For many clubs, boasting beautiful amenities isn’t enough to result in great retention. Instead, the key factor may lie in getting down to the bottom of exactly what your members are searching for in a membership — in addition to beautiful pools, locker rooms and state-of-the-art equipment.
In 2009, Cincinnati Sports Club (CSC) in Cincinnati, Ohio, boasted an attrition rate pushing 20 percent. According to Mary Frank, the sales and marketing manager for Cincinnati Sports Club, this was something that needed to be remedied, as soon as possible. “If a facility has an attrition rate of higher than 25 percent, you do not have a club, you have a gym and you have no [connection] between the members or the staff,” she said.
To improve retention, CSC implemented three key strategies — it maintained its dues rate without an increase, provided more value for members with additional programming and services and expanded its social programming calendar, adding more free events. “We knew our members had a social need, but did not have the funds,” recalled Frank. Most notably, CSC implemented an orientation survey that determined if members were at risk for leaving the club. “We ask four key questions,” she said. “Are you currently exercising? Have you exercised in the past? Do you currently belong to a club? Have you belonged to a club in the past?”
If members answered no to two or more questions, they were considered “high risk” for leaving. If this was the case, CSC monitored the members’ club usage and encouraged a personal connection between that member and an employee. “Recent studies at the club have shown that members who complete an assessment or orientation tend to use the club more often and stay a member longer,” said Frank.
CSC’s attempts to improve retention were rewarded. Its retention rate has improved (currently, its retention rate is 81.5 percent), and its staff continually listens to members to understand how to keep improving.
Paula Neubert, the president and general manager of Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club in Denver, Colo., agreed that listening to members and getting to the bottom of their desires is key to having great retention. Greenwood Athletic and
Tennis Club’s retention rate is currently 83.6 percent, a rate Neubert said has remained steady for the majority of the club’s lifespan. “We listen to our members,” said Neubert. “We are a ‘club’ — place where someone belongs — and have created a culture that builds relationships where people want to be and stay!”
According to Neubert, one of the biggest disconnects between clubs and their members are a result of failed relationship building. “We are becoming so high-tech that it is keeping us from interacting with people,” she explained.
To foster better relationships and to better interact with its members, Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club recently began using Medallia, a comprehensive customer experience management (CEM) tool, to survey members on their member experience. Members are sent four surveys per year as a part of Medallia’s club-specific survey program, Club Works MXM (Member Experience Metrics). Members are asked questions such as, “What’s the likelihood of you being a member in six months,” “What’s the likelihood you will refer Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club?” and “How would you value your membership?”
“The feedback allows us to work on specific areas of concern and make sure we are keeping all of our members happy,” said Neubert.
According to Blair McHaney, the vice president of strategic initiatives for Medallia, Club Works MXM isn’t your typical club survey. Instead of just gathering data, Club Works MXM provides practical strategies clubs can use to improve their business. “This isn’t retention, it’s loyalty,” he said. “Medallia gets to the root cause so you can focus on key training [and] business processes, and addresses the key touch points that make up the relationships between you and your members.”
For Sport&Health, with locations in the greater Washington D.C. area, member orientations proved to be a great way to find out what members want, and need, out of a membership. Twenty years ago, Sport&Health implemented the Smart Start program to improve the member experience, and in turn, retention.
Members can take advantage of Smart Start, an orientation program, within the first week of their membership. The program is free, and members meet with one of Sport&Health’s personal trainers for an assessment. A Smart Start session includes goal setting, measurements, movement analysis, interactive workouts and flexibility exercises. “We have found that people who go through our Smart Start program and meet our trainers stay longer,” said Mitch Batkin, the senior vice president of fitness for Sport&Health. “We do a lot of movement analysis, so we can not only figure out what they want, but what they need, and we blend the two together for a solution.”
Currently, roughly 50 percent of Sport&Health’s new members participate in Smart Start, and the club is continually pushing to get more new members involved. “I really do care that they get something out of this,” Batkin said. “If they have a good experience, they are much more likely to stay a member. I’ve never heard a member say, ‘I went through the Smart Start program and hated it.’”
Take note from these clubs and be proactive in getting down to the bottom of what exactly your members want and need out of a membership at your facility. And, if your retention rate is less than desirable, take action through surveys, member orientations and relationship building, to remedy the problem.
“Ask for member feedback, and then respond timely and appropriately, keep the club clean, [and] provide ways and places for members and employees to interact and spend time together creating and building relationships,” Neubert concluded.
Reward and Retain
Separate from member surveys or orientations, member rewards programs are a great way to improve the member experience and lead to great retention. At least, that’s what O2 Fitness in Raleigh, N.C., has experienced after implementing Perkville’s rewards program in January 2013.
Created to reward members for using club services, members earn points for a myriad of activities, such as checking into the gym, following and interacting with O2 Fitness on social media, signing up for personal training sessions and more.
“It has been a great addition to our new member marketing, as well as member retention strategies,” explained Shanna Kane, the vice president of marketing for O2 Fitness.
According to Kane, Perkville “gamifies” the workout experience, making working out fun and enjoyable for members.
“We have made a game out of working out,” she said. “Our members have been very competitive and we are rewarding them for getting into good workout habits. The more involved they get in the club, the more likely they are to stay on as members long term!”
For more information about Perkville, visit https://www.perkville.com/.
By Rachel Zabonick