Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Programming for Motivation

Many members who joined gyms in January are now at a high risk of stopping their visits, which in time will lead to cancellation of membership. Clubs who want to retain their members will be offering exercise programme reviews from 8-12 weeks of joining (some sooner), hoping to re-energise their members.

Regular exercise programme reviews are typically recommended for fitness benefits; muscle memory, cardio or strength improvements, and progression. However, the primary purpose is member motivation. Programme reviews are critical in maintaining regular visits: our research shows that just offering a programme review increases visit frequency, which improves member retention.

In January 2010, 1,225 members were offered programme reviews at 4 leisure centres across Huntingdonshire, and visit frequency increased by 47%, i.e. from once per week to 1.47 times per week on average per member contacted. Instructors were initially confused by the results, as less than one in 5 members had actually booked a programme review, but it is clear that contacting a member to offer a review drives up visit frequency. Jai Garcia, Instructor at One Leisure Sawtry, said “it’s really great to see the positive impact of our interactions with members, and to know that just offering a programme review will increase motivation”.

We’ve visited many clubs that claim to review programs every 8 weeks, only to find the first ten cards in the file had all expired. So why do we find that on average three quarters of members at gyms and health clubs have an expired program? The two main reasons are the systems and rules being used to manage the programme review process. Work on one or both of these, and as a club you will improve your member retention, or as a member, you will improve your motivation and fitness.

Systems range from a simple card based box file to state-of-the-art Exercise Management Systems (EMS). If you can afford an EMS like Technogym’s Wellness system, then go for it. Your members can have a tailored exercise programme with start and expiry dates (or number of sessions to expiry), and both the club/trainer and member will get a reminder when the programme is due for renewal. In the middle ground, there are online solutions like the Interactive Fitness Manager (IFM) from FusingFitness and PocketPT, both of which can support clubs or individuals to maintain a current program. We’ve also worked with clubs who use members’ exercise cards, which with a little admin, also works as a system. Reception staff flip through the card boxes each week, flagging members who need to be offered a programme review, and the date that the review is offered or next required is noted on each member’s exercise card following contact. Colour coded Post-it notes are an inexpensive but efficient retention tool!

It is important to remember that rules are there to be broken when setting retention policy. