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Chris Stevenson Explains Why the Member Experience Is More Important Than Ever Right Now

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Chris Stevenson, a 20 year veteran of the fitness industry and IHRSA board member, joins us on the show to discuss the key factors that make a great member experience. Chris has been everything from a fitness instructor to a studio owner in his long career.

He now owns Stevenson Consulting, helping fitness studios succeed in different aspects of running a fitness business with the main focus on member experience. In this episode, Chris talks to us about using data to improve the experience for your members, how to train and empower your staff to deliver this experience and his thoughts on the challenges studios will face when they reopen in the coming months.

Episode Link

This episode of The Fitness Founders Podcast can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere you get your podcasts.


Kevin: How is it going everyone?  Welcome to The Fitness Founders Podcast. I’m Kevin Mannion, VP Marketing here at Glofox. This week we talk to Chris Stevenson, IHRSA board member, and owner of Stevenson Consulting, a company that helps fitness businesses grow by providing great member experience. Chris talks to us about the fundamentals of a great member experience, the areas to focus on to engage your members successfully, and how the members experience will change and transform the fitness industry. Let’s have a listen.

Chris Stevenson, welcome to the show.

Chris: Hey, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Kevin: Thanks for coming on. We’re talking to as many experts in the area of member experience and member retention as we can get our hands on, so delighted to have you here. Maybe let’s kick off just tell people a little bit about yourself and your business.

Chris: I had an interesting path to fitness. I actually graduated at college; I grow up in Ohio, and move to California afterwards. And while I was on Ohio, I ran martial arts studios, so I was a competitive martial artist, I coach competitive teams, competed myself, and literally took it very seriously all through college. So I was like, “I’m going to go to California for a couple of years and do nothing serious.” I went out there, I was waiting tables at a restaurant, and I’m still training martial arts at this gym. I got a call one day and they said, “Could you come and audition for a show?” And I said, “I guess, I mean I don’t really do that.” Then they said, “It’s a martial art thing. You’ll be fine.” So I went down and showed up and did this little audition where they asked me to show some kicks and punches and some acrobatics which I was fine at. And it turns out it was for a kids show Power Rangers. So they asked me, “Hey, can you lead for year straight and go on this live tour all over the country?” And I said, “Absolutely.” So literally became a stunt guy on a kid show Power Rangers and did live tours for almost 15 years. But after that year long, the work was little more intermittent. We go up for long weekend, so I needed to do something else. Obviously, being a Power Ranger when your uniform is super tight spandex, you have to stay in shape, so I always had kind of enjoyment of fitness and taking care of myself. 

At that point, I started personal training, and that was a great supplement to do in the Power Ranger stuff. At that point, I started really fall in love with the industry. I worked as a trainer, and then I worked as a group exercise instructor. From there I went to worked clinically at a chiropractor’s office and did more injury rehab and sport conditioning for athletes. The entrepreneur was sort of always in me, so at that point I opened up a 2,000 sq/ft personal training only studio. So this is way back in the day before studios were such a popular thing. Now, I joke when I speak and I say, so I invented the studio market. It wasn’t true. I mean, it was all I could afford and mentally manage, right. I was like, I think I can afford 2,000 square feet. From there, moved on and opened up a full service club, with locker rooms, showers, members, you know, the whole childcare, the whole deal; and owned and operated that. That we had a lot of success and that provided the opportunity then to start speaking and presenting, and that led to consulting. I operated clubs for almost 20 years, and then currently I’m just consulting and working with other clubs and literally presenting all over the world. I’ve had the opportunity to work, serve, in every aspect of the fitness business from frontline, technicians to actually owning. It’s been a great opportunity for me to learn all aspects of the business.

Kevin: Nice one. Before we move on, what was the biggest lesson learned from all that time being a Power Ranger?

