These days, you can do almost anything with a cell phone. Check your email, update your calendar, play solitaire, take photos - all this functionality is crammed into a piece of technology so small that it fits inside your pocket. The best part is, it's an affordable gadget.
Take a quick survey of your employees. How many have tricked-out cell phones, or PDAs, with Internet access? Crunch the numbers, and consider this: You may benefit from software that allows employees remote access to your facility's management software, and help keep them more connected, efficient and productive.
Efficiency = cost savingsUsing Internet-enabled, hand-held technology "is a way of life for a growing 'Internet-dependent' population," says Jodi Swartz, chief marketing officer for Conexion, Baltimore, Md. "Many people turn daily to online resources to manage everything from their banking needs to their shopping lists. Keen operators understand this, and give trainers/instructors access to their schedules in a form and function in which they are accustomed." If your personal training staff is part of this plugged-in population, setting and updating their schedules is easy if they have remote access to your management software. "Many clients do not have their trainers on a regular schedule, and [remote access] is a great way for clubs and trainers to be updated about their schedules," says Rachelle J. Shotwell, marketing manager for ASF International, Highlands Ranch, Colo. "It's also important because not all members contact the club to schedule appointments. Often they contact the trainers directly, and allowing the trainers to use [a] program [that allows remote access] gives club owners more up-to-date information on appointments scheduled, serviced and cancelled."
Not only that, but if the schedule is updated electronically - and the training staff is conscientious about checking it frequently - the process is more efficient. "Time is money, and efficiency equals cost savings," says Paul Deraval, co-founder and chief architect of EZFacility.com, Bethpage, N.Y. "Providing trainers with remote or mobile access to view or update their schedules at exactly the time they need to perform those functions results in dramatically less time being spent making phone calls or having to always check the computer. It also results in far more accurate tracking of client attendance and session deductions from pre-paid packages."
This kind of system can improve the efficiency of other departments, as well. "It also makes running payroll easier because the club owners can easily see how many appointments trainers have serviced in a select date range," Shotwell says. "With the program's integration with point-of-sale [functions], they can also track commission on packages sold."
Customer service goes wirelessCustomer service is traditionally a face-to-face endeavor, but members appreciate the rapid response time allowed by the digital age. "The simple fact that trainers and staff have remote access to their client's schedules and contact information enables clubs to instantly improve their efficiency by removing the lag time between a customer's request for a timeslot and the time they receive confirmation that their appointment has been scheduled," says Deraval.
"[Remote access capability] makes scheduling much faster, as any employee, whether they are in the club or working remotely, can access the entire training staff's schedules via the Internet," Shotwell says. "No more hunting down the appointment books or having to call a trainer to verify if they are available during a time slot; it's all centralized with [the] system."
Not only that, but this technology can take out the middleman altogether, and give the customer scheduling power. "Many clubs not only offer instructors/trainers access to their schedules, but offer their membership the ability to book classes/court times/sessions via the Internet, as well," says Swartz. "Like trainers, members are growing more Internet-dependent."
CommunicationThe bane of any trainer's professional existence is the dreaded no-show. According to Deraval, remote access to management software can help. "By centralizing access to this information remotely, owners give their staff the ability to update a customer's schedule and information on the fly, from anywhere," he says. "This will help to cut down on the number of no-shows and inaccurate attendance tracking, and allow staff to leave notes in the centralized customer file for everyone in the company to access, regardless of their location."
Shotwell agrees: "Anyone can access this program at all times, so there is no confusion about conflicting appointments, when someone is teaching a class or times when a trainer is unavailable for other reasons." ASF also offers an automated text messaging service that texts trainers whenever an appointment is scheduled, changed or cancelled. "This feature has been extremely popular among our client base because it requires no effort and keeps everyone in the loop," says Shotwell.
Transparency is another benefit of using this technology. "Since all scheduling is automated through technology, there is transparency at all levels of the organization - and this can include members," says Swartz. "Not only will managers know who is on duty when and for what, but members are also engaged in the communication process via email notifications and reminders."
ProfitsRemote-access technology opens up new profit avenues. According to Swartz, remote-access management software can help facility owners increase profits because it provides staff with on-demand access to information with point-of-sale capabilities, provides actionable operational data regarding booked services and facility trends, and manages wait lists automatically to keep classes at capacity.
