How To Boost Gym Membership Retention with Effective Customer Experience

Successfully convincing members to stay can substantially increase a gym's profitability, but the challenge lies in delivering experiences that encourage loyalty. In this article we look at the research and steps you can take to up your health club retention through a strong CX game.
Hilary McGuckin
Hilary McGuckin
April 18th, 2024
How To Boost Gym Membership Retention with Effective Customer Experience

Customer service is a crucial lever in enhancing gym membership retention. Your members have high expectations and they correlate with your future revenue. So it's less about age-old customer service and more about member experience.

Expectations don't get met, revenue doesn't grow. The lesson being, if you can convince your members to stay, it’s no surprise that your fitness business stands to increase its revenue significantly. But providing the experiences that make them stay is the trick. One man's experience is an expectation, while to another it's a welcome perk.

In fact, if research has taught us anything it's that customer experience is the make or break for brand loyalty, and thus profitability, and gyms are no exception.

Interestingly, the research shows that great customer experience pays in more ways than one. Customers are actually willing to pay more for a great experience, and avoiding poor experiences means a substantial cost saving. PwC highlights that customers feel deeply valued when they have a great experience, which can lead to a price premium of up to 16% on products and services, alongside increased loyalty.

Some facts and figures to mull over

A Forbes study found that 62% of Millennials and 60% of Gen-Z customers are willing to pay more for great customer service.

PwC's research indicates that one-third of consumers might stop patronizing a brand they are otherwise loyal to after a single negative experience, while Emplifi reports 80% of respondents would leave a brand to which they are loyal after three or fewer instances of poor customer experience.

As many as 60% of customers would stop doing business with a business if the service wasn't considered 'friendly'.

According to another survey by Emplifi, 50% of participants reported that they had abandoned a brand they had previously been loyal to within the last year due to poor customer experiences.

According to NICE, a staggering 95% of customers indicate that the quality of customer service is crucial to their loyalty to a brand. They highlight the significance of having straightforward access to services, the availability of self-service options, and the professionalism of customer service representatives as key components of satisfactory customer service.

A deeper look at customer experience as a lever for health club retention retention

A study published in the MDPI journal emphasizes the importance of service experience in fitness centers, detailing how perceptions and positive experiences of users significantly predict satisfaction and future intentions. This suggests that gyms should focus on understanding and enhancing how users perceive and interact with their services to improve their club's member retention.

Key findings include:

  1. Service Experience Impact: The research highlighted that a positive service experience in fitness centers is crucial for customer satisfaction and future engagement. The quality of service, based on the facility's ability to meet user expectations, significantly influences customer loyalty and fitness retention.

  2. Validation of the EXQ Scale*: The study successfully adapted the EXQ scale for fitness centers, confirming its reliability and validity. This scale helps measure the quality of consumer experiences specifically within fitness environments.

  3. Predictive Power of the Scale: The adapted EXQ scale was shown to effectively predict customer satisfaction and future intentions, indicating that it can be a useful tool for managers to understand and improve customer perceptions and experiences.

  4. Management Implications: The findings suggest that gym managers should focus on enhancing positive customer experiences to retain customers and ensure the viability of their service. This involves understanding customer needs and behaviors deeply and using this insight to drive service improvements.

  5. Influence on Gym Retention: The study underscores the importance of customer service in gym settings, suggesting that experiences at gyms significantly affect whether customers continue to use the service. Negative experiences can lead to customer loss, making the ongoing evaluation and enhancement of customer service critical.

These insights are particularly relevant for gym owners and managers seeking to enhance customer retention and loyalty through improved service experiences.

With customer experience predicted to surpass both price and product as a key brand differentiator, prioritizing exceptional service can set your gym apart, bolstering fitness member retention.

Research by McKinsey highlights changes in consumer behavior towards gyms during and post-pandemic, noting a blend of in-person and at-home workouts. The study emphasizes the importance of gyms understanding these trends to tailor their offerings effectively to consumer needs, thereby enhancing retention and engagement​ (McKinsey & Company)​. Many gym owners might assert that they already deliver excellent customer service, but without the timely feedback flows like behavior-triggered NPS surveys and zero-party data gathering, are they just making vast assumptions, or worse, basing their offering on outdated insights?