Chris: That’s a really good question. Well, I’ll tell you it was great doing all the stunts and everything but we also got a chance to do a lot of hospital visits, a lot of Make a Wish Foundation; so it’s very rewarding and I cherish those memories. But I would say we’re always capable of doing more than we think we can. So when I stepped in to that role as this rookie, I have a decent amount of skills but then I saw this advanced stuntmen doing these amazing things and me its all, “I’m never be able to do what they are doing.” But as long as you take small steps and slowly progress and continue to work on stuff, you’re really capable I think of much more than you know that you think you are. So you know, set high aspirations and take small steps consistently and eventually those small steps lead to big change and you can accomplish some pretty amazing things. 

Kevin: Yeah, nice one. That’s a great take away. Okay, so moving on a bit now in your consulting business. You’re all about crafting great, great member experiences, so maybe tell me what you see makes a great member experience? 

Chris: Great question by the way. Fundamentally, you have to have an organization that believes having a great experience is important. You have to hire the right people. You’ve got to create the right culture. Your vision, mission, values, purpose have to be wrapped around creating it, and then you as the leader have to lead by example. That’s sort of the fundamental rule of how we structure it. From there, again, it goes into hiring the right people, so crafting interviews around good customer experience. So for example, clubs that I work with and consult with where I help them with the hiring process, clubs that I’ve owned and operated; the first interview is the same no matter what the role is in the organization. So a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, leadership sales, doesn’t matter, that first interview is purely defining if you are a culture fit and you believe in the importance of creating great experience. In that interview, for example, one question that we always use and I recommend that clubs use is, tell us the time you had a great experience as a customer. By the way the initial answers are always, “I could tell you 50x I had a bad experience.” But we want to know that you as somebody who could potentially be on our team really understands and appreciates a great experience, right?

Kevin: Yes.

Chris: Because how can I ask you to deliver it if you don’t appreciate and know what it is like to have one. I always say, hey, wrap your vision, mission, values around it. And at the beginning of that interview slide it over to the person, say, “Hey, we want you to read it so you know what our company’s all about, what we stand for, to make sure that you even want to be a part of an organization that believes in this.” So they read through it and they kind of commit at that point, “Yeah, no, I’m onboard with creating great experience.” 

Start with creating the culture then obviously hiring, and then onboarding your team, right, and making customer experience and in just a massive part of that onboarding. Often times we see clubs that hire a new personal trainer and they immediately talk about, “Okay here’s how you sell training, here’s how you go about your sessions, here’s how you work this off, or book everything.” As opposed to saying, “First step is this, here’s how we treat people, here’s how you interact, here’s how you use luxury language, here’s how we go above and beyond, here’s how you build relationships. And we make all that stuff really, really tactical and make it part of the onboarding. And then once they’re up to speed, you reinforce it on a regular basis as a leader because if you don’t practice skills, you lose those skills. 

And then finally sort of the last piece to this whole puzzle is asking members what they want. So consistently serving and reaching out to them for input. I’ve read a few articles from different magazines on the topic, and some blogs of what I call Feel vs. Real, and we always believe in running organizations based on real not feel. So when you are on your organization saying, “Oh, I feel like this is a good idea.” No, no, let’s look at the data. What do the survey responses say? What do our suggestion and complaint system say? What do our numbers and our metric say? So we use all that data because when you make a data-based decision it is often times a better decision than saying, “Oh, I feel this is a good idea.” As a tangible example at our last club, the treadmills were getting pretty beat up. And they were touch screens, so the buttons just weren’t working quite as well, but obviously replacing all the treadmills is a massive financial investment. I know oftentimes people are hesitant to make those big investments. We were holding out as long as possible. But what we started seeing in our net promoter survey that we send out consistently was the score was steadily dropping. Not major but just slowly. It was this downward trajectory. A lot of the comments would say, you know, somebody that normally gives us a 10, would give us an 8. And it would say, “I love you guys. It’s my favorite place, however, the treadmill buttons aren’t responsive or treadmills are often out of order.” After we compiled all that data, it was easy for me to go to investors, to my partners and say, “We got to spend this money. Here’s what the data says.” Instead of just saying, “Oh, feel like putting this in. I feel like changing this.” Utilizing data is massive. And we have such great ways now that we can acquire member feedback and data, so again, go out and ask your members what they want and utilize that data.

