May 23, 2019 Dr Helen Watts

From The Experts Series: Dr. Helen Watts – Overcoming anxiety and increasing fitness membership retention

In Dr Helen Watts’s first essay for our series, she discusses how gyms can create a stressful environment for members, triggering anxiety and affecting membership retention.

Overcoming anxiety and increasing fitness membership retention

We are pleased to introduce the team of experts who sit on the Keepme Advisory Board, ensuring all our systems are reinforced by cutting edge knowledge of the fitness retention industry. We will feature their insights as part of our “From the Experts” series. Kicking off the series is Dr Helen Watts, a Registered Psychologist, Senior Lecturer in Marketing (Worcester Business School) and holds a PhD in Customer Retention. Helen has provided research and consultancy services to various, high profile membership organisations to help understand the drivers and barriers of membership, and how to provide value to members.

In particular, Helen’s research has been focused on the roles of emotion, anxiety and perceptions of quality and how they affect likelihood of retaining or cancelling membership. Further to this, Helen has explored the differences between high and low contact membership organisations, and the role of interaction and rapport in different types of membership organisations (personal and professional services).

For many gym members, the aim of joining a gym is to increase health, well-being and positive mood, and gyms should provide a service which helps members achieve these things. But, do they? Gyms can, unfortunately, often be a hotbed of stress, discomfort and anxiety, affecting membership retention. Why? Because any physical activity setting presents the threat of public scrutiny and evaluation (Martin Ginis, Lindwall and Prapavessis, 2007). Gyms provide a ‘high interpersonal’ service; reliant on, and at the mercy of, people (staff and other members) to shape the experience of its members. Where there are people there is ‘evaluative threat’; the risk of being judged. In my own research, anxiety was found to be a significant predictor of attrition of fitness club members; the higher the anxiety, the lower the likelihood of member retention (Watts, 2012). In particular, two types of anxiety are often experienced by gym members and can lead members to question their gym membership retention; state anxiety and social physique anxiety.

State anxiety

State anxiety refers to a form of anxiety induced by a particular situation, or state. Some gym members are naturally more anxious than others due to their personality (trait anxiety), but state anxiety can be induced in all gym members if the interactions with staff, instructors, other members, or equipment are not managed effectively. A gym member could be perfectly relaxed most of the time, but situations in the gym environment which make them feel judged or incompetent can soon change a relaxed, happy, loyal member into a nervous, uncomfortable member questioning their gym retention. Which buttons do what? Am I sitting right? Am I doing it right? Am I lifting enough? All questions that may create anxiety for members.

State anxiety has been extensively researched in fitness settings, and has been found to lessen motivation to participate in exercise (Leary, 1992). In particular, group exercise settings can create anxiety in members, due to fear of embarrassment by both the class instructor and other class participants, relating to co-ordination, physique, and physical condition. Class participants can all be provided with the same experience; same instruction, same equipment, but their changes in self-efficacy (how capable and confident they feel) can be hugely different dependent of whether they feel ‘they passed the test’ (Lamarche, Gammage & Strong, 2007).

All that to say, there are ways of combating state anxiety. In group exercise classes, the class instructor can impact the anxiety levels experienced; providing encouragement, social interaction, and positive performance feedback can put participants at ease (Martin and Fox, 2001). How sociable and warm are your instructors?  Providing feedback of the member’s exercise performance relative to a ‘norm group’ (group of similar members) could help reduce the feeling of having done something wrong, or not having done enough (Marquez at al, 2002). Consumers are prone to ‘social comparison’, comparing themselves to others as a way of judging themselves, which can help gym members feel ‘normal’ or ‘better’ than others would be comforting and motivating. This is known as ‘positive framing’- presenting information in a positive way rather than a negative way, which can encourage consumers to perceive data in a more positive way, and feel more satisfied. What kind of feedback do your instructors, or machines, provide and how does this make participants feels? Making use of ‘green exercise’; connecting exercise with outdoor environments has also been found to lower state anxiety (Mackay and Neill, 2010) and represents a modern consumer trend to want to simple, connected, authentic, ‘mindful’ experiences. Consumer mindfulness is becoming increasingly associated with satisfaction and customer retention. Are you ‘keeping things real’ with your members?

Social physique anxiety

A specific type of state anxiety, in a fitness club setting, is social physique anxiety. Not only is there the risk of feeling judged, there is the added fear of being judged when partially dressed or in lycra! Whilst body image is a key motivator for joining, perceived body image can actually be worsened through negative gym membership experience. This pressure to ‘look good on the treadmill’ is demonstrated by the rising trend of ‘fitness beauty’; cosmetics being designed specifically to maximise physical appearance during a workout. Ironically, for some members, the gym is an environment that requires you to look good before you sign up, not as a result of joining.

Social physique anxiety (SPA) is, as the name suggests, anxiety related to the physique (Hart, Leary & Rejeski, 1989). SPA occurs when there is a fear that others perceive you physique in a negative way, and can result in low physical activity (Lantz et al, 1997), as well as excessive physical activity (Frederick & Morrison, 1996). Common features of fitness environments (i.e., mirrors and the presence of other exercisers) can increase the perceived risk of evaluative threat and psychological distress during exercise for those who suffer with SPA (Focht & Hausenblas 2004). Mirrors present a reminder of our actual self (where we are now), not our ideal self (where we want to be) …which we prefer to visualise!

Members who suffer from SPA are less likely to be ‘intrinsically motivated’; less likely to be motivated to go to the gym because they ‘want to’, and instead being motivated by feelings of ‘need to’ or ‘should do’ (Brunet and Sabiston, 2009). Similarly, those suffering with SPA are often prone to worrying about not exercising properly rather than focusing on doing as well as they can (Hagger, Hein & Chatzisarantis 2011). SPA can create profoundly negative experiences for members in a group exercise setting who are more likely to stand far away from the instructor and choose to wear concealing clothing (Brewer, Diehl, Cornelius, Joshua, & Van Raaltel, 2004).

So how do we help members who suffer with SPA? How can we become more ‘body-positive’? Some research indicated that SPA can be decreased by including a group cohesion element at the end of the class e.g. a 15 minute discussion on healthy lifestyle and physical activity has been associated with reducing social physique anxiety (Lindwall & Lindgren, 2005). Do your members just exercise and leave? Or is there time built in for conversation and reflection? It is argued that SPA is often higher just at the thought of exercising in a group setting, but it can be reduced after a class has been completed (Lamarche & Gammage, 2010). Perhaps promoting friendly, happy, welcoming footage of a class might help alleviate anxiety and encourage members to come along and join in?

The word ‘provide’ has been used a lot in this article, but in order to acquire and retain gym members, we need to remember that membership is not something that is ‘provided’, it is experienced. This experience, the subtleties of how it feels to be around unfamiliar people, equipment, rules and instructions can impact member retention. What are your members experiencing?

If you want to see how improving gym retention can supercharge your revenue book a Keepme demo today – it will be worth your while.

May 9, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

Levels of Retention

Levels of Retention

When it comes to creating a good business strategy those in charge need to look at the different ways their customers can relate to their business. An individual customer can have many unique kinds of relationship with a company, and each one must be nurtured in order to not only maximise revenue but to boost their reputation and reach, increase customer loyalty and improve customer retention.

With 53.5% of all new members terminating their memberships within 12 months, addressing the problem with customer retention has never been more vital. In the world of health and fitness, the levels of retention can be separated into various categories. In this article we explore each one in detail examining how gym owners can tap into them, communicate and resonate with their existing and potential customers, and help ensure that their relationship remains strong and positive, therefore lowering the number of members who may become at-risk.

Retention Level 1: The Brand

For any business, getting the branding right is essential. Good branding will ensure that your company’s unique voice is heard, that what your business stands for is clear and that your tone appeals to your target audience. It needs to make a memorable impression and for that impression to be impressive. It gives the company identity and creates a sense of trust within the marketplace.

Levels

When creating their branding, gym owners should think about who they are appealing to and what they are trying to say. In the Harvard Business Review’s ‘Elements of Value Pyramid,’ social impact comes top, that means that customers care, perhaps now more than ever, that a brand is socially responsible and holds similar values to their own.

Branding is uniquely powerful in that people can feel they relate to a brand without actually knowing much about it or having any direct contact or experience of that brand. However, in terms of health and fitness, a good branding strategy not only attracts new gym members but also benefits levels of retention and reduces the number of at-risk members by creating a sense of pride in being affiliated with the brand and increasing members sense of loyalty towards it. Gym owners should be alert for anything that might damage their branding and reputation as even a perfectly satisfied member could become at-risk if they no longer feel that their views align with what the business stands for or if a once favorite brand falls from grace and is viewed as unethical or uncool – think the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad.

