The long-standing American fitness market is steady with brands like Matrix Fitness focusing on user satisfaction.
There was a time a couple of decades ago when fitness clubs and gyms were often run by retired bodybuilders or people who had gained fame in the fitness industry. Although great faces of the organization, many times these owners didn’t know enough about business to maintain or grow the brand.
That isn’t the case today.
“Fitness has become a very business-savvy industry,” said Rich Derks, Vice President of Quality and Customer Experience at Johnson Health Tech, parent company for the Matrix Fitness brand. “The people running these health and fitness clubs are focused on profit—it is a business after all. They are careful about whose equipment they invest in. They want to minimize the total cost of ownership. They want a total solutions provider.”
North America is the most mature fitness market in the world, and Johnson Health Tech—purveyors of well-known brands such as Matrix, Vision Fitness, and Horizon Fitness—is one of the fastest growing companies out there.
Derks’ job is to make sure every product introduced to the marketplace is high quality. But as Matrix has learned, interactions with the customer don’t end at the sale. It’s also the company’s duty to make its customers’ lives easier.
The Consumer Matrix
“We participate in both the commercial and retail segments,” said Mark Zabel, President of the U.S. Commercial Division and Global Chief Marketing Officer. “Seventy percent of our business comes from our commercial division, where we sell to businesses like health clubs, hotels, schools/universities, hospitals, and non-profits like the YMCA.
The end consumer—the one who’s sweating it out on a 45-minute mountain climb—is an important part of the puzzle, but not the only one.
“We have a multifaceted collection of customers in the commercial space,” Derks said. “We have internal customers: the account managers who are selling to hotels and clubs. If they don’t feel positive about the product, that’s going to trickle down to the purchasing consumer. Then there’s the purchaser and the influencers as well: service technicians and personal trainers play a role too.”
With several layers of consumers to contend with, leaders like Derks and Zabel have to not only understand the complexity of their sales channels but have a solution for each one.
“Each conversation you have to ask yourself, who is the customer? What are the drivers?”
Stakeholder Feedback Loop
It’s important for Matrix Fitness to distinguish its different customer channels because only then can the company and its employees provide the appropriate support and collaboration with its clients.
This is what sets the company apart from its competitors in its field. Matrix’s commitment to listening to feedback from all stakeholders and parties, and then acting on this feedback, solidifies its status as one of the U.S.’s premier exercise equipment brands.
“We had a tagline a few years ago that was ‘Believe in Better’,” Zabel shared. “It refers to our innovation story and our commitment to continuous improvement. We’re constantly learning new things from market feedback. We look at competitors, we have fingers on the pulse of the auto, home décor, and technology industries and see how they are producing their products. We’re always learning how our products work and how we can make them work better for everyone involved.”
The company has a wide variety of different stakeholders that provide insight into user and buyer experience. Zabel shared that the company has an active lifestyle panel that includes a few hundred people. Anytime Matrix wants feedback on a design and commentary on what’s important to the user, the company calls on 30 to 40 people from the panel.
Helpful feedback, too, comes from partners in providing the total solution to Matrix’s clients.
“We observed that it took a service tech upwards of 15 minutes to access internal components of several competitive machines, including the popular stair climbing machines. It shouldn’t take anyone that long to get to the parts that need maintenance or repairs,” Zabel shared. “So we designed a different type of fastener that took much less time to remove for maintenance, and also installed an LED light inside our ClimbMill to assist the service tech in completing the job.”
Derks shared that the customer experience starts with internal customers—its people. It’s especially important the Matrix team buys into the company’s vision when its external customers come for a visit.
Often, leadership will invite current or potential customers to its headquarters, located in Wisconsin, to learn more about the company and, yes, try out their products.
“We encourage them to show up in workout clothes,” said Derks. “We’ll give them a tour of the building, they’ll meet staff, and then we take them to our showroom with equipment. It’s a different experience from the floor of a trade show because you get to meet the people who design the products and get behind the scenes—meet the people, experience the culture, and see the product development process in action.”
It’s no surprise, then, that the company has about a 90 percent sale conversion rate when customers visit its headquarters. It’s also no surprise when you know a bit more about the company’s products.
Connectivity is a driving factor in designing and producing new fitness equipment for Matrix. The user interface on its touchscreen consoles is representative of smartphones today, and each customer can choose what the interface looks like.
“Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and many other apps you’re used to seeing on your phone or TV are available on our equipment. We, too, have proprietary programs built in to help the end user follow almost any workout plan they have.”
In what the company calls its Connected Solutions portfolio, Matrix has found that staying connected is just as important for the owner/operator as it is for the end user. The Personal Trainer Portal gives trainers a way to stay engaged with their clients to improve results. Owners and service techs appreciate the ability to track equipment usage and maintenance via their integrated Asset Management system.
Matrix is constantly working with different facets of the industry to offer what is needed. The brand reaches out to specialists in many disciplines—speed training, for instance—to find out what the end consumer needs from its products
“There’s a speed training technique that we’ve found to be important to athletes. We talked to speed coaches, and researched the technique they wanted to coach, and how that could translate to our equipment. The result is the S Drive and S-Force Performance Trainers.”
Each piece of equipment and its functionalities released by Johnson Health Tech is thoroughly researched and continuously improved upon. Continuous improvement is part of the company’s DNA. Employees spend each day at work making sure the customer experience meets or exceeds expectations.
“We try to maximize satisfaction for all different stakeholders,” Derks said. “The end consumer wants to see results and stay interested in fitness. Owners and operators want to be profitable and see their membership grow. We want our internal customers to stay engaged. We want Matrix to be the answer to any equipment and programming design question these stakeholders may have.”
Matrix Fitness is the fastest growing commercial brand in the world and is the commercial brand of Johnson Health Tech. Matrix is comprised of a complete line of cardiovascular and strength-training equipment for health clubs and other fitness facilities. Johnson Health Tech, Inc. (JHT), Taiwan, is one of the largest fitness equipment manufacturers in the world and is home to some of the most respected brands in the fitness industry, including: Matrix, Vision and Horizon. The company manufactures a wide assortment of fitness equipment for both commercial and residential use, including treadmills, elliptical trainers, exercise bikes and strength training equipment. Johnson Health Tech’s global management headquarters is based in Taichung, Taiwan, with global product development, marketing and engineering based in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin.