This is Part 2 of a three-part series in which community recreation centers from around the country share their experiences engaging members amidst the New Year rush.
As soon as the ball drops, New Year’s “resolutioners” everywhere vow to get themselves in better shape. As a result, January and February produce the highest percentages of new gym memberships of any months.
This presents every fitness facility with a great opportunity to capture the attention of several prospective members and boost its membership numbers.
However, nestled in the heart of Whitefish, Montana, a small town of 7,600 people, The Wave Aquatic & Fitness Center has a different experience than most community recreation centers each January.
“At our facility, we have a high market penetration, so our total number of members only fluctuates a small percentage,” said Art Krueger, the director of The Wave. “Because we are in a resort town, we do see a drastic increase in single day, seven-day and 30-day temporary memberships.”
This doesn’t mean overall participation numbers aren’t up during January. “For us, it is not just the increase in new members, but the overall increase in attendance from current members,” said Krueger.
Since new members are in short supply in Whitefish, even in January, The Wave puts more emphasis on increasing participation from its current members. To handle an increased amount of facility usage, Krueger and his team call in the reinforcements.
“[January] more than likely will require more hands on deck,” said Krueger. “We staff seasonal positions, such as greeters and locker room attendants. We also add part-time staff members to our service desk and housekeeping crews.”
But The Wave never hires more staff members than it needs, which helps reduce staffing costs. “I believe any good business is going to control their labor costs, as that is likely the number one driver of expense,” he said.
Staffing isn’t the only area in which The Wave tries to maintain consistency. Rather than try implementing or experimenting with several new fitness classes, The Wave focuses more on improving the member experience in classes that are already popular.
“We work hard to offer a robust amount of classes year-round,” said Krueger. “During this time of year, we offer a few additional classes, but not a substantial amount.”
That’s not to say The Wave doesn’t add anything new for its members. “One new technology we’ve employed last year was Fitness On Demand, which has helped offer more options for our members,” said Krueger.
The addition of part-time staff and technology like Fitness On Demand is all a part of The Wave’s commitment to delivering a great member experience, no matter what time of year it is or how much its facility usage increases.
“When the rush of the New Year hits, the focus needs to stay on quality of experience,” said Krueger. “This has to be done through building a solid culture of welcome.”
And the best way to ensure a great member experience, according to Krueger, is to trust your staff to deliver. “Hire the right people, ensure they understand your vision for member experience, and give them the training and tools necessary to succeed, then get out of their way,” he said.