In 1981, Olivia Newton-John was singing the message we’re all still pedaling today. But how we choose to ‘get physical’ in 2018 is ever changing. In order to keep attracting and retaining new members, and ultimately keeping them active, should we be embracing a truly cashless, contactless service?
Perfect customer service… any ideas? The dream scenario used to be a receptionist warmly greeting a member as they arrived, swiping their card and ushering them to a class, or the gym, where they’re welcomed by another staff member, more chat, more face-to-face contact. Smiling faces, meaningful communication; human interaction was the name of the A-star customer service game.
Ask a Millennial how they want to interact at your facility and the answer might surprise you. Millennials (born between the early 80s and mid 90s) log on to your app, book a session, make a cashless payment, use their phone to swipe in when they arrive, and to secure their locker. They workout using their wearable rather than a PT to spur on their efforts. (They look for their workouts to be updated on their wearable). Then they leave, having not made contact with a single soul from start to finish. And far from being disgruntled, it’s an experience they’re positively delighted with. Watch how the simplified journeys that incorporate
“The expectation of customers has changed dramatically,” says Shaun Carter, Enterprise Sales Manager at Gladstone. “They want things seamless, contactless, cashless. No effort. No barriers. A service they can access whenever, from wherever, on whatever device they choose.” Contrary to every retention study out there, it’s what more and more members – of all ages – want. Are you in a position to provide it? See how ActiveNewham has implemented this approach.
The new era
Millennials have actively bought in to digital, they’ve always had access to good communication channels and the opportunity to make decisions – and purchases immediately. If they want something, they want it now. Buying membership and booking online, choosing to do a class – it’s got to be an efficient process or it will be a barrier to sale. “Multi-device, multi-screen; it’s second nature for 83 per cent of Millennials,” says Carter. “They may well research on their phone (using a leisure mobile app, like MobilePro), put a membership into the shopping basket on their computer at work and then expect to pick that purchase up and buy it on their iPad in front of the TV that evening.”
Research shows 79 per cent of Millennials ‘content graze’ across a number of devices. They use multiple sources, from social media to websites and news apps, and expect an equal, continuous experience across each device. “Millennials want the obvious stuff – great equipment at a good price, no queues, nice changing facilities. But it goes way beyond that traditional leisure offer,” says Claire Rollins, Head of Commercial at Gladstone. “They also now want instant access to information on your gym, classes, pool, sports offer and spa – a constant communication channel they can access as they please. Simple, friction free and efficient tools that facilitate decisions, and transactions, is now the way customers feel most valued.”
What’s key is that Millennials have dragged the rest of us along with them; driving opinion of what comprises good customer service. How do to operators measure satisfaction? With 80 per cent of us now owning a smart phone they’ve become our means of accessing and buying anything we want while on the move. They’ve created an expectation of how we transact. Almost two thirds of all shoppers, regardless of age, now use a mobile search for ideas before making a purchase – all age groups are adopting self-service practices whether that’s online banking or shopping from their mobile.
With so much of our lives managed online, going to the gym shouldn’t feel like its five years behind the times. “Operators need to remove barriers, make all channels friction free, no matter what service is being offered, from acquiring new members or re-engaging existing ones to booking classes and managing day-to-day interactions,” says Rollins. “Millennials may have been the key driver over the past few years, but their expectations have become the natural way all age groups interact with the world. Leisure needs to cater for that.”
The digi digest
Merging technology into your culture is all very well, but only if you know what’s what in the digital marketplace. In short, mobile is everything. Gladstone is now taking more than 1.1 million bookings through Mobile Pro every month, and over a million leisure users have downloaded it since its inception.
“Bookings make up a huge part of the app’s function but customers don’t just use it to book in to Zumba,” explains Tim Williams, business development director at Innovatise. “There’s a news section, where clubs and centres can upload marketing communications or useful info. The app sends a notification and, at present, over four million messages are being received by MobilePro users per month and growing. Members see it as an indispensable function.”
Social sharing and personal tracking via MobilePro is also rocketing. “Members can share centre news to their social media sites – which is phenomenal from a marketing perspective – and recently we’ve introduced a feature that allows them to socially share their bookings, too,” says Williams. “So, if I book a spin class, I can then share it to social media and, in one click, a friend can book to join me. It’s the ultimate friction free process and it’s going to be huge.” Operators can set these notifications and communications to it's members using the MobilePro cock-pit.
