How To Combat Gym Member Retention

Member acquisition is something that we often hear our customers talk about, but what happens once you’ve made the sale and converted that prospect into a member?  At that point in time, the more successful gyms turn their attention to member engagement and one of our favorite metrics – retention.

Study after study, and analysis after analysis has shown that member retention is less expensive than recruitment.  It typically costs a gym around five times as much to recruit a new member as it costs them to retain an existing member. Of course it is important for the growth of your gym to continue gaining new members, but you also must focus attention on strategies to decrease membership cancellations and hold onto your current valued members.

With the rise of boutique clubs offering programs and services at lower prices, gym owners are now put on the spot to create rewarding experiences and perceived value for members. Since we know that the cost to save a current member is much less than the cost of acquiring a new member, there is huge benefit in having a set of activities and resources focused on trying to prolong the experience with the existing members. Now, more than ever before, gym owners need to focus on making clients feel motivated and confident in their membership investment.

How can gyms meet retention challenges head on? Here are a few ways to consider:

Extraordinary Onboarding and the Right Gym Staff

Right off the bat, you can make yourself stand out as a gym when a new member is acquired. You don’t want your new members to feel lost, intimidated or overwhelmed when they first sign up. Make it a policy to make a personal phone call to new members two days after they join or send them a handwritten postcard in the mail. Let them know that your club is full of friendly people that are easy to connect and relate to! When it comes to hiring your coaches or personal trainers, focus on quality over quantity. A crucial element of an excellent customer experience is matching a client with the right trainer and allowing for smooth connections with other members. You want to hire people who are fabulous listeners and fully engaged in keeping in line with your club’s image and goals. Your personal trainers should easily be able to identify client needs and interests. For example, if a client is into group classes, trainers should know to pair them up with other gym members and create a mini “gym family” they can turn to for support and help reaching their goals. It’s also important to prevent friction points during the onboarding process and during the first few weeks. For example, avoid frustrating situations such as forgetting to give them their membership cards or neglecting to teach them how to book a class or use equipment properly. You must give them the tools to succeed and they will keep coming back.

A Reward Program

Name one person who doesn’t like presents? We thought so. Offer rewards and incentives to keep your members coming back. This is very crucial for the first few weeks and months of your new members’ experience at your gym. Offer a monetary reward for attending a specific fitness program or for getting their picture taken for your social media pages. Offer a free class to your gym members who attend classes a certain number of days for a month or even two months. Surprise members with extra perks for celebrations, such as reaching a fitness milestone.  Encourage engagement, contests and other events that get members engaged with your club and with other members, is another great idea.

A good gym is a community, not just a place to work out.  Perhaps after their first month of membership, you give them one month free (who doesn’t like free!) or a special discount at your smoothie station inside your club—there are endless possibilities. The point is, you need to keep your members interested and see the value of returning to your club.

Effective Software for Tracking Activity

Determining the reason a member cancels, or leaves is one of the most frustrating issues clubs face. Most of the time, it could have been anything. Did they dislike one of your instructors? Was the music too loud? Did they face intimidation inside the gym? WHAT WAS IT? The challenge is your lack of information. Besides asking how a member is doing every time they sign-in at the front desk, how can you track their activity and identify “fragile” members before they choose to cancel their membership?

The solution is Customer Experience Management software. This kind of software has more sophisticated tracking tools that will allow you to identify information such as who hasn’t been visiting your gym as often. Once you have this precious information, you can start putting together a strategy to interact and re-engage them. You can also use sophisticated tracking tools to easily see which classes have the highest attendance and focus your marketing efforts on promoting them even more. Customer Experience Management software helps build loyal customers, loyal customers bring friends, loyal customers stay longer, spend more money, and say great things about you even after they leave.

Using these tools, you can then implement the 21-day rule. The rule is simple: if a member has not visited your facility after a full 21 days, your club reaches out to re-engage them. Be sure to establish a membership retention team to reach out 21 –days, 60 days or even once per quarter. Methods of re-engagement can range from sending an encouraging email to personally checking up on the client the next time they attend a class. Your goal is to reignite their motivation to be a part of your fitness club’s culture and “family”.

