What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #71
I secret shopped my 71st YMCA in Indiana.
I was at my northern office for a few days and one of my employees asked me to work out with him.
"Where do you work out?” I asked. He said he is a member of a "really nice" gym in town. He was raving about this place and excited to be a member.
We met the next morning and he was right; the place was very nice. The woman at the front desk had me fill out some information and offered a tour. I noticed that she entered all my guest data into their computer system. The welcome packet she handed me was a nice organized folder, with the hours, programs and classes they offer.
The tour guide was friendly and gave me a simple walk-through, telling me where everything was located, hours, classes, pool schedule, programs for adults and kids, etc. The tour had no substance or information gathering, but the facility was exceptional.
After the tour, she presented prices and asked for the sale. I explained that I am only in the area a few times a month and it wouldn't make sense to join, but I would come back.
When I was pulling out of the parking lot I received a text that said "Welcome to _______ ! Thank you for your interest in our facility. It was a pleasure showing you around. We hope you will come visit us again." I was impressed.
A week later, I received a follow up call to thank me for my visit. They asked if I had any additional questions, and said that they would love to have me as a member, if I hadn't joined anywhere else yet. I appreciated the follow up call but they should have taken better notes in their CRM system. I didn't plan on becoming a member due to not being in the area that often, and they should have known that before calling me. There are a lot of things I could suggest to improve their process, but they are doing many things right.
The Y Comparison
I decided to head over to the Y to compare the two facilities.
Side note: The Y is different and shouldn't be lumped into the fitness center group as a competitor. The Y does a lot for kids, families and their community. However, unless you share that information and educate guests, they will lump you into the "just another gym" category. Our team talks to thousands of prospective members every month at Ys across the country, and very few look at the Y differently. We share history, fun facts, community involvement, donation amounts, and every Y story we can come up with to differentiate the Y from other gyms. This is a key part of our process to develop membership.
It was mid-morning when I pulled into the parking lot. I saw a huge banner on the Y that said "join our cause-driven organization." I walked in and the guy at the front desk asks if he can help me. I said my opening line: "Hi, my name is Brian. I'm new to the area and may be interested in a membership."
He handed me a price sheet and said that membership includes this location and an "express location" on the other end of town. I'm standing at the front desk, looking at hallways in both directions, wondering what they offer.
"Do you have anything for kids to do here?" I asked, hoping to prompt a tour.
"Yes, we have child watch and a pool," he said.
I really wanted to write about the tour comparison so I was working him, trying to get a tour. I asked a few more questions and finally said "OK, well I can't see anything from the front desk, so can I walk around?"
"Yeah, sure, go check it out."
I mentally shook my head in disappointment. After a quick walk around, I passed by the front desk, said thanks, and walked out. As I am leaving I see the "Cause-Driven" words on the banner and realize they're meaningless. They should take the banner down. They are just another gym. Actually, they are a poor representation of a gym.
This area is oversaturated with every fitness center you can think of, from the high-price wellness centers to the low-price clubs. I have no idea how some Ys stay in business. If they were in the for-profit world, without community donations, paying taxes, they would be out of business. This type of location reminds me of a government ran business, inefficient, losing money, lack of the entrepreneurial spirit and energy, but they stay open.
I am surprised at how prevalent this problem is. I really didn't understand how bad it was until starting this blog. I knew that Ys didn't have a tour system and it was a problem, but I thought, "that's why they hire us." We give quality tours, educate, get members connected, train their staff on a tour system, leave them in a great position to take care of the new members and focus on retaining them. If a Y can't even give a simple tour and cover some basic Y facts, they are not going to have a system in place for retention, member engagement and customer service.
The secret shopping missions started in just locations I was working with. It allowed me to gather key information for our consulting campaign. It's morphed into stopping into as many Ys as I can to secret shop them. It is my personal mission to help every Y across the country develop a tour system, and tell the Y story and history to every guest. If this doesn't change, the YMCA history will be lost.
Frankly, it's lost in most places I visit. I fear when the Y loses their senior donor base, the next generation will give much less. The seniors that I talk with have a much better understanding of the Y and spent a lot of childhoods at the Y. They have loyalty to the Y and continue to support it. The next generation doesn't have the same loyalty. Back then it was a completely different landscape. The fitness industry has changed dramatically and if there aren't big changes in the organization it will eventually be extinct.
I am encouraged every day to keep this up when I hear about how this blog has helped a Y. I'm motivated by executive directors that take time to email and thank me for the blog and tell me they are applying the information to their Y.
Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.