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MAN VS MACHINE Technology: does it reduce the burden on staff or actually replace people altogether? Does it

enhance customer service or create an impersonal environment? Abigail Harris asks a panel of experts for their views on how clubs might balance technology with the human element

Sean Turner Chief digital officer Holmes Place Group


ith the market becoming more competitive, the strategic use of technology is

becoming key to success in our industry and is delivering opportunities for operators in all market segments. At the budget end, technology

supports a low-cost value proposition by allowing clubs to signifi cantly reduce operating costs. Clubs can now be run effectively with a minimal number of staff, with online sales, RFID access, vending machines and virtual classes able to replace traditional teams.

High-end clubs are leveraging

technology to add value and enhance the premium experience: emerging technologies allow improved product and service delivery by club teams both inside and outside of the club. Examples include on-demand virtual personal training, hi-tech personalised equipment, biometric analysis and health tracking. I believe technology will continue to

challenge traditional staffi ng models in our industry. People will be replaced in areas where technology proves to deliver more effectively, but the human element will still remain crucial in premium service roles such as personal training. A blend – human and technology – will emerge to optimise the balance between member experience and business results.

“People will be replaced in areas where technology

proves to deliver more effectively, but the human element will still remain crucial in premium service roles”

Rasmus Ingerslev CEO Fresh Fitness Denmark

W 42

e asked more than 2,000 users of virtual classes if they preferred video-based

instruction to a live instructor: 90 per cent said no. So why do they appreciate virtual classes to the extent that it actually influences their buying decision? Their answer is very clear: the flexibility. This is a good example of how

technology offers members an option they did not have before and, in a nutshell, captures what technology has to offer our industry. It can extend our offering, making it even more fl exible

and exciting – but it cannot replace human interaction or create the same magic. It can only support it. I believe we will see an increased use

of technology in the fi tness industry. Multiple new technologies will become industry standard, serving different purposes across the various price ranges of clubs. High-end will remain high- touch, with lots of human interaction but supported by, for instance, better data-mining to allow even better and more relevant services. Low-cost clubs are already able to replace the least valued services provided by staff with technology – for instance, member check-in and cashless payments. In that sense, technology is a key

driver in allowing a wider span of price and service, but it won’t replace staff.

Read Health Club Management online at

Jon Nasta COO Retention Management


echnology will always get the job done and it’s more efficient. We check in with technology,

bank with technology, book hotels and holidays with technology. These experiences have certainly been improved by technology. The App Store opened in July

2008 with a choice of just 500 apps; last year, 800,000 apps were available, with 40 billion downloads. Five years ago there were fewer than a dozen technology-driven, low-cost, high volume gyms in the UK; now they’re driving the growth in the market. While technology will not impact your members as much as you may think in the next 12 months, it will do so far more than you think in the next fi ve years. For our industry to continue

to grow, we must make our clubs more convenient to access, as well as maximising the gym experience beyond their walls. Technology will help us to do this. However, it will not replace staff – it will simply redefi ne their roles in delivering better customer experiences. For example, savvy operators

are beginning to use virtual classes, online instruction and webinars. Evidence from these early adopters shows a correlation between members trying virtual classes and then going on to take part in instructor-led classes. Used correctly, technology can

make gyms more social again, with social networks enabling instant updates on performance and so on.

June 2013 © Cybertrek 2013

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