August 22, 2019 Beth Cadman
Paying attention to your member onboarding process can have a significant impact on member retention.
The member onboarding process plays a crucial role in maximising retention and can help ensure that new members turn into loyal customers who continue to use the gym facilities and engage with the gym in a positive way.
The first four weeks are the most crucial in the membership lifecycle, and in this time frame, the more frequently a new member visits the gym, the better impression they have of the facilities and the more positive a customer experience they receive, the more likely they are to remain gym members.
A smart, thoughtful, cleverly designed onboarding process is crucial to ensure member loyalty, just as a poor, badly planned onboarding process can lead customers to terminate their membership.
Onboarding is also known as ‘organizational socialization.’ In short, it is the process by which a person acquires information, knowledge, and skills as well as learning appropriate behaviours to become an ‘effective organisational member.’ When applied to the gym member onboarding process, this is the way that a new member becomes familiar with the gym’s facilities, equipment, and processes via different interactions and experiences. Done well, and this process will positively change a member’s behaviour and attitude towards working out, as well as developing a positive relationship with staff, the gym, and the brand.
An excellent first impression will last. From the moment a new member walks through the door and is greeted by reception staff to how much they enjoy the facilities, the quality of their workout, the options for exercise available, and how they are treated by staff all form an opinion of the gym. If overall the member finds the experience positive and enjoyable, the benefits of continuing as a member will far outweigh the expense and effort, and therefore that new member will turn into a loyal customer – providing the balance remains tipped this way.
In a survey taken by the American Society for Quality Control, results showed that the number one reason why companies lose customers is down to an attitude of indifference on the part of an employee. This demonstrates the importance of building customer relationships, of getting to know your members, of showing that you have a genuine interest in their health and wellbeing and that you and your teams want to make their customer experience the very best it can be from start to finish.
Your gym’s USP might be state of the art equipment or offering the cheapest and most flexible deals, but without providing an excellent level of customer service, this may not matter.
By considering every aspect of the customer experience, particularly during the onboarding process, clubs can hope to provide a seamless journey that allows them to make the most of the gym and enjoy their visits time and time again. They will have certain expectations, and particular needs, and the more these are being met or surpassed effortlessly, the more likely a gym is to retain that member going forward.
Function – does the gym meet the customer’s needs? This encompasses everything from changing room and locker facilities to the provision of refreshments and training classes and equipment.
Accessibility – how easy is it for members to do what they want to do at the club? Be that finding their way around, getting information, or having flexibility within their membership?
Emotional connection – do customers feel valued and respected? Do they think staff care about them as individuals?
If a gym can better understand a member’s expectations of the club, as well as their interests, the goals and so on, that they can provide an onboarding journey that meets and surpasses them. It is through research and listening to customers that gyms can discover what is important to their customers and identify opportunities to provide them with satisfactory solutions and improve their service to align with customer’s needs and desires.
Talk to members about their fitness goals and help them to devise a plan that will help them achieve these goals. Create both short term and long term plans, so after they have finished their initiation, they still feel as though the gym is guiding and supporting them.
Train staff to greet each member personally, and take time to engage with them to develop strong connections and a social atmosphere.
Encourage a high frequency of visits. Attendance and retention are linked, and the more frequently a member visits the gym, the more likely they are to perceive value from their membership investment.
Manage expectations. The more information you can give members during the onboarding process, the better. If a member knows what to expect from the gym, they are less likely to feel disappointed when something they might have taken as a given is not a possibility. If a class always gets booked up in advance, for example, let them know this so they can decide whether that is important to them, rather than not letting them know and then risking disappointment or frustration after they have joined.
Provide incentives. Providing members with time-bound incentives can encourage them to continue attending the gym and will create a sense of urgency to do so. Anything from free PT sessions to vouchers in the cafe can help provide instant value and create a good first impression.
Track their engagement. Make sure that you have the tools in place to track member behaviour from the moment they join. Being able to use data collected and ascertain how engaged your members are will help you to identify when they are becoming at-risk and allow for intervention before the member is lost.
Follow up regularly. Don’t let a member feel as though they are no longer important to you. Make sure staff members follow up after the first 30, 60, and 90 days. Send induction emails and congratulatory emails when they have completed their first class, let them know of any discount, offers, or new classes – keep communicating and keep them engaged.
Ask for feedback. Remember, as part of your onboarding process you can ask new members what they liked, and where there is room for improvement. Take feedback seriously and act on it to demonstrate to customers that they are at the heart of everything you do.
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
An onboarding process should be designed to educate, engage and entice new members so that they not only understand where to go and what to do at the gym but also start to build positive relationships with your team and fellow members, and provide them with excellent reasons to keep coming back time and time again.
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