To bridge this gap, this article provides updated strategies to elevate your gym's customer service and, subsequently, improve fitness member retention rates in your gym.

1. Make a Stellar First Impression

The initial interaction with a customer is critical, setting the tone for future engagements. The halo effect illustrates that a customer's first impression can significantly influence their ongoing perception of your gym.

A negative initial encounter could tarnish your brand's reputation, as 95% of customers will share bad experiences with others. Conversely, a positive first encounter not only increases the likelihood of forgiveness for any future mishaps but also may result in immediate commitment to a long-term membership, securing sustained business.

Key elements to a good first impression include on-brand prospect experiences, a warm in-person welcome, prompt responses to gym membership enquiries, and maintaining a clean, accessible physical space. These efforts ensure your customers' first experiences with your gym are positive.

2. Equip and Empower Your Staff

Efficient and personable service is vital, particularly in resolution of customer issues.

Training staff adequately not only equips them with necessary skills but also boosts their confidence in high-pressure situations, enhancing their ability to manage customer interactions effectively. Providing staff with the necessary authority to make client-facing decisions can also streamline operations and enhance customer satisfaction, a strategy supported by leading companies known for their service quality.

A staff member who has undergone thorough customer service training not only possesses the knowledge to make optimal decisions in various situations but also tends to remain composed and assured during stressful interactions. Additionally, integrating an effective gym software stack can significantly enhance their capability to handle inquiries with confidence. Automation technologies embedded in these systems allow for the creation of custom workflows, ensuring that responses are both timely and personalized, further boosting the effectiveness of customer interactions.

Educating gym employees on how to effectively use their gym software stack is also crucial for maintaining high standards in customer service. Proper training not only equips staff with the knowledge to make informed decisions but understanding how to utilize business intelligence or analytics, alongside automation technologies will empower them to create extremely efficient workflows. This ensures responses are both timely and personalized, further enhancing the efficiency and quality of customer and gym prospect interactions.

3. Exceed Expectations

Emotion is the top driver of customer loyalty across various industries. Engaging your club's members on a personal level, whether through personalized emails, useful resources, or simply addressing them by name, can significantly enhance their experience. By exceeding the basic standards of customer service, you cultivate deeper, more meaningful relationships, reducing the likelihood of member attrition.

4. Accurately Measure Customer Satisfaction

A critical component of effective customer service is the regular assessment of customer satisfaction. This helps address any disparities between the service perceived by gym management and the actual customer experience. Utilizing tools such as Customer Satisfaction Scores and Net Promoter Scores can provide valuable insights into customer perceptions, enabling continuous improvement in service delivery.

Summing up...

Investing in customer service is a proven strategy to enhance membership retention in gyms. By making a good first impression, empowering your staff, going beyond the call of duty, and measuring satisfaction effectively, your gym can achieve notable improvements in both customer satisfaction and gym retention.

Integrating gym software solutions that facilitate these processes can also streamline operations and enhance overall service delivery, further boosting gym membership retention.

By focusing on these customer-centric strategies, your gym can not only retain members but also thrive in a competitive market.

*The EXQ scale, which stands for "Experience Quality Scale," is a tool developed to measure the quality of customer experience. Originally proposed by Klaus and Maklan in 2012, the scale is designed to evaluate the overall quality of a customer’s experience with a service or product. It assesses various dimensions of customer experience, which may include factors such as satisfaction, service interaction, emotional connection, and overall perception of the service or product quality.

The EXQ scale is used across various industries to help businesses understand how well they are meeting customer expectations and where they can improve in terms of customer interaction and service delivery. By providing a structured way to measure experience quality, the EXQ scale aids organizations in enhancing their customer service strategies, thereby potentially increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction.

This scale has been adapted for different settings, including fitness centers, to specifically analyze how consumers experience services in those environments and to predict future behavior based on those experiences.

Find out how Keepme can free-up your teams' time and up your CX game.