Pros and cons of swipe cards

I have a lot of fun visiting new yoga studios in addition to enjoying the yoga class offered.

I get to analyze many facets of a yoga studio. I start this well before I step foot in the yoga studio.

For instance, I analyze the marketing and location. But the real fun starts when I step foot in the yoga studio.

The first thing I look at is reception, and in particular, how yoga students sign in before a class.

I’ve seen all kinds of yoga student sign-in processes ranging from handwriting names to swipe cards.

A yoga studio is different than a fitness center because most studios have drop-in options which mean those students aren’t necessarily members. This is good to have, but in my view, it’s imperative a yoga studio strives to turn a drop-in student into a repeat and loyal student.

I’m not really into criticizing yoga studio processes, but I can’t help but characterize yoga student sign-in processes in two camps:

  1. Low-tech sign-in procedures, and
  2. High-tech sign-in procedures using swipe card technology.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a yoga student sign-in procedure. They are as follows:

  1. Is it easy and convenient for your students?
  2. Does it use the least amount of your resources (i.e. staff or your time)?
  3. Is it fast so waiting times are minimized?
  4. Does it foster repeat or loyal yoga students?
  5. Is it cost-effective?

I’ll deal with each consideration below.

1. Is it easy and convenient for your students?

In my view, running a customer-service based business should always have a focus on the customer. Yoga is not a low-cost win-all business model. People do yoga for health and wellness reasons and therefore don’t mind spending money.  They choose yoga studios for a variety of factors; prices are generally low on the list of considerations (unless you charge exorbitant prices).

Therefore, one way to distinguish your studio is to be customer-service-oriented. You can start improving customer service with your sign-in procedures. Make it easy, fast, and private.

If you go low-tech with a sheet on which students print their name, this is not bad, but it is not as fast as swipe cards, which results in traffic jams before class.

Going high-tech with a swipe card sign-in is faster, but it won’t work if it’s a first-time student or your student forgot their card. Then you must rely on a backup plan.

Privacy consideration

There’s also a privacy element to consider. When you use the handwritten process, students can see the names of other students. I appreciate that 99 percent of students don’t care, but they’re likely is a small percentage that does. Automated swipe cards solve any privacy issues.

Whatever you do, implement a sign-in process that conveniences your students.

2. Does your sign-in process use the least amount of your resources?

This is where an automated swipe card sign-in process offers a huge advantage over a simple handwritten sign-up sheet. When automated, the visits are automatically logged into your software.  You don’t need to do anything after class (except entering those students who forgot their cards).

With the handwritten sign-up process, you must enter in the attendees after class, which may be the last thing you want to do, especially if it’s the last class of the day.

Moreover, if you have a large class, you may have a lot of work to do entering many names into your computer from more than one sheet of paper.

If you have a staff person entering the names, then this is also somewhat slow and takes more time during the process.

3. Is it fast so waiting times are minimized?

I appreciate yoga teaches patience and going with the flow, but there’s no need to teach this lesson as soon as students arrive at your studio. When all else is equal, choose a sign-in process that is efficient so people can get to class quickly.

4. Does it foster repeat or loyal yoga students?

Just because a yoga student has a swipe card for your yoga studio doesn’t guarantee loyalty or that they’ll show up again, but it will help. Your students always have a reminder on their keychain or in their wallet being your studio’s swipe card.

The swipe card offers a sense of belonging and membership. You want to foster this in much of what you do, and if a swipe card contributes to the sense of belonging and membership, then give it a try.


There’s also the branding opportunity with swipe cards. The more exposure you get for your studio, the better. With your yoga studio name on swipe cards, other people are bound to see it being carried by your students.

5. Is it cost-effective?

Higher-tech sign-in processes will cost more than a sheet of paper and pen. There’s no question about that. But, the added cost may be offset by its increased efficiency – especially in your and/or your staff’s time inputting names and managing handwritten lists.

Whenever assessing cost-effectiveness, you must consider the factors that aren’t directly related, but impact. I’m referring to customer service, privacy, and fostering loyalty. These attributes can’t be measured in relation to a sign-in process, but they can’t be ignored either.

At the end of the day, I believe going high-tech with your yoga student sign-in process offers more advantages than a low-tech process. Fortunately, it’s not that expensive or difficult to implement.

In a Nutshell:  Pros and Cons to Swipe Cards

Pros to using swipe card technology

  • Fast and efficient
  • Reduces student traffic jams at reception
  • Fosters yoga student loyalty and sense of belonging akin to a membership
  • Protects privacy
  • Saves you and your staff’s time from inputting names into your computer
  • Not terribly expensive if you get comprehensive yoga studio business management software (get your 1st-month free mentioning Yoga Baron referred you)
  • You look professional
  • Branding opportunity.

Cons to using swipe card technology

  • If a student forgets their card, you must have an alternative sign-in option

UPDATE April 21/11: Kathleen, a Yoga Baron reader, kindly corrected me about this point.  She wrote me the following (which I think is very helpful):

I used to be the General Manager of the 5 Yoga Tree studios in San Francisco and we used MindBody and rarely did any of the students ever actually bring their scan card. They just give their last name and they are entered into the system – no alternative sign-in option is needed!

When I lived in NYC, I was the Operations Manager of Jivamukti yoga school, which also uses MindBody, and I actually had my swipe card on my key chain. I lost my keys one time and some nice, new yorker threw them in a mailbox and they were delivered to JYC because that address was on my scan card!!!

Cons continued:

  • It costs more up-front than pen and paper
  • There’s a learning curve to use it and it takes time to set up.
  • It’s not useful for first-time drop-in students (but is an opportunity to have them become members or repeat students).

Where to get swipe card technology for your yoga studio?

One option for getting swipe cards for your students is through MINDBODY yoga software.  MINDBODY is a comprehensive yoga studio business management software service to run, schedule, manage, and market your yoga studio.

As always, if you’re thinking of changing a process, but aren’t sure, why not ask some of your students for feedback. They will be happy to tell you what they think.

UPDATE April 21, 2011: Christy, a Yoga Baron reader, kindly sent me the following email, which I think is very good information on this subject:

I read your most recent blog about swiping in vs. manually signing in. I teach at studios where both are used. I find that even with the electronic swipe in(and I agree that mindbody online is the best studio software out there), desk staff still needs to be present for cards that have expired or run out, new students, and to offer general direction in between classes.

Signing in manually, it’s true can create a line, which can be bothersome for those who are both running late, and need to purchase more classes. Overall, I think it’s important to have desk staff either way, which doesn’t necessarily save any money. Seeing a friendly welcoming face when one enters a studio creates an ambiance that a scanner will not.

In the end, I think the sign-in method chosen depends on the population of the studio. In more urban settings a scan card is essential as people are often running in and out quickly and are more likely to renew their passes online, In more suburban and rural settings, I think students like the interaction with someone at the desk and the slower pace of signing in and renewing in person.

I’ll end by expressing my gratitude to Kathleen and Christy for taking the time to write me to correct and clarify this article.  Thank you, Christy and Kathleen!