The latest strategies in making members feel like more than just a number and creating the ideal club experience.
Author Margaret Cousins once said, “Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”
This quote powers the member experience at Active Wellness where regional manager Kiley Mutschler said staff recognize patrons and offer them appreciation whenever possible.
“Creating a great member experience always goes back to the basics for me and being authentic in everything you do,” said Mutschler. “Lead with your core values in mind. It starts when they enter the club and when a member feels known, recognized or praised. You never know how you might be impacting their day. We are really focused on developing a more meaningful relationship with our members and clients.”
This mindset is also shared by Maria Gonzalez, the CEO of ClubFitness Greensboro, who said patrons love to hear staff refer to them by name and recall specific details like birthdays, recent trips and other life updates.
“Those moments where people know you are listening to them — it’s all about establishing that human connection,” said Gonzalez. “It’s about going that extra mile to communicate with people, so they don’t feel like it’s only a transaction. It goes beyond that. Meet members where they are so they know we are doing everything we can to fill that relationship. Their success is our success.”
Going the extra mile can also be achieved in supporting the member journey. At ClubFitness Greensboro, Gonzalez said any new or returning members are always offered to sit down with one of the trainers to have a goal-setting meeting.
“It’s an assessment that includes a skill analysis,” said Gonzalez. “We ask them where they are and peel the onion to figuring out their ‘whys.’ A lot of times when people come in, they don’t know what to do. People need that support.”
Similarly, La Maison Health and Fitness has created a unique sales and onboarding process where potential members meet with a club ambassador — who is also a personal trainer — to tour the club, review goals and help them get acclimated.
As part of the process, they are encouraged to schedule a FitStart appointment where the ambassador will walk new members through a basic fitness assessment and have them complete their first InBody session. The information gathered helps to create a plan for the member to successfully meet their fitness goals.
“In the past year, we added nutrition counseling, health coaching and an in-house doctor specializing in sports medicine and primary care,” said Lisa Alberta, the marketing director at La Maison Health and Fitness. “We are a complete, full-service health and wellness destination for our members. Offering 15-minute complimentary sessions has been a great way to funnel clients to nutrition and health coaching. It’s working really well for us.”
Creative events are another point of emphasis for La Maison Health and Fitness. Alberta said member socials are very well-received. In fact, the club’s Moms and Mimosas event on Mother’s Day is one of the most popular each year. Quarterly, free workshops are also available which educate members on a variety of fitness journey topics.
At ClubFitness Greensboro, Gonzalez said they have hosted member-centric events like Wine and Yoga, Beer Afterburn, and an adult-only water fun day. “We are just trying to find the things that connect people,” she said. “Everybody is welcome. Create spaces where you can bring people together. We do socials and fun workouts to bring fun to exercise spaces.”
But such offerings would not be possible without first establishing successful communication with patrons. While being responsive to positive and negative feedback is important, Gonzalez said the club uses Gleantap, a fitness marketing and customer experience platform, for texts and emails that recognize member birthdays and questions for after they first join.
However, Gonzalez said having an overdependence on technology could lead to negative consequences for clubs. “We cannot steer away from the human interaction,” she said. “It’s going to be a huge problem for all of us if we do. People are so digitally focused now. Being away from human interaction is not a healthy thing. With anything you do, just make sure you are not removing that.”
This sentiment is also shared by Chez Misko, the COO and co-owner of Wisconsin Athletic Club (WAC). Misko said while automated solutions are helpful for reporting and backend management, you can’t automate the fact you genuinely care for members.
“It must come across genuine,” said Misko. “People are too smart as consumers to be fooled. Our secret sauce is getting our staff to perform on a regular basis. That’s really created the biggest differentiator for us. Members get into that culture as well. They do what our staff does, and they help create that experience as well. Culture matters. Our retention is what it is thanks to the camaraderie partially created by members.”
To keep staff morale high, Misko said all staff meetings begin with “WAC moments” which are instances where employees went above and beyond to make a difference with members. “We are going to talk to you and ask you how your day was,” said Misko. “Our vocal point is being the best in the world at connecting with people. Be comfortable in empowering your staff. You must trust your people a lot.”
With that trust, Misko said staff at Wisconsin Athletic Clubs are encouraged to monitor what’s going well with members and how they are engaging with different offerings. Also, they are encouraged to try new strategies which could improve the club experience.
This openness to trying new things is seen at Active Wellness where Mutschler said they spent time over the last few years investing in updating strength equipment. She explained they’ve been really happy with the Matrix Fitness line as well as Aktiv Solutions in creating spaces for functional training. They also recently created recovery zones using Hyperice and Normatec products.
But regardless of the type of vendor used, Mutschler said it’s imperative to not overlook the basics when it comes to the environment of your club like checking cleanliness, towels being readily available and having everything in working order.
“We never want our members to ask us for something; it should feel as if everything was thought of for them,” said Mutschler. “Due to the staffing challenges the industry has faced recently, another big factor we have received positive feedback on is being very transparent with our members about changes to hours, staffing, class schedules, etc.”
But in the end, creating the ideal club experience at Active Wellness — and at any club — still centers on the philosophy that appreciation and creating real relationships can make all the difference.
“We have found by connecting our members and sharing experiences they feel more seen, heard and valued,” said Mutschler. “It drives conversation in the club, so there is a strong sense of community. Since we are in a loneliness epidemic, we are really trying to drive the experience to allow our members a place to connect with each other.”