Kevin: Yup. You stalk around obviously onboarding your team is important but tell me a little bit around what you’ve learned along the way about creating onboarding programs for members. 

Chris: Onboarding new members?

Kevin: Yeah.

Chris: I believe you guys had a podcast with Dr. Paul Bedford. 

Kevin: Yes.

Chris: Paul is one of my very best friend and one of the industry’s great leaders and thinkers, and I always joke with him and said, “You do all the research and gather all the data and I just figure out best practices.” So he does all the hard work and then I just train people, “Hey, Paul said this is what the data reflects. Here’s how we’re going to make sure that that actually happens.” 

With onboarding new members, you do in multiple ways right. You’re going to have a sequence of emails that goes out and as somebody joins and becomes a member of your club, you’re going to let them know so that they don’t feel bombarded, and note that series of emails say, “Hey, you’re going to get an email every other day for the next 2 weeks and its going to let you know about some of the benefits you have as a member, some of the services that we offer, some of the different policies and procedures that we have.” So you’re pre-framing the member again so they’re not just bombarded and they actually look for it; so that’s part of it. We also believe in, obviously, you’re going to book whatever services your facility has to offer. So we’re going to get you that complimentary assessment with the trainer, and what we like to do with that is we kind of frame it in the alternate choice, so we’ll say, “Would you rather just do a consultation or an actual workout with one of our trainers because it is part of your membership?” Because sometimes it’s hard to simply be like, “Okay, now, let’s book you with a trainer.” No, we say, “You want just like a consultation or do you actually want to do a work a trainer? Which is better for you?” So it’s easier to get that booked. So we’ll book that, book them in a small group program, oftentimes even schedule a group exercise program if they’ve expressed interest in that, so scheduling those appointments. Then we have a series of phone calls. So you will get a phone call within that first week where somebody calls and simply says, “Hey John, I’m so happy that you join Stevenson Fitness. My name is Chris, I’m the general manager, and I just want you to welcome you to the club, let me know if you ever have questions we’re happy to answer those. And if you ever need anything at all please don’t hesitate to ask. We’ll see you at the club.”

People are blown away because normally when a fitness club calls they have to sell you something or… Yeah, so it’s just that welcome call, sending a welcome postcard – a handwritten postcard. So that goes out to all new members. We always did it and I recommend it to clubs that I work with to send that as well. So they’re getting the consistent emails; and that’s about a 90-day process. For the first 2 weeks they’re getting email every other day with valuable information, and then it spaces out to weekly all the way through 90 days. You always have to make sure it’s valuable info. Same thing with phone calls. A 30-day check-in, 60-day check-in, 90-day check-in, and then possibly check-ins in between based on their attendance. So you’re going to look at their attendance and see if they need that little nudge if they’re not coming in, or to congratulate them on, “You’re doing a great job coming in.” 

The other thing that I highly advice doing that always work in clubs that I own and operated too was a new member rewards program. You actually reward them for showing up. I think it’s a good differentiator even in the sales process. So when I’m touring you and I say, “By the way we have a new member rewards program where we actually reward you for showing up.” Because most gyms just want you to join and they don’t really care if you show up. Well, we actually care, so we’re going to reward you for attending. So then if they attend 8 times because that would consider them an active member. In the first month, you get them a reward, second month, third month, the same thing.

Kevin: Yeah.

Chris: Like. Dr. Bedford, all of his great research, TRP did a lot of great research, and it just shows that if you hold somebody’s hand with a lot of touch points for the first 90 days, you dramatically increase the length of their membership. Those are some of the high level ideas. 

