Making Customer Interaction a Retention Strategy

Excellent retention and lead generation are two of the hardest achievements for a health club. Why then, do so many business entities ignore the most effective ways of increasing their numbers in those areas? Let’s look at some of the ways we interact with potential or current customers — the easiest retention strategy there is.

Today’s customers primarily interact with us via our website. Does your website provider use search engine optimization (SEO)? Your website should appear on the first page (and at the top of the list) for all Internet searches related to gyms, health clubs or fitness. Keyword optimization is critical to achieving this. Your website should have several clickable links that allow visitors to take a virtual tour, join the club, sign up for activities and classes as a non-member, receive a guest pass or e-mail the club for more information.

An online member dashboard is essential for retention and increased revenue for your club. Members should be able to sign up or pay for classes, obtain receipts and pay an amount owed.

Your marketing should portray a consistent message that complements your website. It is important to document demographics and run reports measuring the different sources of leads. This is necessary to maximize your marketing dollars.

Your whole staff should be recognizing members by name and by which areas of the club they enjoy using. A database that allows employees to have a client’s picture and information readily available is important.

Also imperative is software that contains a prospect database. Imagine being able to send an e-mail to a potential prospect that loves group cycling, letting the prospect know that your club has added two new cycling classes that fit the prospect’s work schedule. The sale is a done deal. You should also give the prospect an opportunity for a set number of documented trial visits.

E-mail blasts filled with general club news and information on specific interests can be helpful in recruiting and retaining members as well. E-mail blasts to new members are proven to increase usage and retention.

The biggest deficiency I have noticed at most clubs lies in telephone interaction. The stressed, $9/hour front-desk employee answering the phone could get off on the wrong foot with a customer immediately. I have noticed that busy sales employees can become aggravated when they receive a telephone inquiry. I thought this was the lifeblood of their business — not to mention their compensation.

Another catastrophe at most clubs is the voicemail or call-waiting message. These messages are often many years old, have outdated information, are boring and do not identify the critical profit producers. The real turn-off is the voicemail that forces the person to listen to a two-minute synopsis of unnecessary information or a recording of nine different choices for buttons to press.

The experience that a prospective client receives when coming in for a tour can also be a deal-breaker. How long is the wait? Is the client acknowledged quickly? Is there a place to sit down that is comfortable and not in the way? Is the sign-up method paperless or at a computer station?

It is highly important to prioritize leads and retention. They are two of the most significant revenue generators at your disposal. The entire process is critical, but many business entities do not pay adequate attention to the initial interaction with the customer. By addressing these issues, clubs can realize significant additional profit.


David Porter has been a sales consultant at Twin Oaks Software Development for many years. Previously he ran several businesses, including Suburban Athletic Club outside of Boston, which he co-owned and operated for 10 years. He can be reached at 860.829.6000 or

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