8 Questions to Ask Before Buying Operations Software
Harness your success and continue to grow by implementing a system that frees you up to manage and market your fitness facility.
Every successful fitness facility owner reaches a point when it’s no longer possible to track members, attendance and billing manually. At this point, purchasing business management software—the solution to maintaining sanity and enjoyment—is no longer an option; it’s a necessity.
Once you’ve decided to evaluate fitness business software solutions, there are eight critical questions you need to ask. These queries will help you choose software that enables you to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time on other aspects of fitness facility operations, such as marketing and member outreach.
1. How Easy Is It to Use?
Ease of use is critical. Once the software is put in place, members should be able to intuitively perform the basics, such as reserving a place in a class and paying their membership dues. Then, as they learn how to use the additional features, they should be able to see that your software gives them better service than they received before the rollout. Make sure the features are accessible and convenient to use on all devices, including tablets, laptops, desktops and mobile devices.
When it comes to reserving class space and buying memberships, your members expect a certain level of self-service. At any time, they want to be able to go online, view your facility’s schedule and determine which of your classes best fit their needs. Members also want to be able to sign up for special workshops and programs online. Make sure all of these tasks are easy to perform.
2. Should I Use Automated Payment Processing?
A recent study by Fiserv found that there is an average of 15% less churn, or attrition, when customers are billed electronically and can make automatic payments (Aspen Marketing Services 2010). Your software solution absolutely must make it easy for people to pay you. Simply put, if it’s not easy, they’re more likely to cancel their membership.
3. Do I Need Email Automation?
Email automation enables you to send emails in a programmatic way—for example, to congratulate clients on reaching fitness goals, to send birthday wishes or to provide a monthly customer newsletter. A good software solution will make it easy for you to automate these types of daily or weekly business message, eliminating the need for you to sort through endless spreadsheets to convey important messages. Look for a system that integrates email automation with your database, so that all of your important member information can be easily accessed and put to use.
4. Does It Integrate With My Website?
A great software solution provides basic website tools and functionality, so that your customers can interact with you via your existing website. The right software allows you to enhance your website with key tools and features, such as calendars and prospect forms. Expect this functionality, and do not pay extra for it.
5. Can I Get a Snapshot of My Business?
Relying on spreadsheets to track all your important business and client information can quickly become overwhelming. To move your customer service to the next level, you need to be able to run reports that allow you to analyze your membership base, monitor member attendance and track referral sources.
6. Can I Track Individual Client Performance?
Member retention is a hot-button issue. Once people join your facility, you want them to stay—and to share the good news about their success with your programs. Don’t let members slip away because they don’t see results. Your software system should make it easy for you to create custom workouts or skills tests that your personal training staff can then use to track each client’s progress.
7. What Types of Alerts Are Available?
An alert is a notification that something is not working correctly or that some action needs to be taken. For example, you may receive an alert if a client’s credit card has expired or if your staff needs to know that a new client will be visiting. Additionally, if memberships are expiring in the next month, you may want to be alerted so that you can proactively show those clients the improvements they’ve made over a specific period of time. Then, you can inspire them to renew their membership and begin setting new goals. This tool keeps you in front of your business—rather than in reaction mode after something goes off track.
You can also use alerts to communicate with your staff. For instance, when new prospects are coming in, you can let the team know about specific needs or concerns they should look for when caring for these potential new members. Likewise, if payroll is due to be processed, you can remind your team to enter hours worked or number of classes taught.
8. What Kind of Support Is Available?
Customer service and support are arguably two of the most important factors to consider when you’re selecting a software solution. We all know that excellent service makes a positive impact. Being able to achieve that level of quality becomes even more significant when the customer service you’re providing relies heavily on the support and service you receive from one of your vendors. Make sure the software provider you choose will be there when most needed, so that you, in turn, can take care of your team and customers.
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Aspen Marketing Services. 2010. Research study on the impact of bill presentment and payment on retention and profitability for Quest Communications. Accessed Oct. 7, 2014. www.checkfreecorp.fiserv.com/assets/files/WP_QuestStudy-EBP.0809.pdf.