"[Remote-access software products] decrease operating costs by streamlining most activities related to scheduling," Swartz says. "By reducing the administrative time put exclusively toward scheduling, clubs enable valuable staff to focus on other activities. Additionally, by automating the booking process, all commissions are tracked through the management software, and can be linked to accounting and payroll systems."
Additionally, putting purchasing power in the customers' hands can encourage more spending. "By making the trainer/instructor's schedule visible to the member via remote access, and enabling the member to self-book, club operators have not only eased and expedited the booking process, but they have also multiplied opportunities for members to book/purchase additional products and services," says Swartz.
Ahead of the curveIf your staff members don't already own cell phones or PDAs with Internet access, it may be an expensive proposition to pony up for company phones. And, if your fitness center is located in a remote area with limited wireless hotspots, remote access may be ineffective. But, for those facilities that have most of the pieces in place, remote access may help take your business to the next level. "In today's information age, employers in every industry are equipping their staff with the ability to access their ... customer data from any location, 24 hours a day," says Deraval. "In a high-service industry such as fitness, the ability to respond quickly to customer requests, even when you are not near a computer, will help set your club apart from the competition, and provide the highest level of customer service to your clients."
Management Software Directory
Affiliated Acceptance Corp.
800 233-8483; www.affiliated.org
FrontDesk Facility Management software from Affiliated manages member check-in, and logs usage dates and times. Users can schedule personal training sessions, court times and group exercise classes, and manage pro shop sales and inventory. FrontDesk Facility Management stores membership data, accounts receivables, delinquency reporting, renewals and more. It can be installed and used by any sized facility, including multiple locations, which can be networked. Added features include multi-level system security, member search abilities and online help screens. FrontDesk Interactive provides a customer management system with EFT, credit card, payment coupon and mail-in payments.
800 227-3859; www.asfinternational.com
ASF's Appointment & Class Scheduler helps users schedule and change appointments, track training sessions, assist with trainer payroll and more. It helps improve communication with trainers with its automated text messaging feature, which notifies them of new, changed and cancelled appointments. All training packages sold are tied to individual members, and the system automatically adds to the member's account each time a new purchase is made. As members check in for sessions, the program will deduct them from their account, and notify managers when it is time to sell a new package.
Aspen Information Systems
800 414-0343; www.aspensoftware.com
Visual Clubmate from Aspen offers member management, fitness assessments, exercise prescriptions, activity logging, check-in, incentive points, video imaging, DecisionMate, credit book, scheduling, touch screen point-of-sale, inventory, EFT and receivables management. Its modular approach allows management to choose from a variety of tools, which focus on three points of business success: managing cash, acquiring new members and retaining existing members. Aspen Information Systems has provided software solutions to fitness centers since 1992.
800 324-9800; www.checkfreecompete.com
CheckFree, now part of Fiserv, offers Checkfree Compete, which delivers a simple user interface, secure network and scalable technical architecture that provide the tools needed to help minimize operational expenses and better cater to members. Compete's front desk component uses touch-screen capability and a user-friendly interface, reducing the time and resources required to train front desk personnel. Designed to run in facilities of all sizes, CheckFree Compete is available in three editions: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each edition offers distinct capabilities designed to meet a club's specific needs.
800 554-2582; www.clubrunner.net
ClubRunner's features include access control for 24-hour facilities, barcoded key tag check-in, on-screen video imaging, paperless contract manager and storage, member "loyalty" points, reservations, series item tracking (prepaid books that track things such as personal training), contact management for guests and members, mail merge, email, direct link letters, reports module that includes 10,000 customizable reports, inventory manager, touch screen point-of-sale, member billing, automated EFT billing and updating, and more. ClubRunner has been in business since 1985.
800 780-0115; www.conexionllc.com
Conexion offers online facility management software in a hosted, service (SaaS) model. This means that users can access the software from any computer with an Internet connection, from any location, at any time of day. The software includes membership management, agreement writer with electronic signature capture, member check-in, point-of-sale, package sales, inventory management, sales assistant, email wizard, scheduling, punch clock, accounting link to various accounting packages, detailed reporting, integrated billing programs, and technical and professional services. Additionally, the software interfaces with leading accounting, equipment, scheduling, retention, rewards, assessment, testing and activity tracking programs.
