By Richard Ekstrom
Retention issues in our industry often receive front-page headlines but routinely get pushed to back page status when it comes to taking action.
Below is a typical, and very important, message that many clubs convey to their members:
“I know it takes time to develop a habit and I know it’s very different than what you are normally used to doing; but if you just make the commitment to start exercising and keep exercising, the benefits you receive will be amazing. You will feel better. You will look better. You will feel good about yourself. It will impact many other aspects of your life. All this can be yours. The tough part is making the commitment to change and then sticking with it over time. We can help you get there but that commitment needs to come from you.”
We give this advice regularly to our members. Now, take this excellent advice, flip it around and you will have one of the major answers on how to truly impact retention in your club: make a commitment to instituting retention initiatives at your club.
Improving retention is not an overwhelming undertaking. We do not have to create new programs or systems to implement - we just have to take advantage of the resources that are available to us. Some of the brightest minds in the industry tell us what needs to be done and how to do it. Extensive industry research is presented that clearly identifies the issues and provides actionable recommendations that will reduce attrition. And yet, very few clubs actually adopt what the experts, and the research, tells us will work and truly implement it. We listen and understand but action is rarely taken.
As creatures of habit - just like our members - it is easier to just continue our usual day-to-day business practices and hope that our retention will somehow be different this year - just like our members hope they will get in shape or lose weight without adopting a commitment to regular exercise.
It is imperative that we develop a clear retention plan and then actively work that plan. Just as we counsel our members and help them create an action plan for improved fitness, we must make a clear commitment to improve retention. But where do you start? As with any solid exercise program, start with the basics.
Below are four fundamentals for improving retention. Of course, there are many other activities that will also impact retention, but I would classify these as the basics:
- Provide comprehensive orientations and regular follow-up support to new members.
- Offer diversified quality programming that targets and then reaches those individuals most likely to leave the gym - the low- and non-users.
- Monitor member usage and pro-actively communicate with those members who have attendance drop-offs.
- Provide exceptional customer service to all members.
There are a variety of ways that each of these activities can be made more effective at your club. Any action on your part to improve how you currently satisfy these fundamentals will improve your retention.
Implementing steps to improve the delivery of these four key fundamentals takes a commitment to changing the way we normally conduct business. To successfully improve retention we must practice what we preach. Just as we counsel our members to make a pledge to change, so must we. Improving retention takes committed action and there is no short-term solution. Although such corporate change is not easy, it will lead to financial rewards much greater than what you have invested.
We are busy. Our time and payroll is precious. But if we do not adopt some changes in our club’s business culture, we should not expect to significantly impact retention. Therefore, the good things that we work so hard for, such as happy and returning customers, a growing customer base and financial success will be more difficult to achieve.
Let us take retention off the back burner and utilize all the great resources that are available. Take action, it will be well worth it!
About Retention Management:
Retention Management, the industry leader in e-communication, is solely dedicated to helping fitness centers increase retention and improve their bottom line. Our full-service approach creates a stronger club-to-member connection and takes the complexities of running a comprehensive retention improvement program off of a club’s hands so that they can focus on other aspects of club operations and make a positive impact on member attrition, sales and profitability.
Automated Email Services:
- Personalized, attendance-based, emails that encourage visits and offer helpful health and wellness information
- New Member Welcome and On-Boarding Program
- Recovery Programs specifically targeted at non-users
- Birthday and Holiday Greetings
Marketing Email Services:
- State-of-the-art template driven broadcast emails
- Target current members, prospects, guests and former members
- Drive ancillary revenues, promote referrals and increase sales
Social Media Services: We create and/or actively manage your Social Media presence
- Custom Facebook Page Design
- Fan Recruitment
- Wall Content Posting
- Member Interaction
- Metrics Analysis
Retention Management’s services are quick and easy to get started and even easier to keep rolling. Our job is to improve your profitability and to make you look good to your members.