It’s nothing short of impressive when a club achieves a 99% collectability rate. It’s a testament to a well-run operation and a commitment to serving members effectively. And that’s exactly what Mt. Hood Athletic Club has accomplished. In a recent interview with Paul Reed, owner of Mt. Hood, we uncovered the secrets behind Mt. Hood’s remarkable 99% collectability rate. It may not be simple, but it’s definitely possible to achieve similar results with these straightforward steps that can benefit club owners looking to improve their operations.
The Path to 99% Collectability
1. Empowering Member Services Personnel
One of the critical steps Mt. Hood Athletic Club took to achieve its impressive collectability rate was the institution of its Member Services department. Paul Reed emphasized the importance of having a dedicated Member Services team that provides accurate information and superior customer service at the front desk. This approach involved transitioning the bookkeeping responsibilities to the Member Services staff, who were already well-versed in their Compete Club Management Software.
After COVID, Paul observed that about 40% of clubs had done away with their Membership Services staff and departments. In his opinion, this is a “big mistake.” Your Membership Services staff are your front line of defense. They’re your greeters, customer service reps, support staff, sales team, and arbiters of information to your members. A Member Services team is an essential role every club should have. Starting a Member Services team is easy if you don’t have one.
In fact, Mt. Hood initially started without a Member Services team because they “couldn’t afford a whole other department.” However, their membership sales improved considerably once they transitioned to this new structure. “Once we had those dedicated people—big improvement in membership sales,” said Paul Reed, “And now we’ve taken it a step further. Here’s a great formula. Take your good to advanced front desk people; put them in membership. They’re basically getting the same rate, and now they get a little commission on top of it.” The best part about it? They’re already well-versed in your software and operations, allowing them to focus on the most essential task of the Member Services team—gathering accurate information and providing superior customer service.
As we’ll cover in another key point further in this blog, gathering accurate data from your customers and doing so in a way that keeps your members happy is difficult. As Reed states, “the hard part is at the front desk. To ask people for stuff. When they get stuck, and we can say ‘let me help you [with that],’ it totally changes the atmosphere and the philosophy at the club. You’re there to help; you’re not there to police.”
According to Paul Reed, Member Services “allows for greater service to the member because they are [at the club] from nine in the morning to eight at night. During that time, you can get those membership changes, get questions answered, get a tour, and join.” Having a Member Services team is essential to their club; if you don’t have one, you most likely should.
2. Simplifying Membership Options
Another significant step Mt. Hood took was simplifying its membership offerings. They streamlined communication and reduced confusion by reducing their membership options from over 20 membership types to Single, Couple, Family, and a single corporate discount option. As Paul Reed pointed out, “The biggest time-consuming thing with software is people going up and down on their memberships. From a single to a couple, couple to a family.” With only four options, your employees will save time learning 20 other options, selling 20 options, and the differences between each.
Furthermore, this may be a good opportunity for a club to make additional revenue. When members want to make changes to their membership, “we charge them. If you add on, there’s a charge. If you take [someone] off, there’s a charge. So that helped reduce some of that.”
3. Accurate Data Collection with Turnstiles
To ensure accurate data collection, Mt. Hood implemented a turnstile solution at the front desk. You know, those security-looking things that you have to walk through at pro sports stadiums, concerts, and various other venues. Having a turnstile at the front desk has allowed staff to capture accurate member information at the point of entry, improving their data quality. Does a member have an email that’s no longer accurate? Your Member Services team can politely stop them before entry to collect the necessary information. As Paul Reed explained, “turnstile really helps. It stops them right there. Anything from birthdays to wrong phone numbers or emails or any of that. They’re stopped at the turnstile. The front desk isn’t the bad guy by saying, ‘hold on a minute, I need to get some information from you.’ Now it’s ‘oh, let me buzz you, AND let’s get this fixed for you. Oh, the computer just needs an updated email. It got bumped back. Can you give us a new email?’ So now you’re the hero instead of the villain.” With turnstiles in place, Mt. Hood can collect accurate data, and with accurate data, they have the proper information to charge members and communicate with them should something happen when trying to collect.
Another additional benefit of the turnstiles is the illusion of upscale security. “One of the things that people said when we put in the turnstiles in was, ‘wow, you guys are going, going upscale now,'” said Paul Reed, “because the turnstiles, a lot of times are associated with, you know, higher end secure type places. Like if you go football games or baseball or you know, pro sports, you’ve always got turnstile that monitor.” Not only will you capture accurate data with turnstiles at your front desk, but you’ll also be impressing your members.