How a member associates themselves with the gym as a brand is naturally linked to levels of retention, as while a member can be connected at a product level, i.e. connected to their gym membership, if they are not connected to the brand, the provider of that membership, they won’t feel that sense of loyalty to stick with that particular provider, and are therefore more likely to become at-risk.

Retention Level 2: The Industry

People can relate to an industry if it aligns with their interests and beliefs. A person can also be persuaded to take an interest in an industry that they had not previously cared about if their interests dramatically change. For example, a person previously unbothered about health and fitness may have a health scare and suddenly want to know everything about it.

Businesses, therefore, must pay attention to what is happening within the industries in which they operate. For example, new trends in the health and fitness industry, if incorporated into the gym, may impress current members thus increasing member retention rates, as well as attract new ones. Paying attention to the latest news in the industry and communicating this back to members also shows that the gym has a vested interest in their health and has positioned themselves as an expert on such matters, and with over 38,000 fitness centres in the US, it is important to stay ahead of the competition!

Becoming a thought leader and incorporating new trends into the business demonstrates a level of care that goes above and beyond just providing products and services and thus strengthens the relationship gym members have with their gyms. Having an emotional connection is imperative, and the more a member feels looked after on a personal level, the more motivated they are to become part of the community and less likely they are to leave the gym.

Retention Level 3: The Products and Services

The quality of products and services a business offers are naturally linked to how satisfied their customers become. Even if a company has excellent branding and has proven themselves to be experts in their industry none of this will matter if the products and services they offer are not adequate. Nothing is more damaging than negative reviews and the most frequent cause for complaint is if a customer feels short-changed by the quality of products or the level of service a business provides to them.

In terms of a gym membership, this means that owners must continuously review their pricing strategies, the range of services they offer, the quality of their customer service and the standard of gym equipment and facilities provided. Staying competitive in all categories is essential for it is important to note that while a customer can be extremely connected to the services the gym offers if they are not loyal to that particular organisation or it no longer provides them with what they need, they could become at-risk. Members who don’t have to queue for equipment, who are impressed with the standard of equipment and classes, as well as additional facilities such as changing rooms and social spaces, will feel as though they good value for money which is imperative in keeping levels of retention high.

The way a member relates to the gym is also deeply rooted in how connected they feel to it. If a gym dedicates time to nurturing positive relationships with individual members, for example, by motivating employees on the gym floor to talk to members and encourage them, or by organising social events or group exercise sessions, even offering free classes, competitions or discounts they can strengthen the sense of community in the gym. Doing so can increase positivity and encourage members to keep returning to exercise because they view the going to the gym as a positive and sociable experience. This Forbes article discusses why relationships matter as much as products and services in greater detail.

From the above, it is evident that there are different levels of retention and for gym owners to operate at the highest level, they need to devise smart marketing and retention strategies to nurture each one. It is a combination of engaging members across all levels that will lead to minimising the number of at-risk members and improving retention rates overall, as even failing to do so on one level, despite having continual positive engagement through the others, could mean a member decides to cancel their membership regardless.

May 2, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

Coaching The Knowledge Era

Coaching In The Knowledge Era

How can gym owners, fitness coaches and fitness leaders ensure they don’t become redundant when so much information and technology is now available to gym members?

Fitness coaches and leaders are facing new challenges in the changing landscape of the fitness industry. With technology ever improving and the opportunities for members to learn and take charge of their individual fitness goals increasing, they have been forced to adapt their services to provide something fresh, engaging and more valuable to their clients.

The 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report revealed that the fitness industry continues to grow, and now at least 1 in 7 people in the UK are gym members. This growth means fitness coaches have even more potential customers to whom they can market their services. However, the expectation of what a fitness coach should offer has also shifted, and customers who choose to employ their services expect tailored fitness packages that can do something over and above what now can be delivered through an app, wearable technology or even the gym equipment itself.

So how do gym owners guide their fitness coaches and leaders to find their place in this new era?

Developing an experiential learning cycle

Previously a fitness coach may have discussed a client’s individual fitness goals, and then developed a workout programme that, if followed, should enable them to reach their targets. In recent times, a different approach is beginning to emerge whereby coaches instead encourage learning through experience. Their position now is rather to inspire members to take a vested interested in their fitness, to improve upon their knowledge, and, ultimately take charge of their workouts. This calls for a more fluid attitude to working out, with the individual modifying and developing their exercises as they become fitter, meet and surpass their original goals and set new ones.

Fitness leaders also have added pressure to increase their knowledge and understanding of fitness in addition to related subjects such as health, sports injuries, nutrition and so on for them to continue to remain valuable to clients. Without such expertise, members, who now have so much health and fitness information now available to them at the click of a button, may not see the benefit in hiring a fitness trainer in the first place.

More knowledgeable clientele further supports the idea that fitness coaches and leaders should use their (inevitably limited) knowledge to promote self-teaching. Doing so would enable them to become part of a cycle that continually encourages people to develop an interest in and understanding of their own fitness and health goals, passing on their wisdom, and then moving onto the next.

Knowledge

How does this affect gym member retention?

A gym member who feels in control of their workouts, who feels knowledgeable about their health and who has a desire to continue to learn and improve has a vested interest in their fitness and is, therefore more likely to remain a gym member in the long term.

Personalising a member’s experience is one of the most successful tried and tested remember retention strategies. At-risk gym members could also be targeted by fitness leaders and coaches who could offer their services to work with them to develop manageable but effective workouts that make them feel empowered, and that their fitness goals are within reach.

One of the main reasons gym members quit the gym is because they don’t feel part of a community. A member who feels welcome and who views going to the gym as a social activity is more likely to remain one.

Encouraging this sense of community has become another responsibility that gym leaders and coaches are taking upon themselves to perform. Where a few years ago, a fitness coach would focus on obtaining as many personal clients as possible. In recent times, gym owners have identified further opportunities for them to act in the capacity of teacher and guide, motivator and moral support – all of which encourage members who are demotivated or uninspired to reconnect with the gym and influence them to become active participants in their fitness, giving them the drive to continue towards their personal goals.

Digital fitness coaches to encourage gym member retention

The digital age has also significantly impacted on the way personalised fitness coaching is delivered to gym goers. It is no longer necessary for a fitness coach to be physically present, and employing the services of a coach remotely has meant this once exclusive service is now eminently more affordable and accessible to the masses, and this personalised attention encourages demotivated members to continue using the gym.

Over the last decade, the group training sessions that were once so popular are being forced to step aside as the demand for more tailored 1:1 training sessions increases. People no longer want to feel lost amongst a crowd of others and are beginning to favour the benefits that personalised training techniques from a certified fitness professional can bring.

However, with growing market competition, it is up to gym owners to encourage fitness coaches to offer something more than just a tailored workout programme. Building close relationships with clients, providing dedicated training options and using technology to incorporate fun and contemporary approaches into workouts, such as gamification will help to see gym member retention rates increase, and ensure members are not lost to those gyms which can offer something more.

Offering specialist training in a particular field such as yoga, boxing or even sports nutrition could also give some gyms the edge over their competitors when it comes to attracting new members and increasing member retention. Similarly creating a USP around coaching where specialists in a particular area of health can offer their expertise to clients could also help gyms to gain an advantage.

Communication is still key in member retention strategies

It is important to remember, however, that there is nothing more impactful in business than good communication. Employing excellent communication strategies is where any successful fitness coach or leader will take advantage of advances in technology and learn how to use different platforms efficiently to entice new members as well as motivate existing ones. Personalisation is also vital and can increase click through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10% on average.

However, the power of face to face communication and the ‘human’ touch should never be undervalued, and it is through a combination of embracing technology, developing new services and offering a personalised experience that fitness coaches, leaders, and the gyms that employ them can hope to see continued growth and increased member retention rates in the new ‘knowledge’ era.

April 25, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

Improve Retention By Getting To Know Your Members

Improve Retention By Getting To Know Your Members

One of the best ways to improve your membership retention is to make your members feel valued and important. “But how?”, you might ask. Well, as we’ve discussed a few times already on this blog, customers are increasingly demanding personalised service from brands.

According to the 2018 Accenture Interactive Personalization Pulse Report, an extensive 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who “recognise, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations”. An important part of what it means to recognise and remember your members is understanding the key ways that they may be similar or different to each other. This article takes a deeper look into the ways that you can personalise your communications with your members by highlighting five dimensions along which customers can be segmented.