Kevin: Some high level ones, yeah. I think the main take away for me is on this podcast every week now and people say the same thing about make the phone calls, send emails, but still there’re so many gyms and studios out there that are maybe afraid to make these calls or don’t make them. I think the massive take away for me is don’t be afraid to put that rhythm of communication in place for every new member. It’s not a lot of work. 

Chris: Right. And by the way, the key with that is just always have valuable information, right. If you don’t have good information then you have no excuse to call or email, right. So make sure that that’s part of it, and then let them know its coming. Just say hey, “We’re going to give you a courtesy call in two weeks just to make sure you’re doing well and see if you do have any questions.” That way you’re not just surprising. You let them know, “Hey, we’re going to reach out this first 90 days to really keep you on track and help you out.” So pre-frame that they’re going to get this sort of high touch communication, and then make sure it’s always valuable info. And that’s one thing I love about the new member rewards, I could always call you and say, “Hey, you got to get in two more times because I want you to get that reward.” So that gives you an excuse to always have a good email or call with people. 

Kevin: Yeah. Maybe one layer deeper then, what are you doing to make members feel more accountable and as they’re going through this process?

Chris: Through the first 90 days? 

Kevin: Yeah.

Chris: Well, I think just all of those touch points. The phone calls especially revolve around have you been in. So we always script people with what they’re going to say but also the first thing you do before you call is check their attendance. Digital accountability is powerful as well, but there’s nothing more accountable than me calling you going, “Hey, you joined a week ago and you haven’t been in.” Obviously, we would say it much nicer than that. “Hey, you joined a week ago, where you at? Why are you so lazy?” We wouldn’t say it like that, but, “Hey, we noticed you haven’t been yet. What could we do to get you in here.?”

Kevin: And it makes such a difference to be able to say that, “Hey, I saw you here on Wednesday”, or “Hey, we haven’t seen you in a couple weeks.” It really shows that you’ve taken an interest and it gets the conversation started. 

Chris: Yeah. By the way, I’m going with memberships as well. I believe in reaching out if somebody hasn’t been in within 7 days. That will change country to country and culture wise, but in the US, 7 to 10 days if somebody hasn’t been in, they are at risk for cancelation. So, we had a software that just send it out at 7 days, a little email says we miss you. “We notice that you haven’t been in a past week, is there anything we can do”, or whatever, and you’d be surprised in the responses. I would tell you this, the one answer that I think people will say back is they’ll say, “What if people cancel?” I say, well they may cancel, and then they had a good experience cancelling because you proactively reached them and they are like, “Yeah, I’m not going to use it.” But I said, in all the data, you know feel vs. real, it was such a tiny, tiny percentage versus people that said I sprained my ankle where we could say, “You know what, we’ve got a trainer who specializes in injury.” Or, “I really lose motivation.” “You know, let’s do this. Let’s assign you a class buddy that you can meet up here that will help you keep motivated.” So more often than not, 98% of the time, it was a legit reason issue problem that we can then help with.

Kevin: Tell me about some… These are obviously a great blueprint for developing a member experience especially in the early days. What are some of the more common mistakes that you come across when you start to work with gyms and fitness studios?

Chris: There’s a couple and I’ll tell you a quick story to illustrate a point. I had a trainer that worked for me. Prior to working for me he worked in Hollywood, and he said the gym that he worked had a lot of celebrities. And so the smaller facility dingy, no sign, dirty, like that that old dumbbells that are metal and you do a chest press and the flakes of metal would fall off on. You know, just a disgusting, dirty, barely any mirrors, dingy gym that had a lot of celebrities and trainers. Well, the gym was doing really well despite all that, so the owner decided, okay I’m moving down the street to a store front with big windows, big signage, we’re a luxury model, and he failed. Because he assumed everyone wanted what he thought was great which where mirrors, and lights, and signs. The point is so many people make these decisions without taking the time to survey and ask their members. One of the biggest things in experience is just assuming because I like a certain experience, everybody’s going to like that same experience, right. 

