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Maintaining the Member Experience Through the New Year Rush — Part 1

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This is Part 1 of a three-part series in which community recreation centers from around the country share their experiences handling the New Year rush.

Each new year is a fresh start for community rec centers and prospective members alike — Ys and JCCs can implement new strategies and goals for success, while community members can hit the reset button on their health and fitness goals.

New goals for a new year can put New Year’s “resolutioners” on a collision course with your facility. As a result, many Ys and JCCs find their buildings swarming with new members trying to find their preferred workout equipment or the class they signed up for.

This trend is ever-present across the industry, and Broadview YMCA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is no exception. “Our association of YMCA’s in Green Bay definitely sees an uptick in new members around the New Year,” said Beth Kennerhed, the branch’s executive director. “This year we are currently welcoming just under 1,000 new members to our facilities from just before Christmas through the first week of January. Our association typically hovers around the 30,000 member mark.”

In spite of a drastic increase in new members, however, Broadview doesn’t hire additional staff members — a common response to increased facility usage — or alter and make additions to its fitness class schedule.

Instead, Kennerhed and her team focus on constantly training and supporting their team throughout the year to ensure a consistent member experience and navigate the New Year rush, even with higher facility usage.

A successful alternative at Broadview has been covering all shifts by staggering employee schedules. “We find our staffing structure allows for some flexibility in hours as we go through the seasonal cycles without hiring additional staff,” said Kennerhed.

Keeping the same class schedule throughout the year is another way Broadview stays prepared for the New Year’s rush without having to make drastic changes to schedules or quickly integrate new programs.

“We maintain similar fitness class schedules throughout the year, with some seasonal adjustments,” said Kennerhed. “Everyone can find a good fit in our wide range of standard offerings, so we don’t feel the need to change them for the New Year.”

In fact, this practice can even help with current member retention, according to Kennerhed. “Our continuing members appreciate the fact that we don’t change the schedule on them, as they become quite attached to their current classes,” she said.

Current or new, all members are the priority at the Broadview YMCA — that’s why the staff works so hard to maintain an exceptional member experience, even when there are more members in the building than usual.

“We want to make sure everyone feels comfortable the minute they walk in the door,” said Kennerhed. “We introduce them to established members to help build connections and a support system for them.”

And through these connections, Broadview hopes to provide the best experience possible to the “resolutioners” who come through their doors.

“Personal conversations about what they want to accomplish and a helping hand to get them started is the most successful path to integrating the new members into our current population,” said Kennerhed. “Each person’s journey is different — our job is to help make their journey a success, and hopefully, a little fun.”

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Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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