Retention has always been top priority at health clubs. Because of this, studio owners are continually searching for ways to pair better attendance with retention. From maintaining good customer service and better communication with members, to observing behavior patterns and incorporating technology into their workout programs and gym administration, there are many potential ways to keep members coming back to your studio.
For the most part, attendance and retention are inherently linked. One of the main reasons for this is that club members need to perceive and receive some value from their membership investment. Essentially, attendance is an indicator that they are getting something they like (hopefully results!) from going on a regular basis. If that’s the case, then they will most likely continue to make the investment of time and effort to attend.
As a club owner, your job is understand how to reach your particular members in the way they want to be reached. Once that is accomplished, the retention connection will be made. There are endless opportunities to engage members and keep them attending the gym regularly. Different types of retention methods suit each club differently; the trick is to find what works for your particular club and implement it.
It isn’t rocket science; members who are not using the club are more likely to cancel their membership. One of the ways to prevent members from cancelling is to track their visits and offer incentives to keep them coming back on a regular basis. A 2012, IHSRA Member Retention Report indicates that facility usage in the first month of membership is often considered the most important factor in retention since that is when the member decides if they will make the gym a habit. Instead of waiting until the member stops using the club, owners can be proactive and track how many times the new member comes to the gym. Members who come less than four times in the first month are likely to cancel. Members who exercise at least twice a week at the gym typically remain members for a longer period of time. The key for club owners is to insure that members are actively involved in the entire gym experience.
It’s good to keep in mind that attendance patterns across a day typically have three major peaks that generally correlate with “before work,” “lunch break,” and “after work.” The peaks are typically as follows: 6am-8am, 12pm-2pm, 5pm-7pm. While this is a guide only, it frequently holds true for most studios and health clubs.
Similarly, attendance patterns at fitness clubs during a week typically have a pattern that relates to when they are highly focused on achieving their goals and have the least distractions. Studies have shown that Mondays and Wednesdays are high-focus times while Tuesdays and Thursdays are somewhat lower. Friday and the weekend are the lowest due to people thinking of options to spend their free time that do not include the gym. And, it makes sense. At the start of the week, coming off a reflective weekend, members mentally prepare themselves to go to the club. Yet by mid-week their motivation starts to wane and by weeks end their focus is often elsewhere – Friday night drinks, the movies and planning the weekend.
Besides staying aware of when your members are in your studio, being aware of when they are not there, is also key. Connecting with your members on social media is yet another way to maintain attendance and increase retention rates by maintaining that relationship and good customer service even when they aren’t working out. Clubs can keep members informed about club hours, events, and incentives as well as answer questions and membership concerns. Social media allows clubs to be there for their members 24/7, and for some people, that extra effort is the difference between maintaining a regular workout habit and canceling.
Additionally, the connections members make on social media is incredible. Members can connect with each other on your club’s social media pages. They can encourage each other, look for workout buddies, and other methods that will ultimately keep them coming back to your club on a regular basis.
As club owners are continually utilizing social media to connect members, create loyalty and improve customer service, they are regularly seeing how the extra effort to engage with members is increasing their numbers and member satisfaction.
In a world where consumers are in touch with their smartphones, notebooks and tablets, 24/7, embracing technology as part of increased customer service and ultimately, retention efforts is key. This goes beyond just basic social media.
Members can use technology to sign up for classes through apps on their smartphones. Maybe they are out eating a cheat meal and want to get back on track the next day. They can quickly sign up while they are thinking about it. As all studio owners know, a major part of good customer service is making life easier for members. The easier it is for them to sign up for classes and keep track of the workouts, the more likely the members will stay for a long time.
Also, with the popularity of wearable technology such as Fitbits, members are able to get a more complete and better workout and see results on their devices immediately. Those numbers are motivation in themselves.
Incentives & Communication
At the very least, make sure you keep club members’ email address on file. The easiest way to get their email address is to do it upon joining. By having their email address you can correlate their attendance record with communication. For example, each time they use their keycard to scan in or sign up for classes, purchase protein shakes or apparel from the ProShop, you can track it with their email address. Using this simple connection can help you see which members are developing a habit and engaging in the gym, and which members aren’t even showing up. Emailing the members that may need a little boost or extra incentive can keep them from cancelling and help turn around bad behaviors.
Patterns of gym member attendance, adherence, drop-out and retention tell us many things such as when to be at the gym, when and how to help members, and what happens when you don’t. Ignore this at your own risk! As a club owner, it is in your best interest to focus your attention on both the attendance and adherence of members, which ultimately create the best results. Building on your understanding of peoples’ motives for exercise and their reasons for cancelling or remaining a fitness club member is valuable to gain an understanding of when members attend the gym, what helps them adhere to exercise, when they are at risk of dropping out, and what makes them most likely to be retained as members by a club, and as clients by you.