Communication in the crisis – Staying in dialogue with employees and customers
Our lives have changed. The beat has been co-dictated by Corona since early 2020, a change in living conditions unimaginable to many before that. Initially still surprising and perhaps exciting, the longer the more burdensome or even existentially threatening. The opening and closing of different areas of society, is a roller coaster of emotions, causing uncertainty and insecurity.
It’s hitting the fitness industry hard. The (partial) closures in 2020/21 will not only cause revenue losses, despite hardship funds, there will be uncovered costs. This year, January, the most important month for the industry, is cancelled. Depending on the fitness facility, January is responsible for up to 25% of new members. For every franc lost in new membership fees, another two francs are lost in the future, taking into account a renewal rate of 60-80%.
The outlook with current vaccination progress gives us hope. However, if the Federal Council gives the green light for the opening, the fitness industry will face a difficult build-up period. We have all changed our habits, not all of us will return to our old habits. The effects of the crisis thus only become visible in part when memberships are renewed and over time. The aim is not only to attract new customers, but also to convince existing members of the importance of strength training for their health. It is important to take advantage of the “Corona fatigue” and show the variety, but also the safety of training and relaxation in our facilities.
Once again it becomes clear that our communication is of great importance not only in “normal” everyday life, but especially in difficult times.
Communication with employees
With the acquisition of a second fitness park, my team doubled in size during the crisis. A special entry without operational business and with distance. I am happy to be able to rely on the experience of a well-coordinated management team when making decisions and invest my energy where I can make a difference. Communication is not only a means to an end, but the most important task and at the same time core competence for my function. Communication not only as an exchange of information, but as appreciation, trust, role model and respect. Communication in the awareness that it can lead or unsettle, inspire or disappoint employees. Despite closed facilities and short-time work, it is important to maintain regular communication with employees, strengthen team cohesion and communicate information in a timely and concise manner.
Communication with customers
With the fact that all customers of fitness facilities can no longer train in their gym, the common ground already ends. While some fitness providers credit the missed time, others tie the time credit to the purchase of a new membership or don’t compensate at all. Consumer protection, on the other hand, is of the opinion that customers have a fundamental right to reimbursement.
This is a classic case of differing (legal) views1 , which leads to negative reactions from individual customers. In politics, as well as in public discussions or even social media, communication in such cases is sometimes rougher on the part of the customer, and more demanding for us. A professional and customer-friendly attitude as well as understanding for the situation of the counterpart are central in the exchange with these customers. It helps to give yourself enough time and, depending on the situation, to pick up the phone. It is not uncommon for misunderstandings to be clarified or for a solution to be found that is workable for both parties. It is important to comply with existing framework conditions and to treat all members equally. Investing energy is always worthwhile. A difficult conversation with customers is often better than no communication.
Communication of the Zurich Fitness Parks
During the crisis, Zurich Fitness Parks also invests its energy where it can make a difference. Together with ACTIV FITNESS, Big Bang of Health – Fitnesspark created a multimedia series of articles that provides tips and background information in videos on how to get back to a healthier normal. Take a look too…
In addition to further communication via various channels and the maintenance of administrative and technical operations, the range of courses on offer was also expanded and digitalised. In addition to the comprehensive range of online courses offered by “unknown” instructors for all members, members with an affinity for courses can also stream live courses from instructors they know directly from the fitness park. The identification and loyalty of the members is thus strengthened, and the new infrastructure can again be used for hybrid courses after the reopening. If a popular course is fully booked or a visit to the center is not possible due to time constraints, members can participate from the comfort of their own home.
We are ready and looking forward to reopening soon.
1 Legal clarifications by the fitness association IG Fitness showed that a refund only has to be made if the service has become completely impossible, i.e. could no longer be provided in the future. If the contractual service cannot be provided only temporarily, the contract shall be suspended and shall be automatically revived at a later date.
Should it no longer be possible to make up the postponed time in a specific individual case due to extraordinary circumstances for professional or personal reasons (cf. GTC), Migros Fitness facilities will seek solutions with the member.
©IG Fitness Switzerland – Copying or otherwise reproducing, will be met with legal action.
Name: Nico Hobi
Occupation: Center Manager Migros Fitnessparks Glattpark & Regensdorf
Motto: “Invest your energy where you can make a difference.”
The Migros Group has been active in the fitness industry since 1974, is a driving force and has since then significantly shaped the development of the Swiss fitness and wellness world. This mission is part of the statutes: “Migros promotes the health of the population”. While the beginnings, such as the M-Fit in Geneva, Sion, Vevey and Martigny, were still linked to the courses offered by the Klubschule Migros, the opening of the first Fitnesspark Tribschen in Lucerne in 1977 heralded a new era in the Swiss fitness and wellness world. Since then, we have consistently pursued the comprehensive wellness idea with the fitness parks and are therefore also considered a pioneer in the Swiss fitness and wellness industry: fitness training combined with offers for relaxation and nutrition. In addition to fitness arenas equipped with the latest equipment and a very wide range of courses, you will also find a variety of pools and saunas in the fitness parks. When it comes to nutrition, special attention is paid to balanced food and drinks. This offer is rounded off by our nutritional advice, with which you can be accompanied in your lifestyle adjustment.