Canceled flights. Shorter hours. Slower service – if the restaurant is even open. Empty shelves. Forced into self-serve lanes and self-help channels everywhere. The view across industries is maddeningly repetitive: we’re paying more and getting less.
The Rise of Skimpflation
Late in 2021 the term “skimpflation” appeared to describe how businesses and service providers everywhere have been cutting many expected services and carved operations beyond their comfort zone to a bare-bones existence. There are many directions to point the blame, but whether you choose to call it the great resignation or the great assessment, there’s no doubt that workers leaving their jobs in droves had an impact. The restaurant industry now employs one million fewer workers than in 2019. That’s just one industry, but the result is that competition for service workers is fierce while customers still want and expect a great experience. Delivering future experiences that wow your members and build your brand will take creativity. Following are three potential areas where clubs can focus.
1. Elevate Employee Experiences
The fact of the matter is employees have options. As Shep Hyken wrote in Forbes, “An employee experience that creates loyalty is every bit as important as a customer experience that creates customer loyalty.” Good employees don’t leave for money alone. They want to be empowered to do their job, improve, and feel appreciated. Word gets around about bad experiences and hourly wages are continuing to rise.
That appreciation isn’t limited to managers and club leadership. ‘The customer is always right,’ has been a mantra probably forever. Some customers have taken it to heart, or further sometimes it seems. However, setting reasonable expectations for interactions today can go a long way. A General Manager at one club went so far as to send a letter to all their membership calling for “kindness” given the current situation, something that surely resonated with the staff.
2. Accelerate Member Experiences
No one in the club industry would choose bare-bones experiences as an operating strategy - it’s completely against our idea of service. But that fact is that staffing will continue to be an issue. That’s where a variety of technology can play a critical role. Technology empowers your staff to do more with fewer resources, quicker, and with less effort.
For example, different mobile ordering and POS solutions can save steps for staff and enable them to stay engaged with members while they’re face to face. Geo location-based solutions can pair location and activities for the perfect context of communications and offer instantly. Analytics solutions have a growing role. They can enable new associates to interact with members like seasoned vets by identifying preferences or inform club managers of trends that would indicate specific members are becoming disengaged.
3. Communicate and Personalize Experiences
Members expect to be recognized at the club, that’s a fact. When they’re there, touching tables and making conversation is expected. But the standards have risen. More than 10 years ago every Starbucks around the world knew their loyal customers’ names the minute they walked through the door. Clubs have to do better than that today. Proactive communications in a member's preferred channel are key, at the club and anywhere. Knowing preferences is one thing, anticipating other things might interest them another. A well-timed SMS message reaching out with a special invite or email about an upcoming event of personal interest to the member can do wonders. What you don’t want a member to ever think is that the only time the club contacts them is when they’re up for renewal.
Innovative clubs will continue to deliver outstanding experiences across the board despite the challenges they face. The key will be to focus and concentrate their associates where they have the most impact and use technology where appropriate to fill the gaps and empower staff to accelerate member experiences.
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