From risk of churn to purchase history, these key categories are those in which your customer base might differentiate from each other, and provide helpful avenues for you to consider targeted member communication:   

Risk of churn

In our article on risk scoring, we’ve talked about the fact that certain types of customers may be at a greater risk of leaving than others. Once you’ve accurately identified which members are ‘at-risk’, the necessary steps to prevent these ‘at-risk’ customers from leaving can then be taken.

For example, consider a hypothetical member, Jane. Jane signed up for the gym a few months ago, but has only attended the gym a handful of times since then. In addition, she is coming close to the end of her fixed membership period. Jane is a member with a high risk of churn. The strategy that you use to talk to Jane has to be different from a member who may be at a far lower risk of leaving. So, for example, members of staff could reach out personally to Jane to engage her to find out why she isn’t using the gym, and see if they can do anything to help her. In contrast, a member at a very low risk of leaving may benefit from less engagement (for fear of annoying them).

Duration of membership

Do you know how long each of your members has been with your gym? There are two reasons why you should. Firstly, there is strong evidence that rewarding loyal members directly results in a better retention rate – 82.4% of respondents said they would be “more likely” or “much more likely” to shop at stores that offered loyalty programmes. However, you can’t reward your most loyal members if you don’t know who they are in the first place!

Secondly, the sort of correspondence you want to have with a long-term member is going to look very different from a new member. With a new member, your main goal should be ensuring that they are settling in as well as they can. In contrast, a long-term member ought to be acknowledged for their loyalty. They should also be asked for recommendations as to how the gym could improve; long-term members’ experience at the gym over time can yield valuable insights, since they will be able to compare existing gym strategies with old ones.

Purpose of membership

Even though everyone who buys a gym membership is fundamentally after the same product (gym access), their purpose for wanting that product is likely to differ widely. For example, while some members may be complete beginners to fitness just starting out their health journey, other members may be seasoned athletes looking to develop themselves further in their area of expertise. By differentiating why various members use the gym, you can make your communications strategy more effective.

For example, it would be pointless advertising a coaching certificate course or a high-level personal trainer to someone who’s just started exercising. It would also not be effective to promote a beginner’s kickboxing class to a seasoned MMA fighter. In contrast, imagine targeted communications that acknowledge a member’s purpose at the gym (e.g. lose weight), and make a meaningful suggestion that can help them achieve that goal (e.g. an introductory class to good nutrition). Not only will members feel more supported in their fitness journey, but you may also be more effective at selling add-on purchases — a win-win situation!

Members

Purchase history

Think With Google found that 63% of people expect brands to use their purchase history to provide them with personalized experiences. There’s good reason for this. The services that members have used in the past are a good way to separate one type of customer from another. In the gym context, this could mean distinguishing members that only use the free weights section of the gym from those that only attend group classes. You could even dive deeper into the data, and examine what sorts of classes people are attending.

Understanding what services your customer base is using is an important first-step to serving them better. Once you have that knowledge, you can assign more resources to more popular services, improving the quality of the service that you provide. In addition, you can make targeted promotions and incentives, encouraging people to try facilities or services they haven’t used before, but that complement their existing purchases. The more reasons that people have to use your gym, the more value you provide to their life, and the less likely they are to churn.

Financial situation

Finally, categorising your members in terms of their financial situation is an integral part of any personalised communications strategy. One big reasons for customer churn is a lack of sufficient funds.

For members who may be in more precarious financial situations, such as students or contract workers, one engagement strategy would be to offer these customers a flexible payments scheme or to give them the flexibility to ‘downgrade’ their membership to a discounted rate (with perhaps some reduced membership perks) when necessary. After all, many businesses already offer student discounts, so why not take price discrimination one step further? You stand to gain more from retaining a customer at a discounted rate over the long run, rather than losing them altogether. Additionally, by showing that you are able to work flexibly around your customer’s financial circumstances, your customers will feel cared about.

On the flip side, customers who are working professionals or who are otherwise financially comfortable shouldn’t be offered discounts, or monetary incentives (for referral programmes etc.), since they are likely to be more price insensitive. Other engagement methods should be used with them for greater effectiveness.

Conclusion

By personalising your communications with your members by segmenting them according to one or more of these categories, you can show members that you respect and  recognise the unique differences between them. This will improve the effectiveness of your membership communication strategy, improve the level of customer service you offer, and overall, boost retention!


April 18, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

Being A Millennial Gym Member

Being A Millennial Gym Member

Millennials, they do things differently.

Whilst many throw their hands up in despair at a generation criticised for being coddled and having no staying power, the reality is very different.

The truth is, there are certainly challenges when it comes to understanding how to market your gym to millennials and how to retain these tricky customers. But there are also huge rewards for those who get it right.

The Millennial Moment

Just like the Baby Boomer generation came to define an era and became a massive source of revenue for canny marketers, the Millennial generation are in the process of transforming how the gym industry targets its offerings. How well they do this will determine how successful they are.

The challenges in retaining millennials in your gym

One of the big challenges gyms have to face when it comes to attracting millennials is price. One study found that over 70% of millennials think gym memberships are too expensive. Instead they’ve been drawn to the experiential appeal of outdoor endurance events like Tough Mudder, or the community vibe of cycling studio programs like SoulCycle.

The thing is, it’s not that millennials are reluctant to spend money, it’s that they understand that exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, and they expect high value in exchange for their money.

Millennials are super into fitness. In fact, millennials do more exercise than any other generation. A 2018 study by the Physical Activity Council found that nearly half of millennials participated in high-calorie burning exercise and only 25% were sedentary.

Not only that but fitness is more important to millennials than to any other generation. According to therapist Rachel Kazez:

“It seems like [fitness is] a more active part of their lives, something they do intentionally and as a priority rather than an afterthought. It also seems like they try to make it more enjoyable and colorful, many being willing to spend money on memberships and specialty fitness activities.”

This insight gives us an idea of how you can attract and retain millennials in your gym.

Psychotherapist Nathalie Theodore believes that, “While Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are still mostly working out to burn calories, millennials are turning to fitness as a means of making friends, meeting potential love interests and networking.”

She argues that technology and social media has lead to increased loneliness in millennials, who are now turning to exercise to connect with people and gain a sense of community.

The gyms that will succeed in retaining millennial members will be the ones that are able to make their facilities socially and culturally appealing to members in search of a sense of community and belonging.

Millennials are also more aware of the relationship between exercise and mental and physical wellbeing than any other generation. That’s why spa services like the Stone Creek health club have seen 12% annual growth in revenues, offering services like massage therapy and full body exfoliation treatments. A growing number of its members are millennials (adults aged under 35).

As gyms begin to adapt to the more sophisticated needs and interests of millennials and younger adults, they’ll reap major rewards. This is the largest cohort on the planet, worth $2.4 trillion globally. And a survey by the International Spa Association found that 60% of respondents are invested in their own personal wellbeing and 56% already attend spas.

We’re not suggesting you turn your gym into a spa, but introducing spa-like services like massage therapies, body treatments and so on may help attract more millennials to your fitness club.

Retain Millennials

How to retain millennials by nailing your fitness programming

Make it an experience

The majority of millenials would rather spend their money on experiences than material things, so fitness clubs need to offer services that offer unique and memorable experiences. Fitness outlets like The Holmes Group have found that investing in a wide variety of equipment and exercise options whilst fostering engaging member relationships through high-quality interactions and consistent communication online and offline really pays dividends.

This is because millennials can be exceptionally loyal gym members if they believe they are getting a superb value proposition for their money.

Capitalise on community

Smart gyms are realising that it is possible to provide a space where a sense of community can be established, where people feel supported and nurtured in the club environment. According to Derek Brettell of The Club Gym:

“When we were building the club one of the most important things we wanted was for it to be a place where people enjoyed going. A place where people knew they would see familiar faces, be comfortable and feel supported. We wanted people to know that we cared and that they were more than simply a number to us.”

This sense of community can play a big role in gym retention.

You can foster community in your gym by doing the following:

  • Encourage your staff and trainers to greet members by name
  • Encourage staff to offer help and advice when appropriate
  • Use gym retention software like Keepme to track and pinpoint members at risk of attrition

Personalise gym membership

If you want to engage and retain millennials then gone are the days of one size fits all exercise options. You have to start customising your fitness offerings to suit a wide range of members, and be willing to put the time into personalising exercise programs to individuals.

This means you can’t always operate on mass, sometimes it really pays off to focus on building smaller communities of gym members, because if you get it right your gym’s reputation will increase and that will do wonders for your Net Promoter Scores.

Focus on retention metrics

This brings us to how to handle fitness retention. You have to understand the diversity of millennials; this means operating at a niche level as well as looking at the bigger picture. Because of this you need a sophisticated and granular way to manage retention.

