franchises in Central Washington and Director Emeritus of Gold’s Gym Franchisee Association. He is also the only franchisee in the organization’s history to  both win its three most important awards and be inducted into the Gold’s Gym Hall of Fame alongside The Incredible Hulk’s Lou Ferrigno and gym founder, Joe Gold.

Customer Experience Report caught up with McHaney during the 2014 Customer Service Experience Conference and discussed successful customer loyalty strategies, learning curves and the importance of a well-trained staff.

CER: Gold’s Gym in general and your gyms specifically have experienced significant long-term customer loyalty success. What success strategies could be applied across other industries?

Blair McHaney: The first thing is just this recognition that –let your front lines actually deliver the product. You’ve got to let them deliver on any loyalty promise. You can’t try to mandate every action or tactic that people take in order to grow loyalty. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a gym or hotel or anything else. When you run into policies consistently that are tough on the customer experience, that’s when you see that it’s usually the C-suite that’s gotten in the way of delivering a great customer experience. You want to build a violin? Here’s some two by fours and a hammer. But I think that’s the same anywhere. I don’t think it’s different in any organization.

CER: What common challenges have you experienced while driving customer service?

Blair McHaney, owner of two Gold’s Gym franchises in Central Washingtion and Director Emeritus of Gold’s Gym Franchisee Association

Blair McHaney: When you accept that customer experience management is going to be a business discipline, that means that there’s a lot of business process implications. You’re never going to be a great practitioner from Day One. So then your program has to evolve over time. And the more sophisticated you get, the deeper you dig on those things that are causing negative experience or those things that cause people to not be as open about identifying processes that should be improved. Everybody will find their way back to how they hire, onboard, train, develop and educate their people. If you’re gonna get excellent at this, excellence will be driven. You’ll always end up back at that point at some point.

CER: Has it been a trial and error or – ?

Blair McHaney: I don’t think it’s so much trial and error. I think it’s more strategy and urgency. Companies have some kind of strategy. They’ll say, “This is our strategy and this is towards our customers.” And then when they start to gain a tremendous amount, especially continuous customer feedback. I’m not talking about the market research once a year or twice a year. When you’re having this continuous customer feedback, you can see whether you’re executing the strategy or not. Then you find a spot where there’s a gap. We think we deliver whatever it might be, right? An inspiring environment or great hospitality. But, according to our customer, whatever we say is apparently just marketing blather and our customer is not feeling the same thing. So there’s a gap there. I don’t think it’s so much trial and error as is it urgency. We have a strategy that we’re trying to deploy. What’s most urgent? What’s the most urgent gap? We have to address that gap and as soon as you start to address that gap and dig in, at some point, it’s going to take you back to how your people are sourced, hired, trained, educated, onboarded, developed.

CER: When you spoke, you gave real world examples of employees taking on responsibility. How difficult was it getting them to the level you wanted them to be?

Blair McHaney: I think it’s important enough that we are investing now, and this is just in the few clubs, instead of having three hours of onboarding and about 12 hours of in-department training, it’s going to expand to about 50 of training. And onboarding is going to expand greatly. When I’m saying onboarding, I just take for granted you have to do all the HR crap, right? You have to sign the papers. I’m not even talking about that. I’m talking about cultural onboarding. I’m talking about understanding why the organization exists and what it’s aspirations are. All of that; the cultural onboarding. I think it’s equally important that all staff members have to be reboarded once a year. Because your onboarding is going to evolve. It’s going to get better. It’s going to get more and more aligned as your thinking gets more and more wrapped around customer experience. And then the people who were onboarded two years ago, it’s a different world. And they need to be reminded.

CER: Is the reboarding the same amount of time as the onboarding?

Blair McHaney: Yes.

CER: What customer loyalty innovations would you like to see in the future?

Blair McHaney: One thing that I really want to see in the technology is to build up the operational sides of it more. In other words, tracking – when you deploy an initiative, being able to track it. Having more of a social aspect in there, where your own teams are actually interacting with each other within the system. I think so much of the loyalty innovation is going to be business model innovation and how you think about your own customers. And I think that’s going to be informed a lot by your customer experience management system but I think it’s so much about how you digest that information and try to innovate around that.  There are all those things that I want to be able to track in the system.