Ask an Expert on Retention

You have questions, we have answers. This month we spoke with Kevin McHugh, the COO of The Atlantic Club, about best retention practices.

Why do you think retention is an issue that the health club industry continues to struggle with? 

KM: There are many reasons why the health and fitness industry struggles with retention. A few areas that can benefit from increased focus include: the on-boarding process for new members; the communication process with each member; soliciting honest feedback so that members feel heard; and aggressively developing programs that engage members with the club.

How does The Atlantic Club tackle attrition? 

KM: The Atlantic Club is committed to positively impacting its retention rate. As a team we realize that it is every employee’s job to improve retention. In addition, we utilize Medallia and have a Medallia response team to get back to every member who has responded to the survey with an action plan when needed.

Tracking is also key. With the support of a recent software enhancement we are tracking our members’ usage on a 30, 60 and 90-day basis. Of course, we review reasons why a member has left the club and make the traditional calls to try to re-engage them, but we feel this is too late. We do not want anyone to leave our club.

Lastly, we have a goal to have our attrition rate over the next 12 months not exceed 19 percent and then move it down to 15 percent in the next 24 months. We hope to do this through our ability to connect better with all of our members via software enhancements, programs and services. We will continue to be relentless in improving this key indicator.

Say your club was experiencing a sudden substantial drop off in membership — what’s the first thing you’d do?

KM: The Atlantic Club has a program that is called Member Management, which rewards net membership. Our wellness coordinator team is heavily incentivized in both their assigned member retention levels as well as the recruitment of new members. We address the issue from both a retention and recruitment perspective.

For retention, we review our Medallia scores as well as our “daily manager on duty reports” and develop an action plan with the management team.

For recruitment, we review everyone’s outflow, as well as the marketing efforts for the club. Often, we find that there is a gap in the amount of outflow material, which can include phone calls, vacations and overall productive efforts of the team. We address it one on one with the members of the team and move out of that condition to once again gain momentum. Sometimes this sudden drop may be caused by other activities that the club had become involved with that required time and resources away from this top priority.

What’s a different way to look at attrition?

KM: That it is part of the business and accept it. I believe that it is not completely reversible, as some members will always leave due to circumstances such as moving, money, etc. Accept an attrition percentage based on the industry average and be happy.

What has been your most effective retention-focused initiative? 

KM: The Medallia member experience survey. It has led to capital improvements based on members’ input and letting them know we listened.

 

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