This helps you easily monitor and target different segments of your gym membership, pay close attention to their attendance and exercise patterns, and automate your outreach in a granular way. You can use retention software to monitor the Net Promoter Scores or your members. This means you can target promoters for referrals and upselling and you can focus on detractors by solving the pain points they are encountering with your gym.

At the end of the day, millennials are not strange creatures from another planet, they are young people looking for value, purpose, community and personal growth. The more you understand the world from their perspective the better you will be at offering them services that will keep them coming back for more.


April 11, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

Knowing Your Member’s Experience

Knowing Your Member’s Experience

Understanding the factors which affect a gym member’s experience can help owners refine their retention strategies to ensure customers feel satisfied with the service as well as loyal to the brand.

There are many reasons that a person might feel motivated to join the gym. Most commonly these reasons are related to health and fitness, losing weight, toning up, and getting in shape. Though there are others such as gaining strength after an injury or training for a specific event. These initial desires are what inspires a person to sign up for a gym membership in the first place.

However, it is through a continued positive experience when attending the gym and by developing a relationship with the brand that ensures a customer’s loyalty and prevents them from becoming at-risk.

It is a customer’s satisfaction overall that will safeguard their continued membership and make it easier and more predictable for gym owners to identify those who are unhappy with the service. Focusing on customer experience and identifying any issues means that owners can drive their resources and energy towards improvement and problem solving to address customer need and boost gym member retention rates.

Understanding the customer experience is, however, just as much about focusing on what makes people remain gym members as it is about knowing why people leave, as virtugym succinctly puts it: “People can leave for a manner of reasons but usually, it’s because of something that can be controlled by you.”

Member retention – It’s all about the journey

From the moment a person begins to consider joining the gym, they start to move down a particular pathway. They will perhaps start to research different gyms and consider factors such as the cost of membership, the convenience of location, and provision of facilities. They may search for gyms that offer trial days; they may book a session to look around the gym and talk with staff members, they may try to find offers or discounts or certain flexibilities that make the membership more appealing.

Gym owners, therefore, have a significant opportunity to provide a positive experience, one that makes their facilities stand out from their competitors even at this early stage. The ease of use of their website, the helpfulness and availability of staff to meet with them or talk to them, and the first impression of the facilities all play a part. These factors can all influence not only a customers decision to join that gym in the first place but also provide a lasting impression that could stick with them as they continue to use it.

When it comes to member satisfaction, there are a number of factors that gym owners and their teams can control to ensure a member has a positive experience from the moment they arrive, to leaving the gym and even beyond.

Membership Journey

Arrival and welcome

As soon as a person arrives at the gym, their experience can be affected. Can they park easily? Are they welcomed warmly on arrival? Is it easy and straightforward to get into the gym? Ensuring that as soon as a customer steps foot on the premises, they feel as though they are being given personalised attention and that it is a seamless and hassle-free experience to begin their workout, is essential.

Facilities

Provision of facilities also plays a significant part in member experience. Clean, contemporary and practical facilities are a must, and the higher the quality, the more likely a customer will be impressed. Standard gym facilities such as changing rooms and showers are essential but to stand out, gym owners should consider what other facilities could make their customers feel more appreciated. Social areas, drinks machines, a shop and cafe all add value. However, it is also important to remember the smaller details such as providing hand soap and towels, and making sure the toilets have toilet roll (!) that will make sure the member’s experience is even better.

Equipment

Fitness technology improves member retention and so provision of the latest equipment is important. It is also crucial that gyms provide a sufficient number of each machine, as well as making sure that gym members understand how to use the apparatus to ensure that their workout sessions are constructive and useful.

Self-efficacy is powerful as this study found, so providing instructions and training on how to use gym equipment is a must. Doing so will again reflect well in a customer’s overall experience and feeling of satisfaction, being respected and looked after.

If members have to queue for machines, or if they become frustrated because they can’t work out how to use them they will start to doubt that they are valued as a customer. If the machines are broken or out of order, or if they feel as though the variety or standard of equipment is not adequate these could all be factors which create a poor impression, make members feel less invested in or cared for, and therefore increase the likelihood of them becoming at-risk.

Member communication and motivation

Gym members who feel connected to the gym are more likely to feel loyalty towards it. If they don’t feel welcome, become self-conscious or uncomfortable or find coming to the gym to be an isolating or challenging experience they will be less likely to want to return. Staff members out on the floor communicating with members, motivating them, helping and advising them and giving them personalised attention can help gym members feel as though they are part of a community, creating a sense of connection and lowering the chances of them becoming at-risk.

Member retention – it’s all about the experience

The above points all tie into the fact that gyms must continually pay attention to the products and facilities they provide, their communication and customer service and how they can make customers feel valued and motivated. 81% of consumers are more likely to give a company repeated business after good service, and companies that prioritise the customer experience generate 60% higher profits than their competitors, so it is certainly well worth including these factors in your retention strategy.

Understanding the specific struggles that gym members face is crucial and gives owners better insight into how to solve their problems. For example, if a member cannot find a parking space, can’t get on a machine they want to use, or can’t book a class because it’s full, combined with more general issues such as feeling demotivated or not enjoying their workout they may struggle to feel positively towards the gym. In fact, it is proven enjoyment of exercise plays a significant role with studies like this one reporting that those who enjoyed exercise at baseline were more likely to stick with it.

These factors should be recognised and addressed to help provide a better service and boost member retention simultaneously.

Of course, while it is not always possible to ensure that a gym member leaves the gym in a positive mindset, there are plenty of things that gym owners can do and strategies that can be put in place to help make coming to and working out at the gym more of a pleasure than a chore.

Attending the gym should be a fantastic experience from start to finish, one where customers feel as though they are being cared for, looked after, and invested in. It’s not just about the obvious things; it’s the details that count and trying to help customers leave the gym in a positive frame of mind and reflect that the experience was a good one will encourage them to return time and time again. Being able to analyse and identify patterns that could lead members to have either a positive or negative experience is an essential way to help gym owners and their teams recognise when a member may become at-risk and improve that experience before it is too late.

April 5, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

How To Create A Gym Member Retention Strategy That Works

How To Create A Gym Member Retention Strategy That Works

There are tons of tips out there on how to boost your gym membership retention. But it’s hard to find a guide on how to create a killer gym retention strategy. In this blog, we try and redress the balance by telling you how gyms came to design membership retention strategies that work for them.

Firstly, let’s break down the crucial elements that go into any gym retention strategy, and look at how you can optimise them for maximum retention. There are some core elements involved in building a solid member retention strategy:

  • Crunching the numbers on members who are at risk of attrition, or “churn”
  • Creating member outreach campaigns to boost member retention
  • Overhauling your fitness offerings to catch at-risk members
  • Regularly monitoring and assessing member sentiment

Design a retention strategy for your gym

Now, there is no one-size-fits-all gym membership retention strategy you can magically apply to your site. Each gym is different and your retention strategy will have to factor this in.

If you run multiple gym sites, the first thing to do is to get a solid understanding of the membership retention needs of each facility. Each gym will have a different set of customers, different priorities, and perhaps even different budgets and resources. What works for one facility might not work for another.

The first thing you want to do is take a look at your retention across all your venues.

Pull up your membership details and analyse which demographics are at risk of churning.

Here are some at-risk groups to consider:

  • Under 35’s
  • People who work out on their own
  • People who haven’t attended in the last week
  • People who haven’t been active in 30 days
  • People who have a falling attendance rate
  • People with low NPS scores (more on this later)

You need to start categorising your member lists for a more targeted approach – it will help!

Are your membership plans up to scratch?

You should also monitor how effective your current membership plans are.

Segment your members by plan type and compare and contrast attendance rates. Send out surveys to see how members find their current plans. Action any feedback you can to make your plans work right for your members. Having an inappropriate membership plan is likely to end up with members leaving for one of your rivals. And you don’t want that, especially if you could have avoided this outcome by adjusting your membership offerings.

Sound like a lot of hard work? Well, the good news is that there are tools made exactly for this job, like Keepme which can automate this part of the process for you.

Spruce up your fitness offerings

It’s important that you have the right range of workout classes and fitness programmes to suit your members’ requirements. It’s a good idea to send surveys finding out what your members want from your gym, and making any relevant changes so that working out in your gym is an attractive proposition for your members.

Offers

Outreach campaigns

By now you should have an understanding of retention and attrition data across your gym location, and you’ve made all the infrastructural changes you can (if people are complaining about filthy changing rooms/ faulty air conditioning, etc., you should sort that out pronto).

