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Having the right equipment can be the key differentiator in making your programs successful and increasing the overall member experience. In order to make sure you are meeting your members’ equipment needs, you must have the right equipment manufacturing partner.

According to Michael Doss, the executive vice president and COO of the YMCA of Honolulu in Honolulu, Hawaii, good equipment manufacturers must produce reliable, easy-to-use equipment.

“The equipment must be competitively priced and easy to service, and parts must be readily available,” said Doss. “If in-house service technicians are not available, certified third-party technicians must be provided in a timely manner and at reasonable rates.”

Michael Bennett, the regional director of operations at the Victory Family YMCA in Yorktown, Virginia, agreed manufacturers should have a local repair service that can respond within 24 to 48 hours. Additionally, Bennett said the equipment the manufacturer provides should be user-friendly for all ages and abilities, easy to clean, durable and have easy-to-access technology without it overwhelming the purpose of the product.

A good way to find a manufacturer that can deliver equipment to fit the needs of your facility is asking your peers in the industry. This is how the Honolulu Y found their manufacturers.

“I contacted my colleagues at other YMCAs and asked if they were happy with their equipment manufacturer, and if they said yes, I asked them for their name,” said Doss. “I then contacted the manufacturer and asked for a face-to-face meeting. If the meeting went well, I asked for a product demonstration and references.”

Bennett takes referrals from his friends, other fitness centers and vendor partners. Additionally, he researches manufacturers, sees how they stay in touch with their customers and watches how they act in public when they aren’t aware they are on his radar.

“General conversations at conferences or personal visits are important,” said Bennett. “I like if they didn’t try to sell me equipment the first time we met. Rather, they asked questions about me and my experience, and if I have used their equipment at my current or past facilities.”

Another aspect to consider when choosing your manufacturer is the level of customer service they deliver. For Doss, it is important the manufacturer is a partner, not just a salesperson.

“When I select an equipment manufacturer, I make it known I’m interested in a long-term partnership, not simply a transactional relationship,” explained Doss. “A partner checks in via email, phone and in-person periodically to see how their equipment is performing. They ask if anything is needed and keep us apprised of changes in their staff team or product line. A partner attends all large installation events and visits each branch at least annually.”

Bennett agreed with Doss and said customer service should be a manufacturer’s No. 1 priority.

“The sales representative should follow through with the entire purchasing process, be present during installs for large purchases, take time to train our staff on how to operate the equipment, follow up, and connect me with the service techs,” said Bennett. “There is never really a handoff between the various levels of the company. They should constantly communicate with me.”

Some manufacturers the Victory Family Y has enjoyed working with are Cybex, Precor, Matrix and Life Fitness. A manufacturer Doss has loved working with for 30 years, and has delivered great customer service to the Honolulu Y, is Precor.

Doss said the team at Precor checks in with their Y quarterly and visits semi-annually, which is no small task given they are located in Hawaii. Additionally, Doss said their Precor partners know the names of all six of their healthy lifestyle directors, anticipate their needs and act on requests.

“It is comforting knowing should we have a problem, Precor will resolve it,” said Doss. “More recently, we’ve also started working with Life Fitness and Technogym, and thus far, we’ve found their respective staff teams and equipment to be stellar.”

If your facility is looking for new equipment and a company you can form a relationship with, there are a few things Bennett said to consider:

  • A good manufacturer should provide the proper training regardless of how small or large the order.
  • A good manufacturer should understand they may not have the answer or equipment to meet all of your needs. They should be honest and state when another company can provide another piece to meet your needs.
  • A good manufacturer should not trash talk the competitor. They should explain their pros and cons, and again ask for your needs and goals so you can make the best decision for your members.

Finding the right manufacturer who cares about your goals and the success of your facility can help improve your programs and your members’ overall experience. Whether you’ve had a manufacturer partnership for 30 years or a couple of months, it is important to check in and ensure you are getting the most out of it.

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor of Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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