What’s your background?
I’ve worked in sport and leisure for the past 15 years, starting out on the gym floor and rising to senior management positions at leisure chains such as Next Generation, David Lloyd and GLL.
In 2008, I became a partner at Proleisure, which manages high profile leisure and sport infrastructure projects for clients such as Manchester City FC, Les Mills and the Emirates Stadium.
Earlier this year, I headed up the launch of sister company Proinsight Research, which is leading the way with the latest techniques in consumer insight and research for leisure businesses.
Our executive directors are Andy Kay and Mhairi FitzPatrick, who each have a wealth of experience in the industry. Andy and Mhairi founded the corporate wellbeing company, ARK Leisure Management, and they own the prestigious 37° health clubs in London. They’ve backed Proinsight under a new venture, Socius Investing, which invests in leisure businesses and works with the management to accelerate growth.
Why did you launch Proinsight and what services do you offer?
I’m a passionate believer in the value of good research. Most organisations use research a little too late in the business cycle. It’s often used simply to validate what’s been done, but when done early, it can fuel new ideas and innovations.
We offer a range of services designed to give insight into what’s happening when a customer interfaces with any part of a client’s business – including mystery shopping, bespoke research projects, National Benchmarking Services, non-user surveys, exits surveys, and so on.
What sets you apart from other mystery shopper specialists?
We want our services to deliver a tangible return on investment for clients. For example, when we mystery shop an organisation’s sales process, using our unique process, we expect to see uplift in revenue as a direct result.
We also deliver fast results, so clients can act on those findings and implement valuable changes to their business. We can mystery shop a health club, compile the report, validate the information and deliver the results to our client’s mobile device within 48 hours. If our clients have customer-facing issues they want to fix them now, not next month.
What are some of your more niche services?
We use sophisticated technology to deliver HD visual recordings of the customer experience for some of our clients.
Results are compelling.
To be able to listen to and watch a service encounter in HD is an incredibly powerful tool and can be a wonderful training vehicle.
Video shopping is the next level of mystery shopping for the sector.
Who else is on your team?
We’re very excited to have appointed experienced research specialist, Anna Marangi, as our head of client services & research. Anna has worked on UK and international research projects for high profile clients in the medical, legal and energy sectors, and recently worked on a large project researching links between diabetes and obesity. She’ll help us to grow the research arm of our business taking on bespoke projects for clients.
Our other employees work in our fulfilment department scheduling the mystery shops, reviewing each report and maintaining the highest quality. And we have our 4,000 mystery shoppers nationwide, covering Cornwall to Inverness, Dublin to Norwich.
How do you find and grow that army of shoppers?
Our shoppers and field research teams come from a wide demographic which means our clients get insight from a relevant cross section of the population. We manage our database of shoppers tightly and recruit from targeted areas, from Saga to Netmums to Student Job.
Once they’ve passed the online assessment they get additional job specific training and guidance. Our shoppers are happy, engaged and we pay them well. They appreciate our efforts and they reward us by doing a great job.
The integrity of our research and data is paramount because it’s on this that our clients base their business decisions.
Why should clients engage you?
Take one of our most popular products – a mystery shopping programme designed for a health club’s sales team. Pound for pound, it’s one of the best investments a health and fitness club manager will make.
It’s an extremely detailed and cutting edge research process, covering anywhere between 200-300 evaluation points – both qualitative and quantitative research, plus the more emotional aspects of staff interactions.
The information we provide will help the club sell more memberships in a matter of days. There is no faster, clearer return on investment.
Can you highlight a recent client success story?
We recently worked with Pro-active Camden (a partnership between the London Borough of Camden, NHS London and Camden’s leisure facility operators) on the Give it a Go initiative. The scheme gave a group of 1,000 hard-to-reach and inactive local residents the opportunity to take part in free physical activity.
ProInsight was responsible for measuring the impact that this scheme had on their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing during, after and a year later. The work was nominated for a ukactive Flame Award in 2013.
This kind of data will be essential for many organisations seeking continued or project funding for the future.
What do you see as the key trends in leisure currently?
Micro gyms and wearable technology are stealing all the headlines! These developments are great for the sector as they represent real vertical change as opposed to horizontal expansion. The economy is picking up and there is much more investment . Businesses are changing hands and this is good news for us because new owners need research and independent insight.
ukactive is getting its message across. ‘More people, more active, more often’ is a clear brief and I think it’s beginning to resonate with the industry. It’s the research behind the stats that tells us people need to get more active and this will need to be measured going forward
It feels like we’re in a good place, in a good industry at a good time.
How will these trends shape the future, and what could it mean for Proinsight and its clients?
Amid all this exciting change, nothing survives without great service. We help our clients understand where their service delights and where it falls short, so they can either reward staff or fix problems quickly.
With our clients, we’re working on reward programmes to recognize those magic moments staff provide.
We’re also launching our first benchmarking report this month, which will assist senior managers in understanding the key industry trends in commercial sales performance.
The future looks exciting, and we’re the new kids on the block, full of energy and passion with an appetite to innovate and develop new products. Our energy is infectious, and it’s reflected in the great work we do for our customers.