The next step is to separate all this retention data into different risk groups. Although you should have an outreach plan that reaches every member, you should create content that specifically targets at-risk groups.

Running engagement campaigns is an ongoing process. Over time you should monitor whether your members’ retention scores improve or get worse, and change your campaigns accordingly. Often the problem will be that you’re not being targeted enough and your messages may be too generic.

Put your Net Promoter Scores to work

You are probably familiar with the concept of Net Promoter Scores (NPS), the measure of whether your members are “promoters” or “detractors” of your gym.

You should send out NPS surveys to your members and then segment you members by NPS score.

Detractors could then be sent to your outreach team for some TLC, whilst promoters can be used as contacts for testimonials, or to be part of a referral scheme, and so on.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are lots of factors that go into planning fitness membership retention strategies. At the end of the day, each gym’s strategy will look different. The tips in this article should help put you on the right track, as long as you look at your data in a segmented way and keep monitoring retention risks and NPS scores you will be able to come up with a strategy that gives your gym a head start on the competition.


March 28, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

Group Exercise vs Gym Only: The Effect on Member Retention

Group Exercise vs Gym Only: The Effect on Member Retention

Has the introduction of group exercise classes improved gym member retention rates, and if so should gym owners and employees be encouraging members to join them?

In the past, joining the gym was a fairly solitary experience.

A person could sign up, and then they were free to use the equipment as and when they wished. However, there was little interaction between gym goers and staff (unless hiring a personal trainer), and the communication between members themselves rarely extended to more than a sweaty grimace as they queued for the water cooler.

Individuals were responsible for their workouts, set their personal goals and if they didn’t achieve them it was nobody business apart from their own.

Nowadays, however, the landscape of the fitness industry has changed dramatically, and gym members now face many choices. While there is still the option to workout solo, with the introduction of classes and group exercise sessions, it seems like almost every week there is a new trend for an exercise class that promises to give attendees their dream bodies in no time at all. But do these classes live up to the hype, and are they helping or hindering gym member retention?

Is group exercise good for member retention rates?

Is it possible that the introduction of group exercise has helped to improve member retention rates? Or does choosing to participate increase possibility of failure, create confusion and a loss of ownership of one’s own workouts? Let’s examine the pros and cons of each:

Group exercise pros

Healthy competition

Group exercises encourage members to do their best. Those who work out with peers around them are more likely to push themselves further, so their workout is more productive. People don’t want to be the first person to drop out or refuse to participate appropriately, and research demonstrates that the healthy actions of others do influence us. A study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found that participants gravitate towards the exercise behaviors of those around them.

Social aspects

Group exercises can be helpful to those new to exercise as they can try different kinds of classes out and see which ones suit them best. Group exercise gives people the opportunity to socialise while working out and gives newbies more confidence and knowledge without having to hire a personal trainer. A 2016 study published in the journal Obesity reported that overweight people lose increased amounts of weight if they spend time with their fit friends, and weight loss continues to grow the more time they spend together. People who workout in group sessions also feel more accountable to others and are therefore less likely to skip workouts and will keep coming back for more.

Motivation

A group exercise class can help those lacking in motivation feel encouraged and energised. The ‘we’re in this together’ mentality of a group exercise class means that participants are more likely to encourage one another, engage with one another and spur one another on to make it through to the end. The sense of satisfaction and achievement is also a shared experience which can help motivate members to commit to the class and continue to return to the gym to participate.

Group Exercise

Fun

Researchers from the University of Southern California found that people who worked out with friends (or a spouse or co-worker) reported that they took more enjoyment in their exercise than those who worked out solo. The variety provided by the range of classes also mixes things up, keeping workouts fresh and exciting and helping members improve their health, fitness, body shape and strength in different ways.  

Group exercise cons

Pressure

Group exercise can have an adverse effect if people start to view the class as a punishment and a chore rather than a fun and social activity. If members begin to feel pressurised and guilty, this could be a recipe for disaster, and they may start to avoid the classes to negate these feelings.

Shaming

Group exercise classes could also negatively affect retention rates if a member starts to feel as though they can’t keep up, or begins to compare themselves to others in the class. A study reported that exercising in mirrored environments could make some women feel more self-conscious.

Lack of individual attention

In group exercise classes instructors rarely have the time to give participants individual attention, and therefore there is the increased chance of injury if an individual does not perform an exercise correctly or pushes themselves beyond their limitations. The lack of personalised attention could also result in some participants not having their needs or goals met. Classes are usually created around the based common needs of everyone who takes part, and therefore there is less scope for members who wish to push boundaries beyond this.

Gym only pros

Increased focus/ reduced distractions

Those who choose to work out in the gym alone may find that they have more focus than participants in a group setting. They can work on personal goals and don’t have the distractions of others around them so can zone in on their workouts and prioritise their unique fitness goals.

More variety

Classes can sometimes focus on just one area of fitness, those who choose to work out in the gym alone can take advantage of all the different machines to add variety to their workouts. If there is a particular area they want to focus on, they can choose the equipment and exercises to allow them to do so, rather than being dictated to by the class instructor.

Variety

Can workout at own pace and set personal goals

Group exercise classes cater to the needs of the masses where those gym members who have specific, individualised goals can create their own workouts to maximise effectiveness and achieve them at their own pace with no external pressure.

Gym only cons

Solitary

The solitary nature of just working out in the gym alone can have an adverse effect on members motivation. Without the social aspects and feeling part of a community, if gym goers don’t see their desired results they could quickly become at risk for cancelling their membership. They may feel less connected and loyal to the gym and therefore may find it less affecting to stop coming to the gym than members who feel as though they are part of a community and enjoy the social aspects of their workouts too.

No accountability

By not getting involved in group exercises a gym member has no one to be accountable for their workouts other than themselves. There is no one to encourage them, nor anyone to make them feel guilty if they choose not to attend. This can result in those gym only members to slowly decrease their attendance until they stop coming altogether.

Conclusion

It shows that by encouraging gym members to attend group exercise classes, retention rates should improve. Therefore gym owners may wish to consider investing more time and resources into providing and marketing group exercise classes to their members and motivating employees to sell these classes to gym goers.

It is important to note, however, that there are downsides to group classes that could also result in a negative impact on retention, for example, if a member pushed themselves too hard and got injured or felt as though they couldn’t keep up and became demotivated. Therefore gym owners should take care when pushing group exercise classes onto members and should really target the right cohort when encouraging either group or solo excercise sessions.


March 21, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

Rewarding Loyalty for Membership Retention

Rewarding Loyalty for Membership Retention

A healthy membership retention rate is absolutely vital for any businesses’ success, especially in the increasingly competitive fitness industry. After all, acquiring a new customer can be up to 25 times more expensive than retaining an old one – membership retention doesn’t merely affect who walks through your doors, it also affects your bottom line.

Member loyalty and member retention are often seen as heavily synonymous. If members are staying with your brand, that means they’re loyal, right? Not necessarily. Membership retention measures whether or not an existing customer continues to do business with you. In contrast, loyalty measures a customer’s attitudes towards your brand. Do your customers actively prefer your brand over your competitors, or are you at risk of losing their business to that new business on the block?

Of course, there is still a relationship between retention and loyalty, since a loyal customer will almost every case also be a retained customer (barring factors such as a sudden inability to pay). Furthermore, there is a relationship between retention and rewarding loyalty – a staggering 82.4% of respondents said they would be “more likely” or “much more likely” to shop at stores that offered loyalty programmes.

It’s not hard to imagine why this is the case. When people are rewarded for loyalty, they feel appreciated, something that is being increasingly important in business – 68% of customers said they left a company because they believed that they were not cared about.


CRM

If customers are not rewarded for their loyalty, they have less incentive to be loyal, particularly in an industry like fitness where new competitors crop up every day with attractive deals designed to draw new customers through the door. A loyalty programme also helps to cultivate a sense of community and belonging in members. For instance, Harley Davidson customers, who call themselves “hogs,” frequently develop bonds with their community members. When customers strongly identify with a brand, they are less likely to switch to a competitor.

Types of loyalty programmes

Loyalty programmes take many different forms. In its most basic form, a loyalty programme is a points-based system, such as UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s Nectar Points scheme. However, many businesses are adding on to the classic model, providing special features to members as well as points. For example, the wildly popular Sephora Beauty Insider scheme, which has over 17 million loyal members, organises exclusive member events and makeup classes. The Starbucks Rewards scheme gives members free in-store refills and the ability to order drinks in advance. For a gym, non-monetary incentives like exclusive fitness classes and the use of special facilities like saunas or access to sports therapists could also be extremely effective. One might also consider pricing strategies that directly reward loyalty as another way to signal to loyal members that you value their business.

