Technology Transformation

One of our goals for FY19 was to make a significant improvement to our technology platforms, so that they worked better for our customers and for our people. Technology had long been a major frustration for us all, (I guess it probably always will be) but the great news is huge strides have been made this year and the results speak for themselves.

We have been able to retire the old software from XnLeisure, and our investment into the development of their new Leisure Hub platform has enabled us to create an improved online joining and online booking experience that is far superior. There are some neat features that allow filtering to find the right purchase and to re-book favourite activities. There is loads more to come; we have already identified some additional functionality that will take things much further but the initial response has been great. January saw an uplift in online sales of 60% compared to the previous January, and we will shortly see ALL categories of membership displayed online, meaning we can ditch the paper (great for the environment), ensuring our membership Advisors can spend improved quality time with our prospective customers, as well as allowing our customers to do more stuff, easier, by themselves.

The launch of the improved online bookings platform has probably been even more successful. It was probably our most clunky system, but after its launch in March, many sites were reporting that they’d made 50% more online bookings in the first 12 days of April than in the whole of March. We know there’s a long way to go but this is great news. The quality of the ‘communication’ to customers has been great so ‘chapeau’ to our Technology, Marketing and Customer Experience teams for making this happen so effectively.

The opportunity for growth, however, lies all before us. Our Places Locker app has been upgraded, providing a new look and feel and improved functionality for customers. The new Leisure Hub booking functionality will be embed in the ‘Locker’ and we’ll also add the customer’s membership card in to it too; that will make for a far more convenient experience for customers and save us around £36k per annum (or 150,000 items) in plastic cards (again, great for the environment!). More importantly, the key role of our Places Locker app is to provide a tool for our customers to assist their commitment to exercise and physical activity.

In partnership with Technogym, we commissioned an independent study which focused on 14 sites. The difference in member engagement of those customers who were working with the app is significant. Members who are not on the Technogym system or do not have the Places Locker app visit 4.2 or 5.0 times per month on average, BUT members with the Places Locker App visit 50% more, 7.5 times per month on average. As you would expect, more visits mean members stay longer too, and consequently there is a 20% uplift in average length of stay for members who use the app. This is a BIG story, we’ve learned that where our teams (Fitness, Membership, Front of House – well everyone really!) promote and encourage engagement with the App, participation increases by 50% and sustained commit to that exercise increases by 20% - this is a BIG BIG DEAL!

To complete our Technology Transformation, this last quarter has seen the implementation of Salesforce; this is a world class tool that has been chosen by PfP Group to ensure that we put the customer at the heart of everything we do. For Places Leisure that means using technology that can more capably support the recruitment of customers to physical activity and most importantly, the means to communicate regularly with them so that we encourage them to stay committed to exercise. At last we can throw away SAS sheets, 1-31 boxes and Post-It notes, and have visibility over our sales and retention activity.

This ‘transformation’ is fundamental to our future success; with every piece of technology there are further iterations and enhancements to come designed to make us more effective and more efficient. Our mantra has been ‘everyone a member’ irrespective of whether they pay by subscription or as they ‘move’. Our technology transformation makes that a possibility and the early results from each component give us great hope that outstanding results will be realised. Embrace every element; our Front of House teams should be promoting Places Membership and online booking to every customer, our Fitness teams should live and breathe the ‘who’s in’ functionality and the Places Locker app that will improve participation and exercise adherence, and our Membership teams should be immersed in Salesforce to ensure every customer is given the red-carpet treatment.

What’s next? With technology comes data, with data comes insight. We will be moving fast to improve our decision making and business management from instinct to insight – now that’s an exciting thought!