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Zendesk is helping Holmes Place drive its digital transformation and deliver best-in-class customer service

Holmes Place

Products in use

Zendesk Suite Professional

~ 200

Number of tickets per day


Customer service agents

Holmes Place

“More than anything else, we want to provide a best-in-class user experience.”

From strength and cardio, personal training and group fitness to spa and wellness, Holmes Place has been the go-to premium health, fitness and wellness provider in Germany for more than 20 years. But premium services require premium customer service. And that’s where Zendesk comes in.

Holmes Place can trace its roots back to London in the 1980s. From humble beginnings, the idea proved so popular that the brand soon gained cult status and was able to expand across Europe, opening as many as 100 health clubs. Holmes Place has been in Germany since 2001 and now has 14 clubs in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Lübeck and Essen for anyone looking to get serious about their health, fitness and wellbeing.

The first lockdown hit Holmes Place hard

As we entered 2020, Holmes Place had just started using Zendesk. At the time, the company only planned to use it as an internal ticketing system in the IT department because each club typically took care of customer service by simply talking to members and fitness enthusiasts in person.

However, like most companies, Holmes Place was caught completely off guard by the COVID-19 pandemic. And as a health and fitness provider, the company’s clubs were forced to close their doors to meet government guidance. This had huge consequences not only for Holmes Place, but the fitness industry as a whole because the business model relied on providing members with unlimited access to facilities in exchange for a monthly subscription and long-term contract.

“Overnight, we had to let our 50,000 members know that, for the first time in the history of Holmes Place, we had to close for more than a day,” explains Carsten Kerner, Managing Director for Holmes Place Germany.

The company had to react quickly and offered customers compensation for membership fees whilst the clubs were closed. All of a sudden, the company was using Zendesk to communicate with its customers directly.

“During the lockdowns and the first few waves of the pandemic, customer queries went through the roof. At times, we had more than 7,000 open tickets,” Kerner reveals.

The urgency of the situation unfortunately meant that Holmes Place wasn't able to integrate Zendesk into its decentralised structure as it would have liked – at least initially. For example, any customers who didn’t respond to the first email about compensation options would later receive a reminder. Some would then respond twice, with one message going to head office and the other to their club. Kerner remembers just how difficult it was back then for the 15 agents in the company’s customer service head office. Fortunately, those days are now over.

Zendesk driving digital transformation

Holmes Place initially introduced Zendesk as a way to kick-start the company’s digital transformation. As Kerner points out, the fitness industry has a lot of catching up to do in this area. Kerner himself knew all about the benefits of Zendesk from a previous job. So, it’s perhaps no surprise he loves the automation opportunities it provides and has made it a big part of his plans for Holmes Place. When a customer wants to cancel their membership, it triggers one of the company’s most complex workflows – but it’s nothing Zendesk’s tools can’t handle. If the cancellation comes from the website or self-service form, the system automatically routes the request to retention management, where staff can speak to the member for a defined period of time and try to convince them to continue their contract. If that proves unsuccessful, the incident moves over to customer service, which then processes the cancellation.

The company already has plans to automate several other processes and integrate Zendesk into other systems. A central booking platform, for example, is expected to speed up internal processes and increase efficiency. Needless to say, Holmes Place is also leaning on Zendesk’s self-service solution to make this platform a success.

Staff should be looking after guests, nothing else

“One of our most important goals is to completely free our club staff of admin work. They should be able to focus entirely on our members and guests,” stresses Philip Laverty, Director of Operations, Holmes Place Germany, adding “More than anything else, we want to provide a best-in-class user experience.”

Meeting both goals is no mean feat, which is why Holmes Place has significantly expanded the self-service options available on its revamped website. For example, the FAQ section for users now has answers to far more than just general questions about membership and what’s included. Instead, it also provides specific details about individual clubs, like how to get there using public transport, what parking is available and even the water temperature in the spa. Holmes Place has also connected individual locations to help the knowledge base grow organically. “The more people working on the FAQ, the better it becomes,” emphasises Kerner. It’s not about shying away from providing help or only allowing customers to request support after failing to find a solution in the FAQ. The aim is instead to give service staff the time and freedom they need to focus all their attention on the most important issues.

Looking ahead, Holmes Place is eager to use innovative ways to stand out from the competition even more. As a premium brand, this will include allowing customers to sign up on other channels. But the company is also planning to use more bots that integrate seamlessly with Zendesk, as this will allow service staff to easily take over conversations when needed. And there are even plans to change up how requests from non-members are processed, namely by feeding them into the sales funnel.

KPIs lighting the way

Holmes Place leverages key stats and metrics to monitor and improve customer service. The fitness provider currently handles an average of 200 tickets a day but aims to reduce ticket volumes by 75% in the medium term. The new booking system will undoubtedly go a long way, as it will give members more control to book and change things on both the company’s mobile app and website. But Holmes Place is also continuing to improve its self-service offering in support. That’s why the company is carefully monitoring what website visitors are searching for and which articles in the FAQ still end up creating tickets. These insights then highlight what articles need to cover in more detail. The company also uses many of the more standard metrics available in Zendesk, such as first reply time and ticket handling time, to better understand how its customer service is performing.

“Helping people help themselves and promoting both our help centre and chat doesn’t mean we want to stop customers getting in touch or that we’re avoiding communication,” says Kerner. “The opposite is actually true – we want to communicate with our customers in the best possible way on every channel. And we can’t forget that everything relies on our talented and motivated team, which looks after our customers every single day.” With an average customer satisfaction score of 8 out of 10, there can be little doubt the company is on the right track – not to mention customers are more than happy to recommend this premium provider.