A common retention strategy is to encourage members to be involved in specific areas of the club. The idea is to get them participating in their area of interest, whether it’s small group or personal training, aquatics or group fitness. If they use the club more often, make friends and see results, then retention will improve, right? Maybe. But what happens if that thinking is flawed?
What happens if they don’t have a good experience in that program or service? If a member is told that XYZ program will help with their goals and they don’t enjoy it or see results, then what? The last thing you want to do is drive an at-risk member into a service that has a poor retention record.
When looking at club retention, you have to first look at the retention of the services being offered. Take into account the individual programs and team members leading the activity to see if that service has good retention.
We recently reviewed the key performance indicators for 2017 participation in our swim school. We have a growing program that hit or exceeded participant goals for 2017. We thought retention was good. Why would it not be? We have talented swim instructors, nice facilities, a solid curriculum and value. Participant numbers were good each session, outperforming the year prior.
The untold story is we did a good job replacing participants — cycling new ones in so it looked as if the program grew. When in reality, at the end of the year, on average most participants only attended one or two of the six swim school sessions.
We thought we kept participants an average of three to four sessions each year. This motivated us to dig deeper into finding out which instructors, time slots or promotions had the best retention. From this, we can make improvements in the program to improve our member retention.
Rather than just thinking that getting members involved in club activities will drive member retention, we have to look to improve retention in each specific program and service. This in turn will drive club retention overall.
Andrew Barranco is regional operations and aquatics manager for Merritt Clubs.