How to Leverage Technology Without Losing the Human Touch
From online bookings to interactive check-ins, technology has become an integral part of the fitness industry, for both businesses and their customers. Recent YouGov data reveals that two-thirds (66%) of those who have been to the gym in the past week agree that “technology changes their life for the better", and the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer found that technology was the most trusted sector, with over two-thirds (68%) of Brits trusting tech and its services above all else.
Furthermore, MINDBODY’s consumer research in the UK recently found that over three quarters (77%) of 18-24 years old use technology as part of their fitness routine and nearly a quarter (23%) of those who do Pilates (the third most popular workout) said technology improves access to classes.
Although we’re seeing technology increase its presence and ability to service the fitness industry, should it fully replace human interaction? Well, research by Places for People Leisure found that the smaller the fitness centre, the easier it was to achieve a higher NPS (Net Promoter Score that indicates the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships).This is perhaps due to the service being more personal, and the staff having a more direct relationship with customers.
In light of this research, here are our top three tips on finding the ‘sweet spot’ that combines tech with the human touch for better business.
Make the booking process easier
Recent research from Sports England found that one in five adults have been put off playing sports because it was too difficult to book online. What we’ve seen from our own booking data from 2018 is that MINDBODY app users across the UK booked over 280,000 classes and appointments each month—a 29% increase year-on-year. These figures show using an app or online booking process can really help make it easier for customers to browse and book classes, ultimately driving more custom.
However, it’s important to remember that one size doesn’t fit all and while some people may prefer to use an app to book classes, others may not have access to technology or may just prefer to book in person. As a business owner, it's advisable to make sure the two options are available to your customers.
Interact with customers
Gym and studio owners who use a booking software to power their business, or an app to facilitate booking, are at an advantage when interacting with customers beyond the studio. This is because they can utilise key features that send automated messages to customers, either pre-workout to remind them that their class is starting soon or post-workout to ask what they thought of it. This is a good example of how technology can step in where you can’t and extend the personal touch to customers, whilst also encouraging repeat custom
Help clients track results
One of the most popular uses of technology in the gym is wearing a fitness tracker. Data from YouGov shows that 70% of UK adults who have exercised in the past week agree that wearable devices encourage them to be healthier, while MINDBODY research revealed 15% of people use technology to motivate them and keep their fitness goals on track.
We’ve seen this in action with the tracking features within FitMetrix, where live leaderboards can be displayed in a class to give participants a view of their effort throughout the session, whilst encouraging some healthy competition. Introducing technology that allows your business to track client progress will give you crucial insight into their workout habits, which can ultimately allow you to tailor a personalised service.
It’s important not to dismiss technology straight away, because it’s there to enhance your service and product offering, but if you’re not ready to wrap your arms around it you can implement features like the above. Technology is a huge sector that will continue to grow, and businesses both big and small should incorporate it into their fitness offering when they can. Technology won’t be able to replace human interaction completely, but when used well, it can offer a personal touch and it’s a great way of making life easier for your existing customers and helping to drive new business at the same time.