Coral Springs Software
800 827-2567; www.healthclubsoftware.net
QuikCheK is a management software product that includes solutions for check-in, point-of-sale, sales and marketing, retention, personal training, electronic billing, reporting and scheduling. Coral Springs Software offers billing services, or users can do their own EFTs. No-interest payment plans are available on all software products. QuikCheK can be used in all types of facilities, and Coral Springs staff is experienced in club management.
800 247-3431; www.csisoftwareusa.com
CSI Software provides membership management software and services designed for fitness centers, campus recreation centers, JCC/YMCA/YWCA organizations, and parks and recreation departments. Its management software provides the functionality to manage prospects, guests, members and employees, as well as various services provided by the organization. CSI Software has been in business since 1978.
877 772-3348; www.efitfinancial.com
Club Advantage, a web-based club management software application, allows facility operators to access online from any computer, 24/7. EFit's program allows users to outsource payment processing, billing and collections. eFit can automatically process EFT bank drafts and credit card debits for a small percentage of the amount collected. The founders of eFit Financial have more than 25 years of experience serving fitness centers.
Electronic Billing & Collecting Services
800 766-1918; www.achbilling.com
Since 1986, Electronic Billing & Collecting Services has been a full-service payment processing, delinquent collections and database management firm serving the fitness industry. It offers Return Free EFT, along with delinquent collections up to 120 days with no fee increase. Its Express Check-In software includes e-document storage, a POS module, an online scheduling and booking module, and a member referral program (MAP). The Express Check-In E-Document System is a true paperless entry system. Users have total control of data at each location, with support staff available.
866 498-3279; www.ezfacility.com
EZFacility's Trainer Management System (TMS) provides a complete scheduling, membership management, recurring billing and financial reporting tool for any size fitness facility. TMS is modular in its design, and is a web-based product, which means the user never has to buy, install or maintain software.
Go Figure Inc.
866 532-9588; igofigure.com
iGo Figure Software provides fitness center management software, including free training and support, and $0.10 integrated EFT processing. More than 100 reports and a custom report generator provide easy-to-understand details about a user's business, making it possible to manage one or multiple facilities and employees.
800 275-8636; www.innovatechsoftware.com
InnovaTech offers HealthCalc desktop software and online technology products, integrated health/fitness assessment and member management solutions. MemberTrack, HealthCalc's management module, provides front desk check-in and activity program management. The system is compatible with card readers, and displays digital photos upon check-in. Data management tools include mail merge, labels, broadcast email features, and more than 200 individual and management reports. Data can be imported and exported. Online solutions are also available, and feature tools to tailor the site to users' needs.
877 755-4279; www.mindbodyonline.com
MindBody Business Management Software offers online class, event and appointment scheduling, client management, marketing and ecommerce solutions. Through web technology, users can link multiple locations seamlessly, expand non-dues revenue, cut billing costs and automate administrative tasks. Clients can manage their own schedules and accounts, and purchase classes and contracts online, directly from the facility's website.
800 829-4321; www.motionsoft.net
eClubLogic's integrated sales, billing and customer service functionality gives users a comprehensive view of key customer information. Employees can share automated tasks to help ensure rapid response and resolution of member requests. eClubLogic's wizard-based model establishes consistent business processes, frees employees from time-consuming tasks, and equips them with the information and tools they need to sell effectively and enhance the member experience.
800 316-4444; www.paramountacceptance.com
For more than 35 years, Paramount Acceptance has provided fitness centers with financing and software solutions through management software and delinquent account collections. With ASP.NET SQL Server technology, Paramount Acceptance's software suite includes an electronic contract writer; driver's license, check and credit card readers; maintenance log and task manager; corporate web sales site; POS; employee time clock; childcare check-in and tracking; guest registry; session tracking; front desk monitor; and real-time reporting features. Other services include automated payment processing, billing and invoicing, payment processing and servicing, return resolution, marketing programs, collection of delinquent accounts and other support services.
423 847-1808; www.touchfit.com
TouchFit is a management system designed to manage the day-to day operations of a fitness facility, and it also includes a proactive approach to retention. TouchFit determines which members are most at risk for dropout, and follows those members for the first nine months, alerting staff when a member may drop out. TouchFit software includes front desk check-in with photo verification, member management, fitness assessments, EFT billing, appointment scheduling, point-of-sale, equipment checkout, a touchscreen kiosk for member interaction, auto email generator, and a web component that allows members to record their workouts online, view monthly statements and sign up for classes.