I Secret Shopped my 62nd YMCA today.
I walked in and said my opening line: "Hi, my name is Brian, I’m new to the area and possibly interested in a membership."
The front desk associate said she would get a "membership representative" to help me, and asked that I sit in the waiting area. After a few minutes, a friendly fellow in his late 20s greeted me and asked if he could help. We went to his desk near and he asked if I knew what type of membership I wanted.
"I'm not sure, probably a single membership for myself," I said. *1
Just when I thought he was going to whip out the price sheet, he surprised me and asked if I'd like a tour. Brilliant! I wanted to give him a high five but I resisted – I'm on secret shopping mission! :)
He started the tour by telling me that two other Ys had closed recently, which is why this location was so busy. He then said he had a tour card, but would have me fill it out later. *2
He first directed me towards the cardio area and proceeded to share the rules with me. *3. One interesting rule that he shared with me, twice, was, "You have to wear shoes." After the second time, I asked, "Do you have a problem with people not wearing shoes?"
"Not really, but we want to make sure everyone wears shoes," he said.
"Um, okay," I said, smiling.
We moved on to the free weight area, where the rep went through a ton of unnecessary information. I feel like he just didn't really know what else to say, besides the weight range of the dumbbells. He mentioned the "fitness staff" and pointed to a young guy that was standing around, talking to his buddies. He wasn't wearing his staff shirt, and I couldn't tell he was a YMCA employee *4
After the free weights we went into the "fitness area," where there were a variety of different machines that the rep glossed over. We then moved on towards the youth room. *5 Before talking about the youth room, he did mention the chapel and the fact that the Y is a Christian organization. This was the first tour, ever, that someone has said anything about the Y being different than just a gym.
"The prices may be a little higher than other gyms around here — well actually they are a lot higher," he said. But more about that later. *6
We spent a long time in the youth center. He discussed it in detail and said that they had lots of video games and other fun things for kids, but it would be too loud to do homework or read a book (interesting comment).*7
He then took me through the locker rooms and into the pool area, where we also spent a lot of time. He seemed to know everything - the temperature, depth, open, close, steam room and sauna cleaning schedule, whirlpool capacity, etc.*8 After the pool area he showed me the aerobics rooms, class schedules, basketball gym, climbing wall, racquetball, and then looped me back around to his desk.
"Can I ask you how much you make per year?" he asked. I asked why he needed that information, and he said he may be able to get me a lower price, since they base their membership rates on income. He continued by saying their regular prices are high but if I could show a lower income that I would get a lower rate. *9
I said, "What if I am retired and can show on my taxes that I make a very low amount, but I have two million in my bank account. Could I get a discounted rate?" He said yes, and I commented that it seems like a lot of people would abuse that kind of system.
"Probably, but our regular prices are really high compared to the other gyms in town. We do scholarship memberships to get you a lower price," he said. *10
I said no, I will pay the regular rate if I join. After showing me the prices he said that every year I can get a free day pass to the Y. I said, "Sure, I'll just use my yearly free pass and let you know."
He seemed relieved, shook my hand, and told me to have fun with the free pass. *11
What could he have done better:
- I wouldn't ask what type of membership the customer wants in the very beginning of the tour. They have no idea what you have to offer. It is your job to determine what type of membership will benefit them most.
- The tour card must be filled out before the tour so you can use that information during the tour. The tour card should give you valuable insight and information on the potential member.
- Instead of focusing on the rules of the cardio area, why not focus on the benefits of doing cardio. Maybe something like this: "Brian, doing regular cardiovascular strengthens the heart and lungs, decreases blood pressure and cholesterol, reduces body fat and so much more."
- If you're going to highlight the fact that there are fitness staff, make sure they are wearing a staff shirt and helping members, not sitting around talking to friends. Also, the majority of the population has tons of misconceptions when it comes to free weights. It is very intimidating for the average member, so you have to educate them on the benefits of doing free weights and lower the intimidation factor.
- Instead of just quickly touching on the strength training area and saying, "Here are a bunch of machines," why not tailor the tour to me and say something like: "Brian, you said earlier that you want to lose weight, right (based on the tour card)? Strength training is a key component in losing weight. Let me show you a few machines so you can get a feel for what you will be doing."
One other big point I always touch on is the Y cares, wants you to succeed, and is committed to helping you see results. Share with them your commitment and tell them they will have help when they first get started.
- Don't ever discuss price in the tour, especially how expensive the prices are. The tour is about building value based on all of the amenities the Y offers.
- If I am only interested in a single adult membership, why spend so much time talking about the youth room? Definitely show it to me, but we don't have to spend 5 minutes talking about it when I didn't indicate that I wanted a family membership.
- Why spend so much time talking about information that doesn't matter to me? If I want to know specific details of the pool I will ask. Don't spend so much time on irrelevant information, unless of course they are asking specifics or have a high level of interest in the pool.
- Assume everyone can pay for a regular membership. If they can't, then you can always talk about the scholarship later. At least wait until I say the prices are too high for me before presenting the lower income option.
- Scholarships are the most abused membership out there. You should know that, and focus on regular prices. You will get a "gut feeling" and be able to figure out who is really in need and should fill out an application. This isn't a membership for everyone.
- Do you want to sell memberships? Do you believe in the Y? Do you think it will help your community if you have more members? Then don't tell me I get a free pass. Tell me you think the Y would be a great fit for me and you would love to have me as a new member. At a minimum, ask if I want to join. Don't just tell me about a free pass and send me on my way.
I hope the above information will motivate you to work with your staff on touring and building a rapport with potential members that visit your Y.
Your Y could be next. Stay tuned for more secret shopping visits.