Kevin: Yeah.

Chris: Again, just gather data, gather data, do your research, and then make really good decisions based on real information. The other piece of that is assuming that everybody wants the same experience. Energy Fitness Club is a great chain across the UK, Ireland, Scotland, Poland. I think they have a location in Bahrain, and as part of their onboarding and I can’t remember specifically but as they’re onboarding people, they’ve got 6 different types of members that they have classified people as. On one end of the spectrum, it’s the newbie who needs instruction, help, hand holding. On the other far end of the spectrum, is the savvy exerciser. So when you start to look at people on those different groups, the savvy exerciser probably still wants their name used, you know a smile, or maybe back on the day even high five, now we can’t do that anymore, high elbows. But they don’t want to be told what to do, they don’t want to be forced to doing a session with the trainer, so respect them. Treat them like that. Still give them the plate and all that. But then the newbie does want the 10-minute conversation, does need the extra hand holding. So assuming everybody wants the same thing is also a mistake. So you do have to train your staff on. “Hey, there are different types of users in this facility that like to be treated differently because they’re looking for different experience. I think that’s two of it. Two parts right there. 

Kevin: Yeah. That’s very interesting. And you mentioned in that particular club 6 different personas. Do you think businesses now are getting deeper into the data in general or is it becoming more or less in terms of how they develop personas and think about the data their business, or is it something 1% you’re doing?

Chris: That’s a great question. I say this with all due respect because I believe that we work in the best industry in the world, and I mean that. I mean, what other industries simply helps people. It’s not just weight loss, it’s not just looking better, getting leaner, it’s improving the quality of their life. Because when you lose weight and you look in the mirror and you like what you see, you have more energy, you sleep better, you’re managing stress better, you’re happier, relationship, careers get better, so we really ultimately change people’s lives, right. And I think that’s a very powerful thing. 

However, it will be interesting to take all the clubs all over that have access like this particular podcast, and it’s such a small, even if it’s a lot of people listening, it’s still such a small percentage in the whole industry. I think some people out there just open up gyms and throw equipment in and hire someone work front desk and do some classes where I do think it’s a smaller percentage that takes it as seriously as you should take it. And that’s why I think there’s such a small amount of clubs that really standout and really do provide amazing experiences for people. I think more clubs should get involve. It’s a small percentage of owners that take it to that level. You know, that’s by 25% of the industry maybe, at most, maybe 15%. I wish they would because it’s such a powerful thing and it’s such a fun thing. Hey, let’s take better care people by doing data analytics and research and figuring out what they really want, let’s give it to them. 

Kevin: Yeah. I think it’s probably obviously getting more and more important now especially as the industry goes through a bit of a hard time when some of the stronger businesses are the ones that will survive through it, and these are the types of things you’re going to need to become more aware of. 

Chris: Absolutely. I will tell you this, the clubs that were already focused on creating a great experience for their members are highly interactive, building relationships have built the trust and loyalty that they need to come out of this stronger. If you weren’t doing a good job with that, people aren’t going to trust you coming back, right? Especially, and you know, a lot of clubs ask their members, “Hey, while we’re shutdown, do you mind continuing to pay your membership dues because this is the only way we’ll survive?” I guarantee the ones that have built great relationships and provide a great experience, members are more likely to do that. If you don’t care about the big box you go to then you’re like, “No, cancel me, freeze me.”  But if you’re actually invested because somebody’s taking the time to build a relationship with you, then they are willing to support. 

Kevin: Yeah, especially when you need trust to go back now. 

Chris: Oh man. Trust is huge. It’s the most important thing right now. If they don’t trust you prior, they’re not going to trust you at all now.

Kevin: Yeah, pretty tough. Okay, so you’re definitely painting like pretty great picture here of members coming in, getting all these messages, getting properly categorized into personas. How do you get your staff to actually do all these stuff? 

