The way in which we consume information today is changing rapidly.
The introduction of new technologies means that we expect to receive the information we want at the touch of a button. The gym environment is no different and members’ expectations are increasing at the same rate as technology is advancing.
The introduction of exercise management systems has improved the experience of the gym member at the same time offering the club operator an important and effective tool in the management of resources and communication. The overall objective of any exercise management system is to improve retention but there are a number of key issues that any system also needs to address if it is to be truly valuable to the gym operator.
Gym management software five years ago was about connecting the member with the equipment and providing exercise plans that could be worked out by the gym instructor at the point of joining. The systems also offered basic reporting software that would allow the operator to view member usage figures, communicate with members at the point of entry and also help to determine staffing levels.
However, the market is developing quickly and the systems available today have more demands made of them. Operators are looking for intelligent systems that learn with the member, offer virtual personal training, provide motivation to the members, are simple and very quick to use and positively affect retention. They also want a system that is a useful management tool providing services such as regular, personalised communication, easy access to member profiles and usage, reporting on staff performance and overseeing equipment usage.
With only one card needed for every user, Pulse SmartCentre replaces manual card or paper systems with a single software solution that benefits the entire fitness suite operation. The intelligent design of the system connects equipment, staff, management and members to improve efficiency, member retention and performance across the board.
Barnsley Premier Leisure has recently switched from a key system to the Pulse SmartCentre system and sees some real commercial and customer focused benefits in doing this. Steve Roberts, Head of Business Development at Barnsley Premier Leisure, is really impressed by the SmartCentre system and knows that members find it easy to use. “Switching to the SmartCentre system from the key system has offered us some significant advantages. Because everything can be stored on one card, our members only need to bring one card with them to the centre – this gets them into the gym and also carries all their personal settings for workouts and equipment as well as providing us with a method of communicating with them.”
The total system was also cheaper to install than the key system. There is a significant cost saving to be made on the price per card versus the price per key, which is beneficial to Barnsley Premier Leisure. Members are also benefiting, not only from the ‘one card does all’ approach but also from the time taken to log into the SmartCentre system. “Members are actually able to log into the system and start their workout within approximately 20 seconds,” comments Steve. “Our members don’t want to spend 5 minutes accessing their information and choosing their workout – they just want to get on with it and the SmartCentre allows them to do just that.”
One major benefit that Barnsley Premier Leisure has identified with the SmartCentre is that the product is constantly developing and there are opportunities for them to make suggestions as to how they would like to see these developments happen. “There is real two way communication with Pulse about the SmartCentre. In no way did we ever feel that the product that was delivered was the final version. We are constantly working together to improve the product that we have with Pulse and in return we are offered free upgrades.”
The National Aquatic Centre in Ireland have installed a ‘no card no use’ policy, meaning all clients must meet with the instructor and have a screening in order to have a card. “It helps us to get to know our members better, right from the beginning,” comments Mairead Rooney, gym manager.
“SmartCentre provides us with information that details the number of clients using the gym and how often. We can also see what our members are doing with their programs through a detailed reporting system which allows us to change and monitor their progress.” The Message Centre makes contact easier. The gym can see at a glance who has been in to the centre with an option to contact via external email for those who are not making it to the gym and may need advice on training whilst absent.
The Activity Centre is used to log all alternative methods of activity including classes. Often those who use classes as their singular form of training can feel left out of the club but with SmartCentre this does not happen. Mairead comments, “The feedback we have had from our members is really positive, they can see who their instructor is and contact them via email if they need anything. Communication is a big plus.
“In our view the SmartCentre is a neat, informative, easy to use system covering all the needs of a member. It’s a must have, for all clubs with high expectations of giving the customer the best experience whatever their fitness goal may be.”
The reporting function offered by the SmartCentre helps centres to produce data in line with Government requirements on usage which can help facilities to acquire additional funding.
One market that has successfully used the SmartCentre is the Education sector.
Here the product is used for cross-curricular activities where the software is an additional learning resource for students. One such location is Shire Oaks School in the West Midlands. Here A-level students have been producing coursework on the observation of man’s movement, performance and behaviour in relation to physical activity. Through the use of SmartCentre the students have been able to select and read about fitness equipment that is suitable for different user aims and goals to create a suitable workout program.
Joey Dunlop Health and Fitness Club has been operating with the SmartCentre since August 2008. The club have been tracking the success of the system in relation to training behaviour and the change in behaviour of the staff.
“Our members have had obvious benefits from the system,” comments Benny
Knight, gym manager at Joey Dunlop. “We have noticed a marked difference in their training behaviour since the introduction of the system. From an improvement in usage to better results and more effective use of the equipment, which is fantastic because now we have a much better chance of retaining them as a member than we did before SmartCentre was installed.”
SmartCentre has been particularly well received by the more mature users of the centre. “At first they were sceptical about the technology, however, now they believe that it has been a worthwhile tool and they like to view their workout, reports and amount of calories they have burnt-off at home and this is available by a simple email from the SmartCentre to their email account.”
Retention rates are up and Benny believes that this is helped in no small way by the management programme. “SmartCentre informs the staff of anyone who needs a programme review rather than it being down to memory, it’s a great way improving our relationship with our members.”
A: SmartCentre has seen many new and redevelopments over the last 2 years with guidance from customer feedback. This has been vital to the progression of the software as it has helped us to prioritise the needs of our customers versus our original development plan.
We have developed SmartCentre in manageable modules and have just launched the sixth module - the Activity Centre, allowing customers to record non-gym based activities as part of their program. Other recent developments have included SmartCentre compatibility across the entire cardio and strength Pulse equipment range and the integration of non-Pulse equipment.
With the increased functionality of the User Centre and the Messaging Centre, members and fitness instructors can have 2-way communication via internal or external email. The Messaging Centre also has the capability to send automated messages and reports to members to help motivation.
In summary, what we now have is an all encompassing, one card system that can plan, track, advise, train, motivate and record gym member activity accurately and intuitively.
A: Pulse has always invested heavily in technology and with a ten-strong research and development design team based at our UK headquarters, who understand the demands of the leisure industry worldwide, this helps ensure that SmartCentre is at the forefront of all our developments. We are currently working on improving the reporting module of SmartCentre as we have recognised that our clients require more detailed KPI information and need the ability to report back on user improvement and targets to both central and local government.
One of the main developments of the reporting function is the ability to automate key reports to a personalized email account. This helps the gym owner by providing relevant, accurate data that will help with business management. SmartCentre has also been very well received in Europe and demand is growing at such a pace that the system is now available in several key languages including; German, French and Dutch.
Ultimately we believe that SmartCentre will develop into an online resource, allowing for easier and more frequent access. It would provide members with interactivity and a social network based around the gym environment.
A: We receive feedback via many channels including the online user’s forum, regular network meetings with our customers, site visits and telephone and email communication. This information is fed directly to the management of the R&D development project.
We offer a proactive support network to all customers. Our service engineers are fully trained to offer immediate support whilst we have dedicated technical staff available for more complex issues. Training on the system is through modules with initial basic equipment training provided at installation and then more complex and site specific management training is carried out at a later date.
A: Absolutely. We are already working along these lines with some of our customers. For example, we are working with Barnsley Primary Care Trust to add in more details and fields to the health and wellbeing tab to allow for health data to be customized and also provide the ability to track both blood pressure and BMI of specific customers.
As well as this, future developments of the system will allow both users and external organizations to login and monitor progress of specific members – this could certainly be a service that would help GP’s and PCT’s track the progress of specific people either pre or post operative procedures. Gym membership could, with this system in place, become available on the NHS as part of a wider wellbeing package.