Bally Total Fitness Gets Its CRM Into Shape

When Bally Total Fitness began a company-wide overhaul to streamline operations, the company decided it also needed to focus on the experiences of its fitness-club membership, including how members were able to communicate with its service centers.

As a result of the CEO’s visit to one of Bally’s call centers, where he saw firsthand the difficulty that customer service reps were having in satisfying customer needs, the IT team was given a mandate: Dramatically improve the member service experience.

The fitness company’s call-center technology had been developed in the 1980s and required extensive training on its many manual processes. Data had the potential to get lost when it was handed off between employees during simple tasks. With 270 clubs and more than 3 million members worldwide, the company needed to automate its customer relationship management (CRM).

“The communication channels were really limited to telephone only,” says Guy Thier, CIO of Bally Total Fitness. “We’re trying to extend the channels a member can talk to us on and be more responsive to their needs.”

In August 2009, Bally began evaluating CRM solutions, keeping in mind that the new system would have to play nice with its 30-year old legacy systems residing on an AS 400. After looking at products from companies including, Siebel and Sword Ciboodle, Bally chose the Sword Ciboodle product.

“We felt that the other players were good if you had a B2B environment and a little bit more standard set of features and functions and data points," Thier says. "Our industry is a little bit off of the standard – Business-to-Consumer – and a combination of subscription services and other services. It’s a little bit outside the norm of what those other products handle.”

Implementation of the Sword Ciboodle system began in October 2009. “The biggest challenge was building a service layer around the legacy technology," Thier says. "We created web services around the AS 400 and then built the Ciboodle integration point to those web services. Then we had to get the project synced up with Ciboodle’s front end services."

The project cost about $6 million, Thier says, and included deployments of a new Genesis telephony infrastructure and servers to support it. “There was a fairly substantial server purchase.”

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