Cutting Edge Classes

Last but not least, offer classes and programs catered directly to your member’s interests. Keep on top of trends! Want to compete with that boutique CrossFit gym down the road? Offer CrossFit classes and, while you’re at it, create a Groupon to encourage clients to bring a friend! Do your research to make sure you remain on the cutting edge.

Environment

Your club’s ability to create a positive environment will influence whether people keep coming back.  According to the Harvard Business Review, 64% of customers cite “shared values” as the prime motivator in forming an enthusiastic relationship with a brand.

Your club culture and environment should reflect the atmosphere of the area, as well as the beliefs and ideals of your members and the surrounding neighborhood to create a positive work-out environment.

These are just some tried and true tactics to fight retention issues; but in reality, the possibilities are endless.

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Giving Your Clients A Voice: The Benefits of Customer Management Systems

As the owner of a gym or health club, you want to do whatever you can to stand out to your members. The little things can make a big difference in the long run, and help you promote your fitness club and be successful. One tool to do this is through a customer management software.

Giving your members the opportunity to give you feedback using customer experience software can help you go the extra mile to keep and gain clients. Here are some key information points customer management software can help fitness club owners learn:

Get to know your gym members: Are your customers mostly young people, interested in exciting new workouts? Senior citizens trying to find some light movement classes? Night owls? Earlier risers? Families? All of this information is important to know! If your members are mostly young professionals looking for exciting new workout classes, it won’t help to host yoga classes at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. Knowing who your members are will help you better serve those coming to your health club.

Keep up with trends: There’s always a new type of workout routine or fitness class that your clients might be eyeing. Maybe they wish there was a certain type of machine, or maybe they’re looking for classes on a certain subject. If you’re not in touch with them, there’s no way to know what they’re looking for. There’s no way to have your finger on the pulse of everything at once, so use surveys and other tools to keep up with trends.

Interact with your members: Everyone loves a place where they feel welcome. If your members walk through the door of your health club, and your staff is there to greet them, it makes a big difference. It makes an even bigger difference if the next time you see that client, you ask how they enjoyed that class they took or how their kids are doing. The same is true online. If you follow up with your members, you’ll be able to build connections that will entice those clients to keep coming back.

Make your clients feel heard: People don’t like yelling into a void. Instead, make sure your customers know their voices will be heard with interactive customer management system. Giving them a place for feedback where they know you’ll listen will help build that relationship for years to come.

Are you interested in learning more about the benefits of customer management software? The team at MXM can answer your questions. Contact our team today to get started.

2018 Club Solutions Leadership Retreat

Our president, Blair McHaney, has been in sunny Palm Beach, Florida this week attending the 2018 Club Solutions Leadership Retreat!  He has been keeping busy networking amongst 40 other attendees and 16 sponsors, each from a broad cross-section of the fitness industry.

Upon arriving at the Welcome reception, Blair even got to test out his own cake decorating skills! This fun dessert challenge was then followed by four round table discussions that would help each attendee position their fitness clubs for the future.  These discussion topics included “The Changing Landscape of Fitness Technology,” “Leading From the Top Down,” “Mapping the Member Journey” and “Member Success – PT & SGT.”

This leadership retreat finished up with more fun filled activities, such as the Palm Beach Olympics. Blair got to compete with the other attendees during physical and mental challenges on The Breakers Beach. And finally, a Luau Dinner, sponsored by ABC Financial was the grand finale!

The Club Solutions Leadership Retreat is such a valuable event to attend and is not your typical tradeshow.  The networking that goes on here is second to none.  Nothing can benefit your business more than sharing ideas within your own industry. If you really want to understand your fitness club customers and members, as gym operators, this is the retreat to be at!

What To Look For In A Customer Experience Platform

As a health club owner, you know that you should listen to your members’ feedback. It’s a simple, easy way to build great relationships. But how do you get that feedback from your members? As someone managing a  health club, there are so many avenues to glean feedback: social media, online reviews, pen-and-paper suggestion boxes and even face-to-face meetings. How are you going to take the time to retrieve all the feedback, let alone sort through it and implement it?

One of the best ways to get client feedback is through a customer engagement software. This type of management software is a valuable resource to help you retrieve, record and sort through data. As you begin looking at customer management software, keep a few things in mind. You need a software that:

  • Gives your customers a voice

Membership satisfaction surveys and online polling offer your members a place to express their opinions, wants and needs. Giving them a place to put all this information down in a forum where they know you’ll be listening is very empowering — not only does it give the customer a voice, but it builds on the relationship between the business and the customer.