Chris: A couple of things. One, just to take a step backwards, you got to hire the right people. The club that I ran and the bigger club that I own and operate for 10 years, when we hire it was 50/50. You are either a good person who work hard or weren’t. And then as we refine our processes we just got better and better to where we rarely hired a clunker. I mean, we ended up with a really great hiring process where we are hiring the right people. Yeah, I do that. Then you got to lead by example, and that’s a key. If I sit there and I preach to my staff, “Okay, customer experience is the most important thing”, and then they see me ignoring a member or doing something that’s not necessarily a good experience for a member, they are not going to do it. They just won’t do it. So you have to, your leadership level has to be onboard and understand the importance of it. It is comprehensive onboarding and then I’m going training. 

One thing that we used and that I have helped other clubs create were an ongoing training template. What we would do is we would for the 12 months of the year each month would be a topic based around customer experience, and we would break it into four parts that were more consumable. So at the beginning of the month, there would be a companywide message, “Hey, this month is all about greetings. Here is a reminder what are our greetings are.” That email would go out. Then the department heads would hit their department specifically on what that looks like for them. So with the front desk, or I like to call it and I recommend to call it welcome desk. Why name it where it’s located, right? We name it about what they are supposed to do. Week 1 would be like, reminder on greeting members, and then Week 2 would be greeting prospects, Week 3 would be a fun farewell. What do you say when people leave? And then Week 4 would be everyday interactions when you walk the floor. And so it is just consumable part. And then the key is, again, department heads following up. So you send this great email. It is simple, so with the warm welcome well I say, “Eyes and teeth. You are making eye contact, your teeth, utilizing the person’s name 100% of the time.” So that’s really the simple base level instructions. If you can simplify it’s easier to execute, right? And then you as a group, as the department head going up to that person saying, “Hey, you got the email, right? Okay, let’s role-play really quickly.” It’s consistent role-play and then if you can wrap gratitude around it. So when you see the behavior done really well going up and reinforcing how important it is saying, “Oh my god, you just made that prospect so happy. They felt so warm and comfortable. Way to do it.” And then make it part of your evaluation. So when you do your annual evals, you are not asking base level questions like, “On a scale of 1-5, how was your punctuality? How was your attitude? How was your appearance?” Those are givens. What you do say, here is a part of your roles, and we always give them the roles of their job. How are you doing in your warm welcomes? How are you doing in your fun farewells? How are you doing with your greeting of prospects? So making that part of that eval so they know, “Hey, this is so important that this is what they are going to evaluate my performance on.” 

Kevin: Yeah. So formalizing it in the evaluation. 

Chris: Absolutely.

Kevin: And then just being that good manager or owner on the floor and giving the credit when it’s due and when it actually happens. 

Chris: Absolutely.

Kevin: It’s a lot of work but it’s probably a reminder to a lot of gym owners who maybe don’t take enough notice of that kind of stuff and take the time to say to the trainer, “You did a great job there.”

Chris: Yeah. It is funny because sometimes people are like, “Man, that sounds like a ton of work.” I’m like, “Not once you get into the system.” Once you get into the system of it… Because I recommend, managers and leaders sometimes they get so involved in the technical aspects, I said, “Treat your place like a restaurant.” A pre-COVID restaurant, right, and know when your rush is. So if you have a morning rush from 6-7, just be on the floor. You are interacting with members, making them happy, and you are coaching your team. And then do your office work during the dead times. If you treat it like that and when you know it’s a rush you are on the floor, coaching and interacting with members. Coaching teams, interacting with members, that’s it. And then, off peak times, you do your other technical stuff that you got to for marketing to budget and all those sort of things. You just got to prioritize it. If you prioritize then you can do it. 

Kevin: You can do it, yeah. Okay, let’s move on a small bit now and delve into the world of online and virtual classes. Tell me what are you seeing out there? What’s working well and where do you think it’s going?

