When we all have the same music and choreography as the next Instructor, how can we increase our class numbers and make our timeslot the “must-do” class on the timetable?
We’ve long known that Instructors who attend Advanced Instructor Module (AIM) find that the course absolutely transforms their teaching, and provides them with a whole new skillset to pack out their classes. Now, a case study in the UK demonstrates the undeniable value of Advanced Instructors to clubs.
In September 2017, the 29-site Village Gym chain were debating how they could stand out from their rivals in a competitive market. They were investing heavily in best-in-class products – the UK mid-market operator was well-known for its focus on quality gym equipment and group exercise classes – but there was nothing stopping its rivals from doing the same, and indeed they were.
For the team, there was no point turning to an inferior product ‘just to be different’, while competing on price risked triggering an ugly race to the bottom. So how could they gain the edge?
In the mind of Village Gym Leisure Director Chris Southall, the answer was startlingly simple. He decided to bet big on improving the quality of the one asset his rivals couldn’t possibly copy: his people.
“We’ve always been well-known for our group exercise offering, having made significant investment in bringing world-class Les Mills programs to our clubs, but we were struggling to stand out in a crowded marketplace,” says Southall.
“We always knew the benefits a great group ex offering would bring our clubs in terms of member acquisition and retention, but ultimately the classes are only as good as the people delivering them, so we wanted to ensure there was top-tier quality across our entire Instructor team to ensure we deliver great classes every time and in every club.
“We set ourselves a goal that every Village Gym would have the best Instructors in town – the real rockstars that pack out every class and bring members by the dozen.”
Working closely with his National Fitness Manager Tracy Sollitt, the pair devised an unprecedented plan to put all Village Gym group fitness Instructors through AIM training.
“As group fitness continues to grow in popularity, we’re seeing more and more operators taking a stance on quality as it’s so important to club members,” says Jean-ann Marnoch, Les Mills UK Instructor Experience Director.
“Their expectations of a class are becoming higher, both in terms of the consistency of the content and the quality of Instructor who’s delivering it. The operators able to achieve both and really value and reward the impact a great Instructor can have, realise that it’s a formula for ensuring you’ll never be short of members or Instructors.”
Within three months, average class occupancy had leapt by up to 40 per cent in some clubs, while the rate at its pilot site in Bournemouth went from 78% to 96%. Member retention (up by an average of 5-10% per month) and referrals were through the roof, meaning the better-qualified Instructors could now receive higher rates of pay.
“Even the best sports players in the world need coaches,” says Sollitt. “And it was the same with our Instructors – they were very capable individuals, but we wanted world-beaters. So we drew a line and said from now on we’re only going to employ AIM-qualified Instructors.”
The key goals for Village were to raise the overall quality of its Instructor team and achieve a resultant uplift in member attendances, class occupancy and Net Promoter Score (NPS).
The results were as swift as they were staggering. Within three months, average class occupancy had leapt by up to 40 per cent in some clubs, while the rate at its pilot site in Bournemouth went from 78% to 96%. Member retention (up by an average of 5-10% per month) and referrals were through the roof, meaning the better-qualified Instructors could now receive higher rates of pay.
“Word has got around that we made some bold moves, and for Village it has definitely been a game changer,” adds Southall.
“We were already known for group fitness, but this put us above everyone else in my opinion and I’m delighted to see the impact it’s had on our business.”
For the Instructors themselves, the training had a transformational impact on their approach to teaching group fitness.
It was immediately obvious to Sollitt which Instructors had been through AIM training and which hadn’t.
“The connection between the Instructor and their class is such a standout feature – sometimes you’ll see Instructors take a class and just go through the motions, but AIM makes the penny drop and they instantly ‘get’ the importance of that connection,” she says.
“Instructors go away understanding their strengths, become more self-aware of what they need to improve, and this breeds a confidence and willingness to grow which ultimately results in a consistently heightened experience for club members.”
“The thing about quality is that it’s very much a journey rather than a destination,” adds Southall. “The path is never-ending, but so are the rewards for getting it right.”
To ensure you’re at the top of your game, sign up for Advanced Training. This brand new course launches in the US, UK and Nordics January 2019. Watch this space for updates on when the new training will become available in your country.