April 11, 2019 Faith Christine Lai
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.