Chris Stevenson is a 20-year veteran of the health and fitness industry who owns and operates Stevenson Fitness. He started his club five years ago in a 2000 square foot studio that quickly flourished. It became the place to train if you were serious your health and fitness. To accommodate his club’s growth, Chris moved into his current location which is a 7500-square foot full-service health club that is consistently rated as one of the most welcoming and enjoyable in the business. The facility invites people of all ages and abilities to improve their health and fitness so that they can look better, live better and, most importantly, feel better.
I met with Chris at the Club Industry Show in Chicago and asked him to discuss how member experience fueled his club’s success, especially with members who are over fifty.
Phil Faris: Chris, tell me a little bit about your background and your fitness business.
Chris: Originally, I was an athlete, a competitive martial artist; I fought Olympic style Taekwondo. I grew up in Ohio and moved to California after I graduated. Totally on accident, fell into stunt work, no pun intended. Maybe pun intended. I got on the kids’ show, Power Rangers, so I stunt doubled for the kids’ show, Power Rangers, did all their live appearances, tours, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and all the shows. I think it was a smooth transition from Power Rangers spandex to group exercise in personal trainer spandex.
In all seriousness, to do that job, you had to be fit because I had to be agile, I had to be able to tumble, kick, punch, stay in great shape and, plus, wearing spandex as a uniform, it does not look good when you are out of shape.
Phil Faris: You do not want to look like a sausage.
Chris: It was a natural transition as my stunt career wound down to get involved in helping fitness. I started mainly as a personal trainer and a group exercise instructor. From there, I went to work clinically, and I worked at the Chiropractic Sports Institute. I ran their Injury Rehab Center and their Athletic Training Department, so I worked with athletes and worked with people with managing chronic pain, the post-surgery range of motion, restoration, injuries, so it was a great experience. Initially, it was more just weight loss with the general population. This made me a lot more well-rounded.
From there, I decided to open up my own training facility, which was 2,000 square feet. After six and a half years, I opened what currently has been open for seven years, and that is a full-service health club. It has got one-on-one training, small group training, group exercise, locker room, showers, childcare. It is a full-service boutique with over 2,000 members in just under 8,000 square feet.
Phil Faris: Many people crammed in there. Why is member experience so crucial to your club?
Chris: Not only our club. I think any club, we just really prioritize it, which I believe is one of the reasons we have been fairly successful. The thing is, you do not necessarily need a health club to get fit anymore. Between apps and technology and, especially, us being in Southern California, the mountains, and you can run, swim, bike. It is incredible, so creating a great experience makes people want to get involved. Every time I speak or present, I always tell people, “Hey, sorry audience. People do not need you.” I am obviously saying that to be dramatic, but they do need us for motivation, accountability, support, and instruction.
People can get this stuff other places now, so creating a great experience that makes people want to continue to come and utilize your facility and show up is essential. I think it is a differentiator because, in our industry, the average facility does not have a high net promoter score, they do not have high member satisfaction, they do not have high retention rates. I think when you can create an exercise that not only draws people in but keeps them for a long time, I think that is just the key to success. By the way, if people are enjoying themselves and having a great experience, they keep coming, and they get healthier. It’s a nice little thing to work on.
Phil Faris: How do you measure the effectiveness of your member experience?
Chris: What we do is, and we are fortunate. We worked with a company called TRP, which is the retention people, and we were part of the first ever net promoter sports study. Net promoter score is the survey you will sometimes get after you rent a car or stay at a hotel or different things. They ask, on a scale of 0-10, how likely you are to refer. We were part of their first study that they ever did for health clubs. They did it in the UK first, and the average score was 22. They did it in all of North America. The average score at the time was 44. Ours was 77 so, basically we were then, the highest in the marketplace. It was crazy.
When we figured that was a great way to measure customer satisfaction, how much they enjoyed being there, that became sort of an internal goal for our team. We were at 77. I said, “Why not 80?” That became our goal. Go to 80, and we constantly measure that number, share it with our staff because, even though its technology says, “How likely is somebody to refer?”, what it is really saying is, “People that are happy refer.” We use that to gauge our member experience.
Phil Faris: How does the member experience impact the 50+ marketplace regarding their satisfaction and retention?
Chris: I think that that market is more sensitive to a great experience. They have more life experience. It’s funny. For example, when we onboard new staff members, one of the questions we ask is, “Tell me one time you had a great customer experience?” Our older staff, they have tons of times. I went to this hotel and went to this restaurant.”