Chris: What I think happen with COVID is you are already seeing companies start to get involved in virtual, and this just accelerated it. It was one of those backburner projects, right? You focus heavily on your in-person group classes. But you are like, “Someday we are going to start streaming this.” And then all of a sudden we’re like, oh my god, “We are closed. The only thing we can do is stream it.” I think it accelerated the process and I think it is a great thing. Because of where we’re at the future of virtual looks strong. Because if you told me, “Hey, why don’t you use virtual class.” Prior to COVID I’d be like, “It is so lame. I’m looking on my laptop on a Zoom…” It just wasn’t the norm at all so I don’t think there was ever an excitement or willingness to necessarily try it. Now, it’s all we have and people are really enjoying it. Even like virtual happy hours. Again, prior to this, if you’ve been like, “Hey, we’ll get on a Zoom and drink together.” I’d be like, “Are you kidding?”

Kevin: Now it’s all you’ve got.

Chris: And it is fun. It has connected me with people all over the country that I wouldn’t normally see. You know, strengthen some relationships. We have one that we call the FitBiz Family that we do every Thursday with a bunch of owners and operators. And we already said, as soon as everybody is open again we’ll do this at least once a month because it’s still valuable and fun. But I think it has become more than norm and I think that’s great. I believe that the companies that really will be successful in the end are going to keep doing virtual after. I do believe people can’t wait to get back into a classroom. They are going to love that once it’s safe and they feel good about it because people just inherently have the need for real social interaction. But to have the virtual there as another add on product for people who won’t feel safe until there is a vaccine or really get in the habit going, “You know what, I don’t have to drive 10 minutes and park and all that. I could literally wake up 5 minutes to take my class or I’m travelling.” you keep people engage when they are travelling or they are not physically there. I think it’s powerful. I think you need to do it and I think you need to do it right. 

Kevin: How do you see it forming part of a gym membership, does that go side by side or certain people will opt to go to the club and some won’t?

Chris: Yeah. I mean, I think that and this is the way I see it. Well obviously, we always see this. Some clubs do things that work really well and we try things different ways. But in my opinion, right now, most clubs are offering it as a complimentary service just because they can’t be open. Once they are open my recommendation was had it be an add on where for an additional fee you can do it and also a separate membership. So if somebody really doesn’t want to come to a club they can still engage with your club by joining the online portion.  

The other thing that’s great about virtual is in a way I think it’s going to be a gateway drug. So having that person who is just like super self-conscious. I’m not going to have a Zumba class and go dance and be embarrassed but I’m really interested. So they are happy to do it by themselves at home a virtual or an online platform, and then all of a sudden they are like, “This is fun”, and then they get the nudge and they start doing it live. So I think it’s going to be a gateway drug. But I do think it’s going to be an important ancillary service. I think if you got to invest and you got to do it right.

Kevin: What are people doing right on the member experience side? So all around the calls, and the emails, and accountability. How are people doing that well in a virtual setting? 

Chris: I don’t think we know yet because there weren’t very many people doing virtual. In my opinion though, I would structure it as a rewards program. Part of your words we want you to take at least one virtual class. I think also virtual in the sort of recovery space would be really cool. I think you are going to see the recovery piece where people don’t necessarily want to go and do it but is super beneficial. I think that’s going to be powerful. And you are always going to have, like I said, I really think virtual is going to be important and it’s going to be part of the future. But you are going to have people that just won’t do it. They just want the in-club action. I think you encourage. I think you market it as a valuable thing. 

I think the one big thing with virtual too is, and this is no disrespect for companies that have been doing it for long time with their own content that you could then use at your facility. People want to see their instructors. They want to see their trainers. I think the future is going to be companies, like what Glofox does, providing the platform for me at my club to use my instructors and my programming and bring it to people. I really think that’s the future. I don’t think it’s the pre choreograph stuff. People want to see you. People want to see your facility. 

Kevin: Yeah, see their trainer. I think so. Okay, so maybe before we wrap up then let’s touch on what do you see some of the challenges clubs and studios are going to go through as they open up over the next few months and what should they be on the lookout for? 

