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As one of the world’s leading health and fitness companies, Fitness First needed customer-facing sales and CRM processes that were as lean and agile as its one million members, spread across 370 clubs in 16 countries.
But that was far from the case, explains Fitness First group Chief Information Officer Ed Hutt.
Instead, he relates, the company ran a legacy on-premise version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM that had been heavily customised. And in addition to high maintenance and operating costs, he adds, the extensive re-keying of data between the CRM system and the company’s membership management system led to a cumbersome selling and sign-up process.
“Instead of assisting our members, or selling more memberships or classes, our club-based staff were spending significant amounts of time on data entry, re-keying customer information into a legacy system that was fast becoming unmaintainable.” he sums up. “One of my first actions was to cancel the ‘support’ contract for this system, and to plan for the replacement based on leading practice”.
Clearly, a replacement CRM system was needed. But which CRM system? A dialogue with analyst firm Gartner, explains Hutt, led to a choice of three potential candidates—the two market-leading solutions, among them Microsoft Dynamics CRM On-Line. “My starting point was – the answer is Salesforce.Com. Any advice from Gartner was working against this initial starting point.”
The eventual decision, he relates, would depend on a complex set of factors. Clearly, the chosen solution would need to be a functional ‘fit’ for Fitness First’s requirements. And the rest of the business, he explains, would have to play a significant part in that decision. It was also important that what was sourced, configured and implemented was a Digital solution.
Fitness First have a well-developed Partner ecosystem, so the relationship that could be forged with the relevant solution provider, as well as with the chosen implementation and support partner was very important to the final decision.
And finally, the financials had to make sense: privately-held, Fitness First is owned by private equity firm Oaktree Capital Management, and the prospective return on capital offered by the eventually-chosen solution would need to pass a rigorous business case review.
At a series of presentations from March through to May 2015, the two competing vendors and their implementation partners showcased their solutions to a selection of Fitness First’s business users and management, drawn from right across the company’s operations.
The final decision was taken at a Global Board Meeting at the very end of June 2015 (Microsoft’s Year End). The winner was Microsoft Dynamics CRM On-Line, with eBECS as the implementation partner.
“Financially, the decision stood up very well. Very well indeed.” sums up Hutt. “And in contrast to the other solution on offer, Microsoft Dynamics CRM On-Line was accepted by the business because of its simplicity and familiarity. This mattered in terms of the definition of a ‘digital’ solution – simplicity, familiarity, ease of use and especially, the people from eBECS who had presented what was possible and deliverable in simple and easy to understand terms.”
“eBECS is a company with a big reputation in Microsoft. I had not realised the size and scope of eBECS’ operation before I went to Microsoft Convergence. The people we met knew their stuff and had ideas about how we could develop Dynamics CRM On Line further; Fitness First wants to work with innovative partners”. stresses Hutt.
And in eBECS, he adds, he saw an implementation partner that was not only innovative, but also comfortable working right across the Microsoft technology ‘stack’—an important consideration, given that the replacement CRM system was just one of five strategic initiatives on the drawing board, each requiring strong technology capabilities.
Moreover, he emphasises, there was a considerable prize at stake: a better and more efficient sales process, right across Fitness First’s global operations, and right across its channels to market—consumers, business customers, and digital.
“Ultimately, CRM, sales and this system is at the absolute core of what we do,” he sums up. “And so it was vital that this system was implemented as capable as possible, and as quickly as possible.”
Work began in July 2015, with the goal of developing and refining a single global market template for the new Digital system. The strategy: to build a sales platform that catered for Fitness First’s global requirements, but did so without requiring customisation and gave a jumping off point for further configuration and change to deliver competitive advantage.
“The intention was clear,” stresses Hutt. “We want a global template in which nothing has to be customised, but yet which offers through configuration everything that the business needs to be a Digital business, irrespective of geography. In every operation, the acid test is to have a solution that is upgradeable on the standard Microsoft technology path, and also convertible back to the single global template.”
And by the end of November 2015, that template had been developed, although rollout in the pilot region was deferred until February 2016, in order to avoid any disruption or distraction to the immediate post-Christmas period—a period of peak demand for gym and fitness services.
The plan: by mid-summer 2016 the replacement CRM system would be live right across Fitness First’s global operations.
And when fully live, notes Hutt, there are clear expectations about the resulting benefits.
“It’s a better platform for building the business,” he enthuses. “We get a better sales process, more channels to reach our customers and prospective customers—e-mail, text, mailshot, or mobile app—and more ways to build our average revenue-per-customer. We also have a Digital platform from which we can build more services focused on the customer”
In addition, there are clear expectations in terms of lead conversion, upselling and member retention, with a slicker CRM process contributing to all three.
Efficiencies result, as well. Enrolments within the CRM system now take three minutes. A reduction from 8 minutes with the old system. A critical addition is the integration with the Membership Management system saving an addition eight minutes per customer – total 13 minutes per member. Multiply that time saving over a million members, suggests Hutt, and the financial, service, success and operational impact is considerable.
And finally, he adds, there are the undoubted tangible cost savings that will accrue.
“We’re saving hundreds of thousands of pounds on an annual basis,” he sums up. “We’re moving away from a system that was expensive to run, expensive to maintain, effectively unmaintainable, and which impeded our corporate effectiveness. And in its place: Microsoft Dynamics CRM On-Line, Digital and in the Cloud—a CRM system which finally matches our vision of ‘fit for purpose’ for one of the world’s leading health and fitness businesses.”