Regardless of what high-end technology, fancy equipment or awesome programs your club has to offer, none of it matters unless you have a strong membership base that keeps returning year after year. This is why it’s important to focus on improving your retention strategy.
“The first thing is to understand the member experience should be the focus of your strategy, period,” said Richard Idgar, the COO of EoS Fitness, with with over 75+ locations open or on the way in in Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Florida.
“We use MXM to create clarity around the member experience,” said Idgar. “From there you can focus on the tactics and understand the impact on member experience.”
According to Idgar, clubs can improve their member experience and retention rate, and lower attrition, by focusing on their team members, programming and environments. A key factor is hiring the right team and developing them. Keeping your staff engaged will make a difference to your members.
“If staff are having fun while at work, so will your members,” said Idgar. “We are in the business of people and hospitality. If members don’t feel cared for and appreciated, they will consider leaving for the new, shiny alternative the first chance they get.”
Evan Zupancic, the COO and general manager of Stafford Hills Club in Tualatin, Oregon, said finding “one size fits all” retention solutions is hard, but member engagement is a vital part.
“The easy answer is member engagement,” said Zupancic. “Be proactive with members who reduce their visits or stop coming altogether. An honest discussion must be had for why these members stopped coming to begin with, but all the data shows when members stop checking-in, cancelations are not far behind.”
Stafford Hills Club credits their high retention rate to an ongoing plan to deliver and communicate value. To know what members value, give them a platform for feedback and actively listen. Finally, align that feedback with good data and make educated decisions to move the needle.
“Swap out team members for members in the previous statement, and the same principles apply for having a high retention rate with your staff, which can directly impact your member retention,” explained Zupancic.
EoS Fitness credits many factors for their successful retention rate, but overall, they always strive to create fun, motivating and high-energy environments where members can focus on achieving their fitness goals.
Idgar said in order to accomplish this, their team has to be inspiring, knowledgeable and lead with purpose, regardless of the department. “Our goal is to create loyal, lifelong fans,” he said. “We are unable to accomplish this without friendly, outgoing and caring team members. As an organization, we consistently track and measure staff friendliness, gym and club cleanliness, and equipment condition. MXM has been an ideal partner for us in doing this and in making the information operational for our front-line teams.”
Like Idgar, Zupancic said a caring team and a great culture for your members are key to obtaining a successful retention rate. He said clubs should know exactly who they are as an organization and be slightly obsessive on hiring individuals who believe in their business values and goals.
“Foster a culture of trust, communication and accountability, and catch staff doing things right,” said Zupancic. “Reinforce good behavior, reward great performance and coach areas for improvement. For your members, develop relationships with them and make your facility a second home they feel proud to be part of. Do this successfully and you will create raving fans and lifelong members.”
Besides an engaged team, cleanliness practices can also impact attrition. Keeping clubs safe and clean is more important than ever before because of the coronavirus pandemic — a factor in many clubs’ retention rates. According to Idgar, your club can minimize the effects of COVID on your retention rate by prioritizing the safety of your members and staff.
“Share new procedural measures with members through internal signage and on your website; ease of visibility and transparency are paramount,” said Idgar. “When members experience these precautions and new protocols with consistency, they will identify they are safe and well taken care of. Word of mouth is a powerful resource; they will share their experiences with others.”
EoS Fitness developed a reopening strategy that included enhanced cleaning protocols. Idgar said they initiated an expanded Employee Code of Conduct, along with new member guidelines, which resulted in higher retention. “When comparing our MXM data pre- and post-COVID, we’re seeing an increase in our trend of members indicating they intend to remain beyond 2020,” he said.
While EoS is already seeing trends, Zupancic said it may be some time until clubs see the real effect of COVID-19 on long-term retention rates. In the meantime, he recommends being flexible with cancelations and freeze policies. “Find ways to keep members engaged from the traditional ways they used to see value in your club — through social media, virtual options, etc.,” he explained. “If you can deliver quality virtual fitness, that’s an easy way to stay in front of your customer and keep them connected to the instructors they love.”
While there is uncertainty surrounding everyone and every day seems to bring a new set of problems for the industry to solve, it’s more important than ever to deliver a true experience for members. Don’t be stuck in the mindset that retention will fall because of the shutdowns. Rather, strengthen your member relationships so they will be lining up to come back to their second home.
“If your facility is solely a place to workout with a limited utility function, members will be quick to cancel upon a bad experience, or if competition can deliver a similar product at a cheaper price,” said Zupancic. “We tell our team, ‘People may quit a membership, but they won’t quit a relationship.’”