Chris: As they open, and this is after talking to a few operators over here who have gotten open. I will say this and it’s very optimistic, I think it’s not going to be as bad as we think it is. I think people need to understand that we are so nervous and it’s so unknown. By the way we are all over preparing which we should. But I think what you are going to see is you’re going to be super anxious and it is not going to be as bad as you think because the people that love you, that believe in it, that feel safe are going to be the first ones to come back. They are going to be so excited to come back. And then people are slowly going to trickle back.

First be optimistic, be excited. And like I said before, managers need to be out there on the peak times. It’s never been more true than now. You’ve got to be out there at the front door socially distant from everybody greeting, welcoming, being gracious, appreciative of people having that trust and faith in you and coming back. I think one thing that’s going to be a challenge will be policy enforcement because a lot of people will trust the club. In the States, it’s been a really divisive. I mean, you have people that are like, “I won’t wear a mask. It’s against my freedom.” And then you have people that are like, “I’m going to wear a mask for the rest of my life even when I sleep.” It’s really divided so you are going to have members coming and some aren’t going to care and some are. That’s going to be challenge is making sure that your staff is highly trained and that you role-play a lot on the steps of policy enforcement because you are going to need to approach those members and say, “Hey, we need you to stand 6ft. away”, or “We need you to stay in this area”, or “You’re going to wipe down right after…” Whatever those things that are implemented have to be enforced.

Kevin: And you probably have a couple of shots that people are coming back and see how you are handling the situation and see that you’re on the ball, and see someone is in charge. 

Chris: I would give the advice too, 75% of what you do will be right, and then that’s going to change day to day. Just know that that’s okay. And all of a sudden you feel we don’t need to mandate masks on members, then don’t. But you’ll know if it’s okay to change as long as you’re communicating that effectively with your staff and your members. Just say, “Hey, we are doing everything based on guidelines. We’ll adapt and make changes as things evolve and change. Here is what our expectations are just know that they will change as things evolve.” And that’s okay. 

Kevin: Okay, interesting times ahead, Chris. Before we let you go, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the last two or three months? 

Chris: Two parts to that, and I mentioned earlier, that customer experience is crucial. It’s the game changer. It’s the differentiator. If you went into COVID having already done a great job with your customer experience, you are going to come out of it much stronger. If you never focus on it, you’re going to have a hard time when this thing is over. I think through all the changes and things that evolved and formats, and policies, the one thing that will never change, and this is any industry, is customer experience. It is crucial. You’ve got to give people the experience they are looking for. The more you can personalize it and build real relationships with your customers, the more successful you will ever be. And then the second piece is communication is just critical. I’ve talked to clubs that were closed for two months and I’m like, “Have you been communicating with your members?” And they are like, “No.” I’m like, “Well, you better start.” But the great clubs communicate transparently, honestly, authentically on a very regular basis with their members as well as their staff. You have to have these open lines of honest communication more so now than ever but that’s going to be something that the great operators will continue after this. Communicate frequently with good information in people’s best interest and that will help. So focus on a great experience and make sure that your communication is on point. 

Kevin: Yeah, that’s really good. That really sums it up. Okay, Chris, before you go just tell people how they can get in touch with you if they want to chat.

Chris: Any social channel. It’s is Chris Stevenson in some form of another. I think Instagram it’s @thechrisstevenson because apparently some guy named Chris Stevenson already got it. Facebook the same thing. You just search Chris Stevenson. My website is My email is [email protected]. Again, whether it is a social channel, feel free to email me. If you have any questions about this, I’m always happy to help whenever I can. I obviously love what we do. I love the industry. I passionately love customer experience so whenever I can help I am always happy to do so. 

Kevin: Nice one. Okay, Chris, thank you very much for coming on the show. 

Chris: Absolutely. It’s my pleasure. 

Kevin: Thank you. 

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