If your members are loving your new class schedule, you want to know that. If they want more weight lifting machines, you need to hear that. But if they’re unhappy with an aspect of your business, or are starting to look for something different in a fitness club, you need to know that too. With a customer experience platform, health club managers want to be able to identify trends as soon as possible so gym owners can stay ahead of the curve. Using a customer engagement software will help you spot those trends.

  • Provides data you can’t find on your own

How do you spot those trends? By using real data to see what your members want and who they are. Not only can you figure out who your client is, but you’ll also be able to learn about what they want and how you can provide that. And that leads to our final item…

  • Shows you ways to improve

So what good is data if you can’t use it? Once you gather data from a customer management software like, you’ll be able to use that data to create real economic growth for your business, as well as improve every member’s visit to your health club.

Are you ready to find your customer management software? Check out MXM and contact us today for more information.

It’s always your fault…

“It’s always your fault if you’re any damn good at all.”

Ernest Hemingway

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I love that quote.  It speaks to the heart of how great companies operate and how great companies THINK about the customer experience.  How many time have we all heard “perception is reality”?  In other words, if a member thinks your staff is unfriendly and rude, then that is their reality.  But that doesn’t take it far enough.

I was on a call with one of our larger customers that have done a spectacular job implementing their operational customer experience management program AND getting results across the board.  Not just with their customer experience metrics but financial results as an outcome of a greatly improved experience.  For the sake of this article I will call them, Enlightened Fitness Co.  No that’s not their real name so go ahead and use it in your next brand roll out!!

We were discussing some of the initial hurdles and how they overcame them.  She told me that some of the early feedback was hard to take.  I get it.  I have had the same thing happen.  You pour your heart and soul – and money – into your operation and someone says, “you suck.”  To overcome this they decided that a key teaching point would be “perception = reality”.  But they did more than acknowledge that a member’s perception was that member’s reality, THEY TOOK OWNERSHIP OF IT.  And there is a big chasm to jump from acknowledgment to ownership.  BIG.

On to another customer who we recently lost after a few short months – we almost never lose a customer.   They had implemented the first tactical elements of a good program but had not yet fully embedded all the practices that truly move a company forward.  But they were doing a great job closing the loop and following up with members.  Then we got word – “Please cancel us.  Our members only advocate for themselves and don’t think about the whole club.  The negative feedback has worn on us and we don’t want to see it anymore.”  Uhhhhhhh…..what to say…what to say….

First of all, I’ve been there.  You take it personally, which is actually okay and I believe important.  Bit as Enlightened Fitness Co told me – “You need to take it both personally and professionally.”  You take it personally so that you have the urgency and emotion to want to make changes.  You take it professionally so that you apply critical thinking and planning to actually make improvements.

But don’t give up!  Don’t whine that members “advocate for themselves”! OF COURSE THEY DO!  All customers advocate for themselves!  What the hell do you expect???  Customers aren’t there to stroke you.  They are there to give you a dose of reality – THEIR reality. Take responsibility for making your organization more fun and easier to do business with.  Fix stuff faster.  Be more helpful and friendly.  Clean better than you are currently.  Replace OLD stuff.  Paint.  Sing.  Dance.  And most of all, don’t kid yourself that your “member onboarding process” is great or even mediocre until you go inspect every aspect of it to ensure it is working as intended.  Then make it better. Make it a great workout experience and accept the feedback – then action it.

That’s what the “damn good” organizations do.

You guys are insane!

According to the Urban Dictionary: Blind loyalty involves being loyal to a person or cause despite the damage the person or cause does to himself or herself or others. Versus: Loyaltyfeeling of strong support for someone or something, Merriam-Webster. Are your customers and employees loyal – or blindly loyal? Before you answer, think about this:

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Blind Loyalty, what does this mean exactly? Think of your pet! Now there is an example of blind loyalty. You work 12 hours a day, the pet is left alone, and yet they are so happy to see you when you get home. Maybe you are a great pet owner or an abusive one. Your pet is still loyal and still loves you no matter what.  And parenting! No matter what kind of parent a person is, young kids are loyal and want to impress (at least until the teen years!). I consider myself a good parent but I’m sure some day one of my kids will tell their therapist about something I did as a parent that has caused them grief as an adult.