Loyalty programme best practices

However, according to The Loyalty Report 2017, the average consumer is involved in 14 loyalty programs but only has the capacity to engage with half of them. Companies lose money on time and effort, and customers get no more value from the businesses to which they are “loyal.” Here are two important things to remember when designing a loyalty rewards scheme:

1. Keep it simple

If you can’t explain your loyalty programme to a customer in two sentences, it’s probably too complicated, and it will probably be ineffective. Keep things simple and easy to understand! For example, one H&M Club has designed their programme so that one point is worth $1. Structuring your rewards scheme in an easy-to-understand way means that customers are more likely to understand what’s in it for them, and subsequently more likely to engage with the loyalty scheme.  

2. Offer a personalised experience

Increasingly, customers are demanding personalised services. Think with Google discovered that 63% of people expect brands to use their purchase history to provide them with personalized experiences. Every demographic is different, and you must first know what your customers actually want. If you don’t, there is likely to be a mismatch between the rewards you offer and what would actually incentivise your customer base to stay loyal.

Conclusion

Rewarding loyalty can be an extremely effective way to boost customer loyalty, and consequently, customer retention. Take the time to assess what sort of loyalty rewards scheme will work best for your demographic, keep it as simple as possible, and you’re likely to see great improvements in both loyalty and retention.  

March 15, 2019 Tina Ahmed

Gym Member Retention Tool ‘Keepme’ Welcomes Jon Nasta As New Consulting Partner

Keepme

Keepme has announced the appointment of Jon Nasta as its new Consulting Partner. Nasta joined Keepme in February.  Known for his expertise in member engagement and retention, Nasta brings with him a wealth of experience in the health and fitness industry, as a Consultant in this expert track.

“The Keepme product captured my full attention from the minute I first heard about the concept. The service delivers on every aspect of members communication, engagement, and retention that I have worked towards over the last fifteen years.”

Nasta comes to Keepme with 15 years of experience in the retention management field. Most recently, Nasta worked as Director of E-Commerce & Marketing for UK gym chain, Xercise4Less, where he helped to drive the gym’s ambitious expansion programme around the region. Previous positions have seen him as COO of Retention Management LLC, and Sales Director for Matrix Fitness.

Nasta combines his expertise in consulting with many other relevant skills, such as public speaking at core fitness industry events (The 2018 IHRSA European Congress & The Scottish Leisure Network Group), implementing effective loyalty/ rewards schemes and improving communications & engagement with health club members. Nasta’s knowledge and commitment to retain members within an industry that faces challenges to achieve a consistent retention strategy, is inspiring. His passion, experience and work ethic will be an asset for Keepme, and we are thrilled to have him on board.

March 7, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

AI and Gym Member Retention

AI & Gym Membership Retention

Artificial intelligence (AI) has, in recent years, continued to develop and infiltrate many aspects of the fitness industry and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Be it through sales and marketing, customer service, or data collection, the influence of AI is extending its reach and affecting how gym owners and other fitness industry operatives create more meaningful retention strategies to keep existing members renewing their gym membership contracts time and time again.

The Encyclopedia Britannica definition of AI is “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.”

However, in reality, the term AI is much more fluid then this and, over time has been adapted and modified to better match the goals that a particular system is designed to achieve.

But how does the fitness industry make use of this technology? And is it necessarily a good thing?

AI application in sales and marketing strategies to improve customer service

People who join the gym are interested in their health and fitness and self-improvement. For a gym to be invested in AI and to be willing to utilise this new technology to improve their systems, to gather data, to inform them on customer satisfaction, and to tailor their service to better suit the needs of the individual is likely to appeal to gym goers across the board.

Digital

The implementation of AI in the fitness industry can not only serve to attract new members with its shiny, hi-tech promises but also convince longer serving members to continue to use the gym as they see it reacting to their ever-evolving needs.

According to Gartner Inc., only 2% of businesses in 2017 used virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology for customer service and support, but by 2020, this figure is expected to increase to 25%.

AI can also be used to gather intelligence on messaging interactions, phone conversations, gym attendance records, and other communication between a club and its members. This information enables marketing teams to identify when customers might be at-risk and to act by creating personalised incentives to draw customers back in and keep member retention rates high.

AI to create virtual personal training

Gyms are also beginning to see how the application of AI could be used to offer virtual personal training programmes to members, lowering the cost for them of hiring an actual personal trainer while giving them a similar option for customised workouts and even individual motivational strategies delivered in a virtual form.

By using a mobile app, gym owners can gather data on how individuals workout – which machines they use and how long for as well as other useful information such as their heart rate. This data can be used to devise bespoke training programmes as well as other nutrition and fitness advice tailored to the individual.

As AI continues to improve members can expect even more specific advice, for example when coupled with motion sensing technology, suggestions on how to improve movement to make the most from a workout are possible. This kind of personalised experience is likely to help members remain motivated and engaged in their workouts and renew their gym membership when the time comes.

Wearable technology and connected fitness machines will allow trainers to get real-time information on gym members activities both inside and outside the gym. This data again can be used to help identify less engaged gym members and to flag up at-risk members thus informing retention strategies to help keep those members motivated.

Could the introduction of AI negatively affect gym member retention?

The development and refinement of AI opens up a whole wealth of possibilities in the fitness industry increasing productivity, gathering and analysing unprecedented amounts of data and taking over routine tasks which could free up gym owners and their employees to spend more time improving customer experience.

However, there are some drawbacks. For a start implementing AI doesn’t come cheap, and for low-budget gyms purchasing the necessary equipment and systems to apply any meaningful AI into their club may, for now, be out of reach.

It is also important to note that humans crave human contact, communication, and company and the importance of face-to-face interaction with customers cannot be underestimated. As Mina Chang writes for Forbes: “you do business with people, not entities. The beauty of communication is found in the nuance that’s only felt in face-to-face conversations.”

This sentiment rings true for gym members who rate having no gym buddy, lack of guidance and feeling out of place as their top three reasons for wanting to quit, problems that are hard to rectify without human contact.

AI certainly has its place in the fitness industry, and it is up to health club operators to strategise how they can implement the technology available to them to best effect.

If they can successfully implement AI systems to automate the more routine conversations or demands that take up employees valuable time, while simultaneously gathering data to improve facilities and offer personalised experiences they could have the best of both worlds. Intelligent, productive systems that inform sales and retention strategies in addition to a team with more time to be out there communicating, motivating and engaging with customers and providing that irreplaceable ‘human touch.’

February 28, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

Customer Service Principles to Boost Membership Retention

Customer Service Principles to Boost Membership Retention

Customer service plays an important role in improving membership retention – 73% of consumers said they would consider purchasing from a brand again if they had a superior customer service. In addition, customer experience is predicted to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020. Put more simply, excellent customer service is a great way to distinguish your brand and what you offer from your competitors, keeping your members coming back for more.

“Don’t worry, I already provide great customer service”, you might say. However, do you know if this is really the case? Rather startlingly, Bain & Company found that while 80% of CEOs believe they deliver a superior customer experience, only 8% of their customers agree! To avoid this, this article will walk you through 5 important tips to improve your customer service and boost retention rates at your gym.

1. Make a good first impression

The first interaction you have with any customer is absolutely vital, since it will set the tone for all further engagements. People are prone to the halo effect, a form of cognitive bias where, if an observer likes one aspect of something, they will have a positive predisposition toward everything about it. If the observer dislikes one aspect of something, they will have a negative predisposition toward everything about it.

As such, start off on a sour note with a customer, and their entire impression of you will be tarnished by their bad first impression. You will have to work even harder the next time (if they even give you a second chance!) to convince them that your offering is worth their time and money. In addition, you may have to bear the consequences of them detracting your brand, since 95% of customers talk about a bad experience. In contrast, make a good first impression, and you are not only more likely to be forgiven by a customer for any future slip-ups, but also (and this is particularly the case for gyms) a happy first-time customer might commit to a long-term membership straight away as a result of their positive experience, guaranteeing their business for an extended period!

Many elements go into making a good first impression, such as being particularly welcoming to new customers, or ensuring that any queries or concerns they have are quickly addressed. The physical venue of the gym is also of vital importance, since customers will often interact with your physical space before they meet a member of staff: is your gym easy to find? Is there ample, affordable, parking? Is it clean and tidy? Even though a detailed look at making a first impression is beyond the scope of this article, one key aspect of customer service is strategically ensuring that your customers have a positive first impression of your brand.

