In the future we can have Rosie sub for us.

By Team ICG® Master Trainer Jim Karanas

Every day, countless products, services, and people provide us with positive or negative experiences. Not long ago, one of my students confronted me to let me know that she was annoyed and frustrated with a substitute instructor I had used for a recent class.

Now, substitute cycling instructors are often well-trained, decent instructors. But however good the sub may be, he/she is not the instructor for whom he/she is subbing. As we all know, indoor cycling students grow attached to their instructors, especially their favorite ones, and are critical of whoever comes in to sub that favorite”™s class.

For 30 years, I was a program director in commercial clubs. Instructors sub out an average of 15% of their classes every month. A club that offers 20 cycling classes per week has a monthly schedule of about 87 classes. Taking 15% of 87, we can estimate that 13 classes per month are subbed. At $35 per hour, that works out to $456.75 a month or $5,481.00 per year spent on subs. Multiply that by 20 clubs.

If the students don”™t enjoy the class, that”™s a lot of money spent on a negative member experience.

The question is whether the cycling-instructor substitute provides a level of service that”™s beneficial for the club owner and a sufficiently positive member experience for the cost. Of course, there are exceptions, but consider the market as a whole. How valuable is the current instructor-sub system that”™s in place in most clubs? Could it be replaced or enhanced in any way?

My experience in the industry tells me that having an instructor in the room may be necessary for safety reasons. The substitute process is also a great way to check out and train new instructors. Yet, when you look at the cost, the aggravation and time spent dealing with subs, and poor member experiences, is the current system the best solution? Does it remain so in light of current technological advancements?

If you”™ve read my posts, you know that my position regarding the use of video and virtual programming in the club setting is very positive. The production of virtual programming for indoor-cycling classes is accelerating and improving. I don”™t believe that video will ever replace a quality instructor. But I do feel that a well-constructed video profile can do the job that many substitute instructors are doing. It could certainly leave a more positive impression on the students.

One of the reasons for this has to do with a change in expectation. An indoor-cycling student who sees that the class will be taught by a virtual coach has a completely different attitude about the situation. A sub will inevitably be compared to the favorite instructor, but no one could reasonably expect a virtual class to be as good as, or even similar to, the favorite class.

This “forced” opening of the mind almost guarantees greater satisfaction — or, at the very least, less dissatisfaction. The student”™s mind has to go in a new direction altogether. The student will walk away thinking different thoughts. Thoughts like: I liked it. I didn”™t like it. That was interesting. It was OK, but “real” instruction is better. That was kinda fun for a change. I can”™t wait till ___ gets back.

At least these are a far cry from, “I hated the sub and won”™t go to any class she/he teaches anymore.” Or “What a crummy way to start my day.” Or “Why can”™t my favorite instructor find better subs?”

So we should still retain subs, but what if they were used in more specific contexts, when video just won”™t do? Would this not ease the struggle of the indoor-cycling director, as well as save money for the club owner? Would it not reduce negative member experiences?

Teaching indoor cycling is my occupation and my craft. The time I spend preparing for it and doing it is equaled by some, not equaled by others, and disregarded by still others. My point is not that video is better than a live instructor, but that each sub prepares differently, is liked or disliked by individual students, and will be compared (typically unfavorably) to the regular instructor. If a well-done video can provide a good, solid class that is met with a better attitude for the reasons described above, wouldn”™t that make it a better solution to the “subbing problem”?

I hope this topic generates some discussion. I”™m interested in your thoughts and feelings. I see this as a real and viable possibility for the future.

Originally posted 2012-07-02 09:47:58.

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