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YMCA Victoria leads extensive customer research to help inform its facility reopenings

YMCA Victoria leads extensive customer research to help inform its facility reopenings
June 4, 2020

The YMCA, a leader in the aquatic and recreation industry, has recently teamed up with strategy and insights agency The LAB and research agency Nature, to undertake significant customer research to help guide its approach as it begins to welcome back staff and customers to community recreation facilities.  

Conducting research at this time requires expert navigation given the dramatically changed environment and need to ensure the health and safety of customers and staff as centres reopen.

The research has been carefully timed and is a two-phased approach leveraging both qualitative and quantitative insights, the outcomes of which are already helping inform plans and offerings beyond just the initial reopening of facilities.

Nature Associate Director, Arpita Salagare notes “given the impact of COVID-19, there is an absolute need to engage the community at this most critical and sensitive of times, and not to ignore them. But careful respondent empathy is needed when considering your approach to doing this.”

Early insights involving both aquatic and fitness customers have revealed achievement, comfort and enjoyment are the three key motivators that will be critical to the successful reopening of recreation centres and learn-to-swim programs.

In addition to expected hygiene and social-distancing compliance, customers have identified that they want to:

  • easily achieve their fitness goals while doing so in a COVID-safe manner
  • experience their normal level of comfort such as using change rooms
  • feel connected to the community as part of their overall experience

The Y has already started to implement innovative new systems and technologies in its recreation sites including a temperature screening device that requires no physical interaction - customers simply look at the camera and have their temperature recorded to ensure they are safe to enter.

A new online booking system, that has been trialled at the Y Vic-managed South Australia Aquatic & Leisure Centre (SAALC), will be delivered across all other Y-managed sites in the coming weeks.

YMCA Victoria Chief Executive, Carolyn Morris believes the organisation’s trusted, 175 years of expertise and its ability to evolve and innovate to meet Victorian communities’ needs has been integral to working through the impacts of COVID-19 on its people and the organisation.

Morris advises “during the last few months we’ve ensured our people, customers, communities and local government partners are at the centre of every decision we’ve made as an organisation.

“This remains critical as government restrictions begin to lift. So it was important for us to better understand how our customers’ needs might have changed as a result of the pandemic and what they want to see or experience as they return to our program and services.

“Everyone knows that enhanced cleaning practices and social distancing measures are now a factor of everyday life and that will of course be the case for the gyms and pools we manage as they reopen. It is something we take very seriously.”

Morris adds “however, understanding what motivates and drives our customers in a post-COVID world is vital. We want to understand what will allow people to feel confident and comfortable to return to the programs and services they know and love. We appreciate that customers want to reconnect with their community but they need to be assured of their safety when returning.

“As restrictions ease, these insights will mean that we, along with our local government partners, are able to reopen in the right way and at the right time.”

This measured and methodical approach is helping to inform and support Y Vic’s 19 local government partners across the state.

Morris believes the rapid and significant impact of the closures across the recreation sector has created a closer working relationship with its communities and local government partners and notes “while we already enjoyed collaborative relationships with the councils, the coronavirus pandemic has really solidified the community-first focus that we all share.

“As we work through this next phase of reopening facilities, we’ll continue to be united. We will use these insights from our customers and ensure we all have COVID-safe measures and practices in place to keep our customers and staff as safe as we can.”

All images courtesy of YMCA

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