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Internal Retention Tools

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By Ali Cicerchi

Retaining members can seem overwhelming, but it’s really an opportunity to improve creativity and focus on members.

Keeping an old member can take a little more effort and little more work. They aren’t as easily impressed as they once were, the first time they walked into the club “oooing” and “ahhhing” with wide eyes over all of the new equipment, amenities and sign-up deals.

“If you only focus on getting that new member, your member base will never grow, you’ll always be catching up with the normal monthly attrition,” said Laura Butcaris, the general manager of Club H at both the Jersey City and Hoboken N.J. locations.

“First and foremost it would be convenience and affordability,” said John Voskamp, the director of personal training for Snap Fitness. “We really try to focus on the member experience,” he said.

The member experience is exactly what everyone should be worrying about. What are the members thinking when they leave this facility, are they happy with their experience? Or, merely waiting for their membership to be up so they can go elsewhere.

Valued Amenities

Maintaining a strong amenity mix across all clubs helps with retention, said Dal Clayton, the COO of Titan Fitness, a franchisee of Gold’s Gym. “Including diverse and ever-evolving group fitness programs, a dynamic personal training program serving both individuals, groups and providing all of the major amenities that today’s members are expecting including, pools, basketball courts, racquetball courts, child care with fitness programming options, cardio theater, etc.”

Butcaris said she’s heard of club operators thinking of group fitness as “non-revenue driving,” but in fact, some of her group fitness devotees are the most loyal members.

Fitness on Request provides a flexible way to offer group fitness, said David Kraai, the president of Fitness on Request. “Any time you can help people interact, that’s going to be good for your club,” he said. With Fitness on Request, clubs can offer classes anytime without the club using an instructor for slow periods throughout the day — the virtual instructor is always available for whichever class is in demand.

Zeynep Watson, the Members Services Manager at Lava Sport and Fitness in San Diego, Calif., said her members love their GRAVITY program. “Since we have a large GRAVITY studio with 20 machines, the members are really able to take advantage of the benefits of the program any day of the week,” she said. “Most people keep coming back for more when it comes to GRAVITY because there are so many different workouts it really doesn’t get old. As a club we make sure that our instructors are always giving the members a new class format with different workouts.”

Club H also offers specific areas dedicated to personal training. “This keeps our personal training clients happy, with a dedicated space and equipment that continually challenges them,” Buctaris said. “And, the rest of our members are happy by not overcrowding the gym floor at peak times.”

Club One offers spa-like toiletries and luxurious towels to its members, said COO Bill McBride. Cleanliness is important as well. “We have a high degree of intensity on cleanliness and maintenance,” McBride said. “Additionally, we provide equipment wipes and hand sanitizer stations in multiple locations.”

Companies such as GOJO Industries Inc., who specialize in cleanliness, can make an impact on a gym and overall retention rates. Research has shown that cleanliness is the most influential aspect to a member, explained Mike Hanes, the Market Development Director for GOJO. Hanes said the gym is a unique environment and the perception of it is crucial. “Clubs need to attack cleanliness head on,” he said. GOJO uses Purrell and helps clubs with signage and stands to present a “clean” image. Hanes continued, “Purrell is that [trusted] brand. It’s the number one sanitizer; it’s a brand members know and trust elsewhere in their lives.”

Additionally, members associate a quality smell to cleanliness. Think of working with an aroma spa company to take care of locker room odor needs. EuroSpa Eucalyptus Oil helps a club’s steam room stay pleasantly smelling while providing the aromatic benefits of all-natural eucalyptus oil, said Eric Snyder, the president of EuroSpa. “Steam rooms will require less maintenance because the growth of unpleasant bacteria, mold and mildew is discouraged by eucalyptus oil,” he explained. “Clients prefer pleasant ‘eucalyptus-fresh’ steam rooms to stinky steam rooms, and this tends to help retention rates.”

Offering a nutrition component can be another way to engage members. Jeremy Guenther, the national account specialist for dotFIT said that it can really increase retention. “When a member hires a qualified personal trainer, their retention increases two times. When that personal trainer integrates a proven nutrition component like dotFIT, their retention increases four times,” said Guenther. Clubs that have used dotFIT have seen success on the 4 R’s she said: results, referrals, retention and revenue.

Focusing on Members

It’s important to have a good line of communication with your members. There are several ways you can go about reaching out to your members. Club One surveys members two or three times a year asking what members like least and what they could change, said McBride.

Every Snap Fitness member has a personal “My Snap Fitness” web page. It allows the club to communicate directly with the member, in addition to a member and owner newsletter, said Voskamp. Club H utilizes their Facebook page to keep members in the loop. Gold’s Gym employs an internal broadcasting network to provide information to members from group fitness schedules to special programs and offerings throughout their clubs, Clayton said.

To ensure the focus is on members, Club H managers are responsible for meeting at least five members a week and conducting an informal survey to develop new and better ideas.Responses are discussed in weekly meetings and some members have even been invited to the manager meetings, Butcaris said. “Managers need to introduce themselves to new members and also current members they see all the time,” she said. “It’s easy for a member to get lost in the shuffle … it’s essential that each member receives some sort of personal contact.”

Do Everything You Can

“Do absolutely everything you can do everyday to keep your members happy, and they will not leave you for the new gym or program down the street,” Clayton said. Ultimately, that is everyone’s goal. Having some sort of system in place to flag potential non-renewals is a good way to get to members before it’s too late.

Club One has a recovery system for declines in member usage and a member self-reported system for when they are dissatisfied. “Both trigger intervention from our exercise physiologists, lifestyle coaches and fitness directors,” McBride said.

At Club H, they use Retention Management’s services to reach out to members throughout their membership with customized e-mails and phone calls. They also see any member who has had a complaint or issue. “It’s imperative we solve the issue quickly and follow-up with the member to ensure they are satisfied with the outcome,” Butcaris said.

Gold’s Gym uses a CRM retention tool that has videos, fact sheets, fitness and nutrition tips and a monthly newsletter to communicate with their members, said Clayton. As well as a member questionnaire for managers if a member expresses the desire to cancel membership.

“This tool helps managers to consistently pinpoint the reasons and gives them options to work with members who are considering giving up their membership for everything from financial to lack of use,” Clayton said.

Denny Finnearty, the owner of Universal Fitness in Merrillville, Ind. recently switched to Affiliated Acceptance for his billing needs and has seen a vast improvement in his returns and said it has helped him keep better track of delinquent accounts to improve retention. “When memberships are coming close to being up, AAC sends them a letter for me reminding them,” Finnearty said.

Overall Experience

Clubs must be at least meeting expectations if not exceeding them. Club H serves a different clientele than the average club and must deliver, or their members may seek less expensive options available to them. “Our members expectations are high, and rightfully so,” Butcaris said. “This challenges us to be our best every day, not just the day the member joins.”

The members should be getting results, whatever results they are looking for. “If people are seeing results and experience significant life change, they will continue to come and they most likely tell their friends,” Voskamp said.

Members should feel a sense of community at your club and take ownership; then your club won’t be just a place where they workout. Your club will have added value to their lives.
Gold’s Gym and Snap Fitness are involved with the local surrounding communities. “We sponsor and participate in outreach events on a monthly basis in each of our markets,” said Clayton. “There are also several larger annual events that we’re involved in.” Snap Fitness participates in as many local community events as possible, Voskamp said.

Make the club a place where members would want to spend their time. Think of the amenities you would like and creative ways to keep members happy. It’s totally possible to attack that retention rate. The goal should be that of Butcaris’; apply it to your club: “When our members move away to the suburbs, we want them to miss us for a long time.” -CS

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