Following the first national lockdown due to Covid 19, the sport and leisure world had to change to safely re-open its doors when restrictions were lifted, following government, university and industry guidance.
Early in the process, the Sport & Physical Activity Service (SPA) team recognised the importance of not only being fully compliant and adhering to strict safety measures, but also of going above and beyond to reassure staff and customers. The team wanted to give customers the confidence to return to sport and enable them to do so in the easiest and most convenient way possible.
A small team of SPA management continued to work together full time throughout the Summer, creating a thorough re-entry plan. As part of this work, the team attended numerous webinars led by industry leaders and governing bodies and then translated the guidance into processes and new ways of working.
The changes proposed by the team were channelled through a robust approvals process. Once all the changes were approved, the challenge to re-engage staff began with the delivery of training and competency assessments on the process changes as the team prepared for re-opening.
Important communication updates on the changes were provided to customers before they were able to access facilities through various platforms including individual contact, member updates and social media. A significant change is the advance booking required for all customers to access sports facilities. To help facilitate this change, the team came up with online timetables which give customers the necessary ease and freedom to make and amend activity bookings.
Ahead of the doors re-opening, high-quality customer information videos were created to reiterate all the actions taken to ensure a COVID 19 secure environment, which involved liaising with marketing, communication, and wider university colleagues.
The hard work paid off! The SPA team succeeded in demonstrating that the necessary standards had been met and received approval from the university’s Health and Safety to re-open facilities. The assessors commented that the measures put in place by the team went above and beyond the required standards.
The success of the approach to re-engaging staff was made apparent through comments made in the online FAQ forum on completion of staff training, in which individuals thanked the team for putting them at ease about returning to work.
Shortly after re-opening, the Operations and Sales/Marketing teams worked together to deliver several online customer forums, where customers were asked for feedback about the re-entry process. These included questions relating to safety, ease of access, communication methods and quality/relevance of programmes being delivered.
Securing the support of staff has played a significant part in the successful re-opening of facilities for customers. The team were praised in the customer forums for making facilities safe and helping customers feel comfortable.
Throughout the entire process, the SPA team has been ready and willing to adapt to change whenever necessary. Whether this be due to government changes issued overnight, or changes to timings of activities following customer feedback. As a result, the team has succeeded in delivering a phased return and setting a precedent for the future.