Member cancelations are never an easy topic to discuss, and after a global pandemic, those conversations can be even more difficult. While you may be upset about losing a member, it is important to be sensitive and empathetic to how the pandemic may have affected them.
Club Greenwood in Greenwood Village, Colorado, normally requires a member who pays monthly to provide a full billing cycle’s notice to terminate their membership. However, once the pandemic escalated, Charles West, Club Greenwood’s sales and retention coordinator, explained they changed their requirements to allow immediate cancelations.
“This provided immediate financial relief to many who were hurt by this virus,” said West. “It was an easy decision for us. Shortly afterward, we began offering a hold option at no cost to members until we reopened. Between the immediate cancel option and the hold option, we provided the flexibility our members needed.”
Brandon Togneri, the director of membership and corporate accounts at HealthQuest in Flemington, New Jersey, said when dealing with members during these times, the best practices they’ve found are to connect, pivot and follow up.
“The first step to implement when starting any tough conversation is connecting with the member on a human level,” said Togneri. “Asking about their family, health, financial security or even their sanity allows our staff to gather information that will prove valuable, while also helping members feel valued. Familiarizing yourself with the member’s situation will ultimately help each party understand the other’s needs and perspective moving forward.”
Togneri said fear of the unknown is natural and expected. To help their members with this, HealthQuest suspended all billing and account changes until they reopened. This prevented their members from being billed, and delayed any cancelations until they could present a better picture of their new normal in regard to procedures and safety precautions.
In addition to their immediate cancel and the hold option, Club Greenwood also offered a reduced membership option of 50% dues designed for those who still wished to remain a contributing member. West said they are continuing to provide more options to accommodate their members’ ever-changing lives after the pandemic. “We knew it was extremely important to be sensitive and empathetic,” he explained. “Club Greenwood wanted to support our members during this time as they have supported us.”
Showing sensitivity and empathy to your members is key to keeping that relationship alive, even if they do need to cancel their membership.
According to Togneri, listening to your members is a must. “Members who are reaching out are usually ones in the most need,” he said. “By connecting with them through a phone call, you should be able to get a clear read into their situation. If you are able to provide them a refund for their financial hardship, that action will certainly be appreciated by the member, which will in turn lead to a more positive reception by the community.”
One way to take this further is to create a hardship support plan for your members who want to come back, but may not have the funds to do so. Togneri said to get your die-hard followers back in the club as soon as they are allowed. Thus, working with your community to figure out a fair option is a must.
While the pandemic may seem like a setback, it is also a chance to reset your billing and membership options. Many clubs and studios will be updating their user agreements and are requiring members to sign new contracts. “This unprecedented time can create an opportunity if your club needs to modernize your policies,” said Togneri.
West agreed all clubs should consider updating their cancelation policies to accommodate their members’ needs and the unprecedented times. Failing to do so could make a negative impact on the brand.
“The biggest mistake clubs can make is being insensitive to members who are truly struggling,” explained West. “Decisions like these could have long-lasting negative effects on a club’s brand. With regards to our billing policies, there were some aspects we kept and some we altered. Most of our members are accustomed to making changes to their memberships prior to our billing dates, so we felt it was important to stay consistent with this.”
Regardless of how you pivot your billing and member cancelations, it’s important you clearly communicate the changes to your members. “Members will want to know when billing is resuming or how credits may be issued,” said Togneri. “Transparency is key. At the end of the day, you need to find the happy medium between the dues your club needs to collect and what the member needs to feel financially secure in an insecure world.”