I f you are a gym and fitness studio business owner, you would have very likely come across the terms Member Retention and Member Attrition or Membership Attrition. And by now, you must have realised retention is the holy grail of gym management and the process of working to keep your members from churning is as multifaceted as it is difficult. In order to explore creative ways to improve gym member retention, we must first know why they remain loyal.
But if you are new to this topic let's first explore the basics.
What is Member Retention?
Member retention is basically the measure of how many of your members keep their membership active. For example, someone whose membership ends on November 15 but re-ups for another annual membership before August 10 would count toward the studio's retention rate. The higher your retention rate, the better.
A growing trend across all businesses is services given without any personal interaction. This might be most prominently seen in the popularity of mobile ordering food and beverages: get your order without even making eye contact. These customers aren’t the ones managers worry about retaining; as long as the service is correct, these customers usually return.
The customers who sever their membership contract are the ones who aren’t engaged or have found a better arrangement somewhere else. This can happen for a variety of reasons, leaving managers scratching their heads, hoping attrition doesn’t become a trend.
To once again return to the foodservice analogy, not many of us would return to a restaurant where the waiter was snappy, our order was wrong, and the manager didn’t refund the error. If the manager was apologetic and the wrong righted, we might give them a second or third chance, however, we remain sceptical and unattached to the establishment, ready to find an alternative.
But we all have a restaurant, coffee shop, or grocery store we frequent because we are known, valued, and appreciated. The employees know our name and our order, they ask about our families, jobs, and lives, and thank us for our loyalty.
Fitness centres are not that different from food service. Especially in cities where gyms are almost as prevalent as fast-food restaurants, loyal gym members are the ones who feel known, valued, and appreciated, instead of hopping to the next gym down the street. They also experience the results predicted by their personal trainers.
The first problem that most gym owners have is that they don’t have a systemized member retention strategy. The strategy to make your customers stay is no longer a should-have, it’s now a must-have. And it’s not just the owner, everyone needs to know this - your coaches, your admin staff, even your receptionist. This is important because only then will they be able to play an active role in client retention and make sure that when clients decide to be with your gym, they’re in for the long haul.
If you don’t have a retention plan, you’ll always be on the hunt. You won’t know where your next client is going to come from. Your income will not be steady and you’ll always be like, ‘Gee there’s more month at the end of my money,’ while your unpaid bills stare back at you (mockingly). This stress will be bad not just for you, but also for your business as your clients will be able to feel that energy, or lack thereof.
Secondly, most gym owners go for monthly packages or camps. Don’t do that. If you offer a 6-week program or a 3-month program, your members will leave you when they’ve done the time. Set goal after goal for your customers. Make sure that they achieve short-term goals but give them new, long-term goals so that they feel like they constantly need you to train and become the best versions of themselves.
Thirdly, you must learn the internet marketing game. Learn how to build a clientele and systemize your gym's retention strategies. Learn how to use marketing campaigns, emails and social media to cement your presence and reach out to potential customers.
Customer Service And It's Importance
Before you start listing out all of your gym member retention ideas, you need to address your customer service. An irresistible customer service is achieved with a strong vision and total buy-in from your staff.
- Have a captivating vision
- Hire the right people
- Cut Your Losses
Go beyond simply providing a space where people can exercise; how will your fitness centre change peoples’ lives? Choose three or four words that sum up and describe what you’re hoping to achieve, then write compelling mission, value, and vision statements that are customer-oriented. If these statements aren’t empowering, exciting, and engaging, chances are your employees won’t feel this way either. This means customer service will be lacking, with attrition soon to follow.
When filling a vacant position, you want to hire people who are motivated by your mission, value, and vision statements. The new hire should be someone who upholds these statements. If employees aren’t committed to seeing your vision fulfilled, then customer service will suffer.
As IHRSA so aptly states: “Every hiring decision is a retention decision.” This means every employee is responsible for retention by keeping a positive atmosphere and customer service experience.
However, it is crucial to understand that not every applicant is capable of doing this! Some applicants may have a more prestigious certification, more experience, or know all the right answers, but managers must discern the applicant who truly upholds the vision for the fitness centre. It might not be the applicant who looks most appealing on paper.
When you’ve hired the right people, your employees share and live the company’s values. This means there’s less need to micromanage because everyone is working towards the same goal. When conflict arises, you can easily get back on the same page by returning to the company’s values. This creates a more peaceful and productive gym culture, aiding in retention.
Hiring and training new staff is expensive and time-consuming. Managers may struggle to cut grumbling, divisive, abrasive, or lazy employees to avoid the hassle and cost of finding a replacement. It’s especially tempting when such employees convert enough sales to make their grim personality worth bearing. However, this is detrimental in the long run.
Spending time and energy trying to keep the difficult employees happy will drive your excellent employees away. Worse still, those great employees will be hired by another gym and build up your competitors with superior customer service.
Effective Ways To Increase Gym Member Retention
- Group Classes
- Goal Setting
- Rewards and Incentives
- Cleanliness and Maintenance
- Customer Service
Create personalised workout plans and provide individualised attention to members. This can be done by using technology to track their progress and provide recommendations for workouts and nutrition.
Offer a variety of group fitness classes to keep members engaged and motivated. This can be an opportunity for members to socialise and build a sense of community within the gym.
Encourage members to set specific, measurable goals for their fitness journey. This can help them stay motivated and committed to their workouts. Set-up attendance challenges to make them more regular.
Offer rewards and incentives to members who achieve their fitness goals or attend the gym regularly. This can be in the form of discounts, free classes, points or other perks.
Regularly communicate with members through newsletters, social media, or email to keep them informed about gym events, new classes, or any changes in policies.
Ensure that the gym is clean and well-maintained, with up-to-date equipment and facilities. This can help create a positive environment that members will want to return to.
Provide excellent customer service and be responsive to members' needs and concerns. This can help build trust and loyalty with your members.
Overall, it's essential to create an environment that is welcoming, engaging, and supportive of members' fitness goals. By incorporating these strategies, you can increase gym member retention and help your members achieve their fitness goals.
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