Not only do turnstiles provide your club the ability to collect accurate data and give your club a facelift, but they also pay for themselves. By improving thier collectability rate, Mt. Hood was able to justify the expense within a single year. “We installed [the turnstiles] ourselves. So it was under $30,000 for a 2-door turnstile,” said Reed, “I think it paid for itself—I can’t tell you how fast. We were hit with COVID, so really not then, but definitely within the first year post-COVID.”
Now, you may wonder, “where do I even start if I wanted to add a turnstile at my club? Do I go down to my local sports arena and ask for a reference?” Nope, you can contact us. We’ve recently partnered with Passport Technologies to provide our clients with a comprehensive selection of access control equipment tailored to your unique needs, including readers, barriers, and turnstiles. If you’re interested in purchasing turnstiles for your club in order to bolster your collectability rate, contact our Client Success Management team today!
4. Proper Billing Timelines
Another critical component of Mt. Hood’s 99% collectability rate is its billing schedule. Mt. Hood Athletic Club adopted a systematic billing schedule corresponding to when most people are paid. They bill members on the 1st and 15th of each month, aligning with primary paydays. “We do the billing the first of the month, and then the Financial institutions is on the 5th of the month and then again on the 20th,” said Reed, “those are primary #1 paydays. So we want to kind of be first in line on that if we can. Returns will start coming in on the 5th, first with any frozen cards and then with soft declines. As soon as we get those, we send out the emails that day. Any bounce-back emails are noted in the back office on the general tab, and that’s an alert. So people [are stopped at the turnstiles and] can’t get in without an updated email.” Now you see why having turnstiles and a Member Services team to crew these stations is so essential. It all works hand in hand.
5. Utilizing Add-On Solutions When Necessary
In addition to these strategies, Mt. Hood employs various add-on solutions, including Empower ME, MiGym, Texmunications, Account Updater, and Delinquency Texts, all provided by Jonas Fitness. These tools have played a pivotal role in streamlining operations and maintaining high collectability rates for their club. Some services are just too tedious for any one club to handle. And that’s where we come in. If you need email marketing services, we’ve got our Connect2 integration. If you need text messaging services, we offer our Jonas Messaging add-on. What if you need a dedicated app for your club? We’ve got you covered with MiGym.
While these strategies have been highly effective for Mt. Hood in achieving its 99% collectability rate, we understand that not all clubs may have the same resources or capacity to manage their billing in-house. That’s where our Member Billing Services (MBS) comes in. Our suite of services is designed to help clubs maximize successful payments, improve cash flow, increase member retention, and provide full transparency into your billing processes. With Jonas Fitness’ MBS program, you have the flexibility to customize the services to fit your unique business needs, ensuring you’re in control of your financial operations while we take care of the technicalities. Our services include pre-billing audits, database audits, billing best practices, decline analysis, and follow-up tools like email, SMS texting, automated call campaigns, IVR payments, and live agents to assist with collections. This comprehensive approach ensures you maximize successful payments, improve your club’s cash flow, and boost member retention.
“Overall, MBS implements best practices when running billing and resubmitting files, which produces the best results in delinquency collections,” notes Eleanore Gracia, director of payments and MBS at Jonas Fitness. “By using a combination of automated processes and our dedicated MBS team, clients can focus more on engagement with their members vs. managing billing files and past-due follow-ups.
“Depending on size, for about the money you would spend on a part-time employee, you can have an entire MBS team working for you with a dedicated billing analyst, helping you increase your bottom line.”
So, whether you’re looking to emulate Mt. Hood Athletic Club’s remarkable success or simply want to take the stress out of billing, Jonas Fitness is here to support you. Let us focus on your billing so you can focus on your members.
For a free membership billing consultation and to learn more about how Jonas Fitness can enhance your club’s financial management, visit jonasfitness.com/mbs.
Remember, achieving success in the fitness industry takes a blend of effective strategies, commitment to superior service, and the right tools. Thier 99% collectability rate was only one topic that was discussed during the interview conducted between Christian Menard, Barry Bleuer, and Paul Reed. Listen to our Bytes and Biceps podcast for the full-length interview. You will gain deeper insights into the strategies behind achieving a 99% collectability rate at Mt. Hood Athletic Club AND learn about other key aspects of running a successful club.