Personal tracking means clubs and centres can use MobilePro to ensure customers can seamlessly integrate with third party technology, be that their Apple Watch or Fitbit, their MyZone or My Wellness account, all via their app. “The beauty is a leisure centre can offer a member, in one app, a mobile portal for all the tech that’s out there,”explains Williams. “MobilePro makes it easy to integrate any other fitness tech, with minimal effort for members – again, a friction-free journey. Who knows what technology our members will want I five years? This facility means, whatever comes next, a leisure centre can integrate it into their app and be future proof.”
Last but by no means least, digital wallets – apps like Google Wallet, PayPal and Apple Pay – take mobile convenience one step further. They’re simple, free, and can be used for more than just payments; dictating centre access, storing loyalty and membership cards, even managing lockers. “The digi wallet takes all the function of a normal wallet and puts it into the digital space, either through a contactless payment card or your mobile, all within seconds,” explains Davies. “They are growing in popularity at an astounding rate.”
Digital wallets will account for $1.35 trillion in spend worldwide in 2017, which is 32 per cent more than last year. Tech-forward millennials use digital wallets the most at 64 per cent, followed by Gen X (aged 35-54) at 40 per cent.
The bottom line: digital wallets offer unparalleled convenience, managing money in a sophisticated way without the need to change devices or enter pin numbers. Payments are instant, even to the opposite end of the earth, there’s no need to fumble with cards, print receipts or take a separate wallet with you. And UK consumers love it; we’re currently the third most cashless society in the world, pipped to the post by Canada and Sweden.
The right offer, Embracing Cashless
Embracing the cashless society (read how activeNewham go cashless) head on may be the future, but it pays to do some data analytics. “Work out what level of self-service your customer base will be happy with,” says Davies.
Gladstone’s database offers a rich data repository, to ensure decision-making is based on facts, data and science, not gut feelings. “If you’re using eyeQ you’ve already got everything, you just need to unlock the value. We are able to segment your member base and group it based on attributes like demographics,” explains Guy Bickerton, Business Intelligence Team Leader. “If it’s stored in the database, we can access it in the format you want and create actionable insights to ensure you understand what level of digitalisation your customers want.” We offer bespoke data services to support operators.
Starbucks is an example of a company using self-service to its advantage, while still catering for traditional customers. Option one: order coffee and pay via the app, then stroll in and pick it up. No interaction required. “Yes, you may queue for just as long to collect your drink, but the perception is it’s more efficient,” says Davies. “At the same time, a less digital-savvy customer can choose option 2: walk in, buy at the counter, chat to your server, have your name put on the cup. Personalised service.”
Further reading Business Intelligence and mobile.
Long term, is it a case of cash is dead, and long live mobile? Not yet. Money-Saving Expert Martin Lewis says: “While cash feels real, and convenient, it’s risky. For most main purchases, plastic wins – the protection’s stronger. As technology marches on and we get more electronic ways to pay, cash is becoming less important.” There are forecast to be 12.6 billion consumer cash payments in 2024; a decline of 30 per cent compared to the 18.1 billion payments in 2014, taking cash down to around 33 per cent of overall consumer payments (from 53 per cent).
But we’re a long way from cash being dead and buried. Is the membership card doomed too? As long as governments, financial institutions and shops continue to accept it, we will continue to use paper and coins. All consumers, even Millennials, are still wary of safety and security of digital wallets. Global market research firm GFK found that only 23 per cent of UK shoppers believe making mobile payments is more secure than other methods. While cashless payments are on the rise, a society-wide adoption that renders cash obsolete is still a way away.
Which means adopting a multi-faceted or omni-channel approach. Being able to accept cash-carrying customers, those using chip ‘n’ pin, contactless cards, digital-enabled platforms and mobile devices, all at the same time, is the way forward. With so many options on the table, where the future really lies is in friction-free simplicity. There can’t be too much noise. In practice, this mean toning down distractions on your web and mobile app. “Simplify the process for members,” says Rollins. “How many options does your landing page have? Can you make it fewer? Is it simple for a member to log on, book a class and pay, in three clicks? It should be. Don’t bombard them with a zillion choices, or a customer satisfaction survey if they haven’t even had the chance to join yet. The process should be fast, stress free, simple and achievable without human interaction – unless they want it.”
As operators, the crux for 2018 will be to merge culture and technology. Having staff in your centres who can provide traditional, face-to-face customer service but who can also use your technology is a must. Leisure needs to make sure it isn’t left behind. “Everyone from the MD to the cleaners should be able to show a member how to use your mobile app and suggest it to them if they don’t have it,” says Davies.
As good starting point Operators can consider simplifying the member journey with solutions around RFID wrist bands and key fobs.