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Monday, March 8, 2010

Trainers with no sense of (business) balance.

My gym has some issues managing service capacity when it comes to adequately staffing to meet the demands of their clients.

For the 3rd time in the last 6 months, I’ve been a negatively impacted guest when they’ve closed the nursery early and without advance notice. In each case, as I’ve arrived with a pair of little ones in tow, for an all-too-infrequent workout, I’ve found the nursery locked tight.

Since I’m too cheap to leave - I have one of those grandfathered monthly rates that would see me increase my exercise expense by about 200% - my options are to either deal with the inconvenience or make some suggestions to management on what they might do to overcome a severe operational shortcoming.

Fulfill existing capacity commitment. Satisfies the client base by maintaining the capacity levels needed to keep the nursery running as scheduled, and likely has negative profitability implications. It certainly would have fixed my issue with them.

Use customer understanding to change the schedule to reflect demand. This should happen anyway, but some inexpensive research to understand the clients who use the nursery, how they use it, when they use it and what they value when they do. Based on that, scheduling decisions (and other operating changes) could be made that would increase satisfaction and efficiency by matching the operation with the desired usage of the clientele.

Communicate to reset expectations. If the policy is that no kids in the nursery means they will close early, communicate that. Better, post for parent guests when the busy times and slack times are, so that we may select our service times accordingly.

Let the guests co-create the experience. Establish a network of gym member-parents whom are regular users of the gym. Using any number of electronic scheduling, the clients themselves could coordinate nursery use so that the gym seldom has excess capacity.

Flex labor to create capacity. It may horrify some to think of their personal trainer in charge of their little one for any period of time, but consider that many trainers have designs on management. Understanding how an effective nursery operates is a skill-building endeavor for trainers. Cross train some gym staff so that the nursery can flex capacity up and down as demand needs.

Increase demand to fit current capacity. This should only happen after multiple of the above have been successful, but recast the gym experience so that it becomes the destination of choice for “health-conscious families” (rather than “just something we offer because every other area gym does”) and spend the time & effort promoting the positioning to attract the segment.

Likely multiple, if not all of these solutions could be used in different measures in order to balance a critical need to fulfill on guest commitments with the need to match service-supplying capacity with demand for a specialized service within the operation.

That said, what did I miss?

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