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Talk To Retain

The data on member communication doesn’t make pretty reading for the industry, says Dr Paul Bedford – but some simple mindset changes can make all the difference.

There is no doubt about it, talking to members improves retention and reduces attrition. This delivers advantages to the operator: it increase revenue and is good for the member, as it improves the overall health club experience.

How can we say this with such certainty?

Research evidence generated over the past 12 years clearly demonstrates a relationship between staff, member interaction and retention.

This data identifies that health club members interviewed on the gym floor while working out want some level of interaction with staff. The statistics show that staff interactions are a strong predictor of membership maintenance.

Members who are spoken to every visit are 60% less likely to quit than those who are spoken to occasionally and 70% less likely than those who are spoken to rarely or never. This is based on data analysed

on behalf of the Reebok sports club, Serco and Marriott hotels and calculated based on existing retention data, and then linked to the members’ responses to a questionnaire that they completed. Odds ratios were used to calculate these figures.

There is even a record of situations where members who have not been spoken to in the past 10 months, but who then receive an interaction, are more likely to continue their membership at the end of the contract period than those who are not spoken to at all.


Speaking up

Seven out of 10 members cannot recall the last time a member of the gym staff spoke to them. They report that staff appear to be willing to engage if the member makes the first move but unwilling to proactively seek to initiate the interaction. Six out of 10 members report not being spoken to by the person who did their initial induction during the course of their membership.

While a proportion of members only consider their health club a utility, a place to exercise and leave, up to 80% believe it is the responsibility of the staff to provide support and motivation. They expect staff to deliver a warm welcome, correct poor exercise technique, praise good technique, guide those who are clearly new to the gym and provide a supportive and motivational environment.

Interestingly, members perceive interaction on the gym floor and studio environment as more valuable than more general interaction at reception or in other common areas of the club.

Mindset change

Very few job descriptions include anything about a manager’s responsibility regarding member retention and attrition, and even fewer have their performance measured in this area. Therefore, if the importance of interacting with members is not instilled in the fitness managers, it become less likely that they will pass this onto the staff they manage. Fitness managers face the challenge that staff employed to deliver gym inductions and carry out general duties may be more interested in the exercise programs they write than the members they write them for.

The average attrition rate for health clubs is 35 per 1,000 members, per month.

This means that, on any given day, at least one member is on their last workout. One interaction with that member could retain them for a minimum of an extra month. A study conducted with private sector clubs demonstrated that it is possible to reduce attrition by 60% and increase membership length by nine months when staff had at least one interaction with a member during their contracted period.

The first requirement for improved interaction within the gym is the recognition by managers and owners of the value of having staff speaking to members. That is both the financial value and the impact that

has on member loyalty. Employing fitness managers with highly developed social skills who lead by example by talking to and interacting with members can make a large difference. Clubs need to develop a pyramid of engagement that begins with basic recognition of the members’ attendance and builds into a supportive and professional relationship that fosters member loyalty and goal achievement.

Seven out of 10 members cannot recall the last time a member of staff spoke to them

Retention Guru has developed a one day confidence and interaction training to help staff interact more effectively. If you are interested in having your staff trained email me at [email protected]  

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