As adults, we think we like something, and are loyal to it, whether it is a business, a person, or a product. Until that business, person, or product does something outrageous to cause mistrust. BUT, why we do wait until that moment?! As business owners/managers, why do we wait until our customers are angry or sales are declining? As consumers, why do we wait until the business or product disappoints? As employees, why do we wait until we can find something better?

If you have customers and employees, chances are YOU are blindly ignorant. Ignorant to the fact that perhaps your employees only work for you because there isn’t anything else available or your customers are customers because they haven’t discovered something better. Don’t be that guy/gal! Loyalty starts from the top.  If you run your business on loyalty and truly care about your employees as human beings and care about the product or service you are offering, then LOYALTY is what you will have, not Blind Loyalty. Don’t assume your employees and customers love you or what you do, KNOW.  Ask, find out, LISTEN and truly learn from your people and customers. (Notice I said learn. This is different then TELL.)

If you are the boss or the manager, find out from your people what makes them tick. Why do they love working for you and your company? Let them be candid. If you have truly loyal staff, you will have truly loyal customers. Be true and be loyal to your people and profits will result.

My goal is to never hear something like this about my company, my people, or my product:

“You guys are insane. Working like dogs and retaining blind loyalty to some jerk of a boss who doesn’t give a toss about you.” Urban Dictionary 

May it never be so.

7 Practices of Customer Experience Management

What is customer experience management? Anyone can collect customer feedback but turning that feedback into actual operations activities is the key. We call that OCEM or Operational customer experience management, Team Meetingwhich involves listening to customers and improving their experience by implementing changes based on that feedback. OCEM is not new to large enterprises that have big budgets along with a host of analysts and researchers as well as a driving desire to differentiate themselves from competition. But OCEM may be new—and a challenge—to smaller companies.

The fitness industry has pockets of companies with incredible customer loyalty and experience with OCEM. No matter what kind of fitness facility you run, you are a service business. You pay people to do things that are supposed to make the members’ experience better. OCEM systems tell you if that is working. They measure what, up until now, has been lost in the ether of the club. The following are 7 ways that great companies use OCEM. Let us know how we can help you put these things into practice.

  1. They set OCEM goals and measure progress. The key to OCEM is to talk to your members about customer experience, then measure it. As one company leader put it, “By the time poor customer experience shows up on your profit and loss, it’s too late.” Every gym owner should use a system to capture member feedback and benchmark against widely accepted methods for quantifying customer experience.
  2. They embrace all feedback. The best companies do not get bogged down in dogma. Negative feedback as well as positive feedback are embraced and deeply investigated to recover customers and improve the future experience for all. Every individual piece of feedback matters.
  3. They close the loop. When customers provide feedback, they get responses. Your members want to know that they have been heard. Your OCEM design should allow each of your locations to receive a stream of feedback at a pace that is easily manageable by the front line on a daily basis.
  4. They socialize feedback. These operators share with their staff the company’s scores for friendliness, cleanliness, overall experience or likelihood to repurchase. Staff discuss and dissect the numbers in meetings. Customer comments are used to support the desired culture. This is easy in the gym environment, and it is fun. I send comments to our entire staff about twice a week emphasizing what makes us different and thanking the staff for doing what we cannot do without them.
  5. They nurture staff engagement. Part of the reason you need to socialize customer data is that it increases staff engagement. Business owners make sure all corners of their operations are aware of key loyalty metrics relative to goals and to peers in the system.
  6. They know that customer experience leads. Downward trends in customer experience scores are the leading indicators for customer exodus. Awareness around customer experience allows one to see what has not been visible and to respond before it hits the profit and loss statement.
  7. They never stop. These companies listen, respond thoughtfully, recover customers, make changes to delight and keep customers, set targets and measure the effectiveness of their efforts. This is how OCEM works and how companies differentiate by enchanting their customers. The playing field is wide open in the fitness industry. Operators with the right philosophy, the tenacity and the willingness to learn from enterprises more experienced and more profitable than ours will reap the greatest benefits.