2. Equip & empower staff members

In the context of online purchases, It was discovered that some of the most important factors driving good customer service impressions all entailed an issue being resolved as quickly as possible by a friendly, identifiable member of staff:

Econsultancy

(Chart Source: EConsultancy)

One great way to ensure that customers’ issues are resolved efficiently and simply is to ensure that your staff are equipped to do so. How can this be achieved?

The first step is to invest in employee training. An employee that has received adequate customer service training will not only know what the best decision to make in any given case is, but is also more likely to be calm and confident in high-pressure scenarios. In fact, household names like Disney and Zappos are well-known for the excellent customer service training that their staff members undergo.

In addition to being trained, staff must also be given the authority necessary for important client-facing decisions like payments, discounts, and on-boardings. While it may seem tempting to prevent staff members from having too much ‘power’ over the gym’s decision-making, unnecessarily restricting what your staff has the authority to do prevents them from efficiently handling customer concerns in a way that would benefit both your customers and your business.

3. Go beyond the call of duty

At the heart of positive customer service is each and every one of your customers feeling truly cared for and appreciated. According to research by Forrester, emotion was the #1 factor in customer loyalty across 17 of 18 industries studied. Furthermore, A Gallup study revealed that enduring relationships result only when companies pay attention to meeting the important emotional needs of their customers, not just providing faster service.

So avoid inauthentic, canned, interactions with clients and try to get to know them for the people they are, not just as cogs in the machinery of your business! This can be accomplished through acts like sending out personalised emails to check on how your members are progressing along with their fitness journey, sharing resources you know they will find helpful or interesting, or even something as simple as addressing your customers by name whenever they visit the gym or get in contact about their concerns. By going beyond the minimum acceptable standard of what one might expect from consumer service, you will not only improve your customer’s experience, but also alter the relationship between you and your customer to one emphasises meaningful engagement, omitting one of the several main reasons why customers churn.

4.  Measure customer satisfaction effectively

Finally, the most crucial aspect of providing good customer service involves regularly and effectively checking in with what your customers are experiencing. At the start of this article, I introduced a statistic that showed that there was a great gap between what CEOs believed they were offering their clients and what their clients experienced. In order to avoid this sort of information asymmetry, regularly assessing your customer’s satisfaction with your brand is vital.

There are a variety of ways to measure customer satisfaction, ranging from surveys, to the Customer Effort Score, to the Net Promoter System. Whichever you choose, understanding how your customers perceive the service you’re providing from their perspective will undoubtedly yield important insights. You can then regularly act upon these insights to provide good service – a fortuitous cycle that will result in improved customer service and improved membership retention!

February 21, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

Everything You Need to Know about Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Everything You Need to Know about NPS

Ever since Frederick F. Reichheld identified ‘Net Promoter Score (NPS)’ as the ‘one number you need to grow’, it has become one of the most prominent customer loyalty metrics in business. The NPS asks important questions that every business leader should know: how satisfied are your customers, and how likely are they to recommend your business or service to someone they know? In this article, we’ll explore the ins-and-outs of NPS, answering all of your questions about what NPS is, how to calculate NPS, and how to take advantage of its power.

What is NPS? How is it calculated?

The NPS is used to measure customer satisfaction. A tangible snapshot of how well a company is meeting consumer expectations, it provides helpful insights into how an enterprise can serve their customers better, or, alternatively, maintain high levels of customer satisfaction.

Here’s how it works. Customers are asked this question: “On a scale of 0–10, how likely are you to recommend [brand] to a colleague or friend?” Then, based on their responses to this question, customers are classified into one of three categories: detractors, passives or promoters.

‘Promoters’ are loyal customers who will not only consistently buy from a brand, but who will also urge their friends and family to do the same. ‘Passives’ are customers who are relatively satisfied with the service they’ve received, but who may patronise another company if given the opportunity. Finally, ‘detractors’ are customers who are actively unhappy with the service they’ve purchased, and who may tarnish the brand’s reputation through negative word-of-mouth.

The actual NPS score is calculated by taking the percentage of customers who are promoters, and subtracting the percentage of customers who are detractors, like so:

P – D = NPS

In theory, anything above 0 is a good NPS score, since a positive NPS indicates that you have more promoters than detractors – an indicator of potential growth. However, it is also important to benchmark yourself to your competitors, since average NPS scores vary across industries. A recent study across 109 companies in the Wellness and Fitness sector yielded an average NPS score of 77. If this figure is accurate, it would indicate that a gym or fitness facility needs to attain an NPS score close to 77 to remain competitive.

Why does NPS matter?

More than two thirds of Fortune 1000 companies use the NPS metric, a testament to how important NPS is for businesses. In addition, Bain and Company research has found that companies that achieve long-term profitable growth have a NPS that is 2 times higher than the average company.

A well-executed NPS strategy will also result in all-around better customer retention. Your NPS score gives you a clear and tangible assessment of how satisfied your customers are with the services you are providing. The score is also a good indicator of your customer retention rate – the more promoters you have relative to passives or detractors, the more likely you are to observe high membership retention rates and see membership growth via positive word-of-mouth.

Most importantly, NPS systems follow-up customer’s assessments of their willingness to recommend the brand with enquiries into the main factors that influenced their response. This is called key driver analysis, and looks into the specific areas of customer service that impact (or, indeed – drive) customer experience the most. Driver analysis is crucial for improving customer satisfaction and retention. With knowledge of what your key drivers are, you can focus company resources on what customers find the most important. This will allow you to be more effective in improving the experience of customers who are dissatisfied with your service and solidifying the support of those who are satisfied. This is crucial, since according to a study by consultancy Walker Information, customer experience (CX) will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.

Now that we’ve given you the run-down on what NPS is, here’s are two important points to keep in mind when executing your NPS strategy.  

Ask the right questions at the right times

How you conduct your brand sentiment surveys matters significantly in NPS strategy. For example, CustomerGauge discovered that phone interviews have some of the highest response and retention rates, that shorter surveys (2-6 questions) resulted in a 5.3% increase in response rate, and that customer retention increased 5.2% if customers were surveyed every quarter. In addition, utilising both relationship and transactional surveys resulted in a 4.9% average increase in retention.

If you’re going into an NPS strategy for the first time, be mindful of the details of how you’re surveying your customer base – they could make or break your data collection. If you’re already running an NPS system, re-examine your data collection strategy to see if there are ways to improve it.

Ensure answers drive action

Part of the beauty of NPS is that it gives you actionable data. Thus, it also follows that the effectiveness of NPS relies on you acting swiftly and decisively once the data collection and data analysis stages have elapsed. Within NPS systems, acting on feedback received is called ‘closing the loop’. There are many ways that one might set about ‘closing the loop’. Here’s one simple example:

Once you discover who your respective promoters, detractors, and passives are, design targeted communication strategies for each of these categories of customers. A strategy that works to address the gripes of a detractor will have a negligible effect on solidifying the loyalty of a promoter. Similarly, a detractor should not receive messages encouraging them to tell their friends about your brand; they will only say negative things! In contrast, a promoter should be encouraged in their ‘evangelistic’ efforts.

Even though NPS systems are powerful, they are only so if you’re willing to take a hands-on approach to business. The 2018 NPS® and CX Benchmarks Report found that 90% of companies close the loop in some way, and enjoy higher retention as a result of their efforts. However, companies that don’t close the loop increase their churn a minimum of 2.1% per year – yikes!

This article should’ve told you all you need to know about NPS. If you’re serious about improving your customer retention rate, get started as soon as possible on implementing and executing an effective NPS strategy – it’ll be worth the investment.

February 4, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

Risk Scoring – A Crucial Part of the Retention Puzzle

Risk Scoring – A Crucial Part of the Retention Puzzle

The verdict is out – anyone who wants to run a successful and sustainable business should be focusing on retention. After all, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one, and increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. Poor retention is a particular problem for enterprises in the health and fitness industry. In this article, we’ll discuss the practice of risk scoring. Risk scoring is the act of analysing the potential loyalty of a customer or segment of customers, and is an essential component of an effective retention strategy.

Some customers or customers segments are inherently more prone to churn than others. This is expressed in patterns of customer behaviour, with some patterns indicating a higher probability to churn than others. However, without a risk scoring system, it is extremely difficult to identify these behaviours, and who high-risk customers might be. It is even harder to proactively take the necessary steps to prevent these ‘high-risk’ customers from leaving. An effective risk scoring system will not only identify who high-risk customers are, but will also be able to do it in a timely fashion for your to make the necessary changes before it is too late.

