Virgin Active is a part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, a brand that is known for being exciting, innovative, service oriented and transforming the way business is done in whichever industry they enter. Virgin Active is perhaps the most popular health club in South Africa and also operates in multiple countries around the world.

They understand that going to the gym is hard work and in true Virgin fashion, they focus on being innovative, and focused on the customer, making exercise more fun and interesting and making it easier for their members to live healthy lives.

For a long time, their tagline was – ‘Live happily ever active’ and now have a new campaign – ‘How will Virgin Active make you feel? Go There.’

Brand contact involves every point of contact that a consumer has with a brand. At these points or moments, the brand performs or expresses itself and influences stakeholder’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs about the brand. A great brand considers all these points and deploys them in such a way as to increase brand relationship with consumers. Successful brand contact planning however requires buy-in from the internal customer (the employee). A happy engaged employee will make a for a pleasant brand experience.

I am a member of Virgin Active and use their facilities fairly regularly. For this assignment, I went over and interviewed the receptionist about the process they took to onboard a new client. I wanted to glean some insight into how they are trained and what they are trained to do as employees. The first thing she did was call her superior to find out if it was okay to speak to me about the Virgin Active onboarding process. Which immediately spoke to me of well-established processes and chain of command within the company.

Right after she got the okay, two customers walked in looking to find out more information about their packages and how to get started. Just my luck! I took the opportunity to sit back and observe as she handled the requests. She was very helpful, friendly and clear, explaining the different options available and the different processes to get certain things done.

A prospective member starts off with a sales consultant who explains the various packages available. After the package has been chosen, the customer is then handed off to a fitness consultant who then asks about the customer’s goals. Do they need meal plans? Are they training for something, or seeking to gain weight? The consultant also shows the new member the facilities, explaining how the machines work and getting them settled.

Virgin Active staff is trained to be exceptional at customer service. After your first visit to the gym, you even get a call from the company asking if you were helped properly. They are trained to always be helpful, to not take things personally (from difficult clients) and to treat each client respectfully regardless of how the last interaction before went. Every time you swipe into the club, you get a ‘Welcome to Virgin Active, enjoy your workout’ from a smiling receptionist.

In addition to the service, the facilities are always of a high standard, and clearly branded Virgin Active, the walls alternate between white and red which is the Virgin color, clear signs and a clean modern aesthetic brings the look together. There are also very visible banners and posters that highlight the latest campaigns encouraging gym goers to work out hard and have fun.

There is always high energy music playing in the gym while working out which keeps the tempo up, the television screens usually play sports or some kind of general entertainment to provide distraction between sets. The entire facilities are well laid out into sections for various activities – weights, treadmills, classes, and so on which make it easy to navigate and move from point to point. And there are always at least three trainers on the floor to help you if you have a problem. However, the brand contact on the gym floor could be increased a bit. I would suggest that the floor trainers engage a bit more with clients and be proactive with providing help or tips.

In addition to the gym facilities, at my branch, there is also an internet café area with computers, and a kids area where parents can drop off their children for supervised play while they enjoy a workout.

Even outside the gym, as a member, you receive email newsletters informing you on the latest classes and offerings, competitions, sporting events and cool giveaways. The website and app also allow you to track your workouts and see if you reaching your goals.

At the end of my interview, I asked the receptionist if she liked working at Virgin, she said she enjoyed what she did, and she enjoyed working for the company. Virgin Active is a well-managed brand, and it is no wonder they are the top fitness health club in the country.


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