This article was originally published in the April Issue of Franchising USA.
Written by Kevin MacCauley, CEO of Upper Hand.
It’s now been one year since the pandemic began affecting our communities, causing an unprecedented level of disruption in the health and fitness industry. Throughout the past year, franchise studios and gyms were forced to adapt to a digital world and pivot their offerings to maintain operations and sustain a sense of community amid this time of crisis.
The world continues to make strides towards pre-pandemic normalcy, as franchise studios and gyms begin to welcome clients back into their facilities. However, it is now more important than ever for franchises to continue to adapt to support their clients and ensure they are prioritizing their health and well-being.
Business success will stem from a deep understanding of your clients, from their thoughts to their behaviors. Technology will remain an integral part of the fitness industry, so franchise owners must continue to leverage these tools to deliver exceptional client experiences.
Prioritize customer trust and the client experience
First, it is absolutely critical that you build and maintain trust with your clients. From an enterprise brand level, all communications and marketing efforts should center around being a brand your customers can trust. Continue to adhere to the precautionary measures you implemented during COVID-19. For example, continue to clean your equipment between classes so that your clients can see that you’re still prioritizing their health and safety.
Additionally, prioritizing client experience will also help you build brand loyalty among your staff, clients, and community. With today’s technology-led world, franchises can utilize tools that provide a seamless user experience for clients that will encourage them to return to your facility.
Understand changes to purchasing behaviors
As with any activity, there are varying levels of comfort or uneasiness about returning to a studio or gym. Therefore, it is critical that you understand your clients and their purchasing behaviors. Some clients may not be ready to be back in an environment where they’re sweating in close proximity to others. Perhaps others may be more eager to return than they were before the pandemic.
To understand your business outlook, you must deeply understand your clients. This understanding is multi-faceted. It is necessary to run the data, but you must also conduct conversations with your clients to reveal their wants, needs, and anticipated behaviors. For example, sending a survey out to your clients will help you gauge their concerns and intentions to return to your studio or gym. Having strong insights will allow you to make smarter business decisions.
Gear up for potential changes to your business model
As a fitness studio owner, you must have a pulse on all areas of your business. You must strategize your current business goals in order to visualize the ebb and flow of your business.
Clients are going digital, which means that you’ll need to as well. Throughout the last year, fitness franchises were forced to get creative to adapt their offerings through leveraging technology in new ways. From virtual classes to renting out equipment, franchise studios were able to establish a virtual presence during the pandemic.
While some of these changes were temporary, the use of technology will remain prevalent in optimizing the client experience. Utilizing a streamlined management software or mobile app to manage your operations will be an essential way to deliver the low-contact, digital experience your clients have come to expect. Technology can be implemented throughout all stages: from a low-touch check-in process to spot booking, to convenient transaction processing.
Kevin MacCauley is the CEO and founder of Upper Hand, the leading provider of full-suite sports and fitness management software that enables businesses to achieve more while doing less. Its award-winning software has undergone tremendous growth as it continues to reinvent the sports and fitness industry and drive world class customer experiences. For more information, please visit getupperhand.com