About risk scoring

The practice of risk scoring assesses the probability (or risk) that a given customer or segment of customers will churn, ceasing to do business with you. There are a variety of factors that come into play in determining the risk of a particular customer or segment of customers churning. While the specifics will vary between contexts, some factors that are likely to be important include how often they attend the gym, their purchase history, and how long they have been a member of the gym.

Risk scores can also be aggregated. Aggregating risk scores is particularly helpful for individuals who run several clubs or facilities at the same time. By comparing clubs’ overall risk scores, it is easy to tell at a glance which clubs are doing better than others at retaining their members and to swiftly respond to that information.  

In addition, most risk scoring systems will also be able to segment your customer base based on their risk scores, and provide you with a visualisation of the composition of your demographic relative to these segments. Here’s an example of two personas that you may see in your gym:

  1. ‘John’ refers to a customer with a low risk of churning. He’s been a member of the gym for a few years, regularly attends the gym, and has even brought some new clients to the gym through referrals.

  2. ‘Jane’ refers to a customer with a high risk of churning. She signed up for the gym a few months ago, but does not attend the gym regularly. In addition, she is coming close to the end of her fixed membership period.

With insights into the profile of your customers, you will be able to develop marketing and communications strategies that effectively meet your demographic.

Risk scoring in retention management

One of the best ways to utilise risk scoring in retention management strategy is through the practice of micro-segmentation marketing and communication. Micro-segmentation refers to the practice where customers are divided into niche personas or ‘segments’ based on several specific characteristics such as demographic information or behavioural attributes.

Micro-segmentation marketing, in turn, refers to a marketing strategy that creates “hyper-focused campaigns” to accurately satisfy the needs of each of these varying types of customers. This strategy is incredibly effective because one of the best ways to retain high-risk customers is to meaningfully engage them and help them to understand the value of what your business offers. Remember ‘John’ and ‘Jane’? Here’s an example of how two different types of strategic communication could be developed based on their risk scores:

  1. Since ‘John’ has a low risk of churning, we do not need to spend too many resources on ensuring that we keep his business. He is very likely to be retained even if no action is taken.

  2. Since ‘Jane’ has a high risk of churning, more resources should be spent on attempting to retain her as a customer. Jane should be sent a special offer to encourage her to stay on with the business, and customer service officers ought to meaningfully engage Jane to better understand her needs.  

Technology and risk scoring

In this article, we’ve discussed two simplified examples how risk scoring can work to improve your membership retention rate. However, in reality, the various personas you find in a given facility are bound to be more numerous, and the precise communications strategy required more nuanced and sophisticated. Indeed, risk scoring is a very complicated, and potentially tedious process for human hands. The work necessary to carry out accurate and effective risk scoring as a part of retention strategy is exorbitant, and unfeasible for most businesses.

Fortunately, predictive analytics, big data, and other sophisticated technologies have been shown to be effective at risk scoring in some industries. Should a business in the health and fitness industry implement a fitness-specific risk scoring technology, they are bound to see their retention rates quickly improve.    

Conclusion

It is crucial to understand how effectively you are (or are not) retaining your client base. In their 2018 NPS and CX Benchmarks Report, CustomerGauge discovered that “a shockingly high” number of companies can’t report how many customers they are losing annually, with 44% of respondents and 32% of senior management not knowing their retention rate. This is unacceptable. Tracking and managing member activity is a vital component of managing a business and sustaining membership retention in the health and fitness industry. Risk scoring, which we’ve discussed today, is an important part of getting to grips with your member demographics and, accordingly, improving your business’ membership retention.

January 25, 2019 Faith Christine Lai

Implementing Wearables To Increase Member Retention

A Retention Dilemma: Should I ‘Wake Up’ My Inactive Gym Members?

With the average person checking their phone 80 times a day, it is not surprising that an increasing number of gym owners are implementing strategies to utilise this kind of technology in their clubs.

The potential for wearable technology to motivate, challenge and ignite a competitive spirit in gym goers is extensive, and the use of such devices could lead to a notable increase in member retention. Not only that, but the opportunity to capture data and use it to identify and target at-risk customers is also considerable.

Studies have shown that 50% of new members on monthly contracts end their gym membership within eight months of signing up. This equates to around a $6 billion loss of revenue for the fitness industry each year. If gyms, therefore, can better understand what makes previously engaged members lose interest and ultimately leave the gym, the financial benefits are significant.

Now, more than ever, customers are results-driven, and impatient too. They don’t want to wait to find out their progress. They call for instant information on demand, whenever and wherever they are.

Health clubs are in a particularly favourable position to explore the possibilities of wearable technology and offering the use of wearables or tracking apps during workouts and classes could see customer retention rates soar.

In this article, we explore the potential that wearable technology and tracking apps could have on member retention and why club owners should seriously consider implementing the use of these devices as part of their member retention strategy.

Wearable technology – the key to customer retention

A gym member who is accountable for their workouts and motivation needs to be able to assess their performance. Wearable technology can track progress during exercise, summarise post-workout performance and can compare this with historical performance data. This enables gym goers to take responsibility for their own fitness goals, to feel a sense of accountability, and to compete with themselves. They become active and involved in their own fitness and, as a by-product more engaged and motivated to continue.

Shawn Potocki, the owner of UFIT Personal Training in Hamilton, New Jersey, agrees that the use of technology keeps clients more interested in their workouts:

“My clients definitely feel more accountable when wearing a heart rate monitor or another forms of wearable technology. This is especially true when they are doing workouts on their own. The technology helps them keep track of their progress.”

Technology that allows members to set goals and track progress gives them ultimate control and means they actively participate in their workouts rather than being a passive bystander – and doing so naturally has a positive effect on member retention as more engaged members are less likely to feel demotivated, stop going to the gym and eventually end their contracts.

Socialisation and Gamification – an essential part of your member retention strategy

The number of people using social media increased from 0.97 billion in 2010 to 2.62 billion in 2018 and is set to rise even further in the future. Fitness clubs have realised that combining social media and wearable technology creates digital communities, increases socialisation, and encourages members to view workouts as something social, enjoyable and fun.

Gamification is the use of game elements and game-design techniques in non-game contexts to engage people and solve problems. Enabling gym goers to communicate with one another and compete with one another via wearable technology gamifies the process and encourages friendships to form.

People who feel that they are part of a community when attending the gym, and who view going to the gym as a social activity are less likely to leave, so encouraging these communities to develop as well as a sense of friendly competition can see member retention rates increase.

Gyms can promote communication and competition via the use of social media, apps and wearable technology pitting members against one another, creating virtual leadership boards and even setting competitions themselves such as ‘who can burn the most calories’, ‘who has come to the most sessions’ and so on. Seeing other members engaged in such a way could also influence those who are less engaged and encourage them to become more involved.

Wearable fitness trackers that can be linked up to gym equipment can turn both individual workouts and group exercises classes into a game, not only motivating members to push themselves harder but simultaneously increasing the sense of community at the gym. This feeling of belonging coupled with an increase in engagement in their workouts means members are also more likely to reach their personal fitness goals, increasing levels of satisfaction, motivation, and desire to continue.

Wearables and data collection

According to Soreon research, the use of wearable technology in the healthcare sector is only going to extend, with a predicted increase of investments into the healthcare sector from $2 billion in 2014 to $41 billion in 2020.

The vast amounts of data gathered from apps and wearables can provide gym owners and their team’s crucial information that can help influence membership retention strategies and can be key to answering the problem of how to improve customer retention.

The information gathered from these devices can indicate which members are at higher risk of cancelling their membership, enabling staff to intervene and influence with measures to try and turn them around, be that through 1:1 attention and motivation techniques or through offering an incentive to stay such as free classes or personal training sessions.

Sending out reminders for classes that might interest members based on the data collected from wearables, as well as training tips and push notifications could also help to encourage at-risk members to continue using the gym. Using apps that inspire people to set their goals and track their progress when not at the gym such as inputting meals or additional workouts can also provide valuable insights into whether members are having trouble sticking to their goals – and if they are offering advice and support could help them get back on track.

Whether the gym is part of a multinational chain or a small local business, club owners are beginning to realise that improving member retention rates is key to their continued success, and the benefits of using wearable technology can play a meaningful part in this. Be it attendance, in-club spending, workout progress and fulfilment, or rating the facilities and customer satisfaction overall, all this data can be collected, analysed and used to improve customer experience from every angle.

Integrating wearables and tracking apps into the fitness experience and using this technology to gather individual membership data provides a powerful insight into how engaged customers are. This gives gyms the opportunity to become an essential part of members lives, improve their experience, increase motivation and offer them incentives, all of which will inevitably result in higher member retention rates and steady, sustainable growth.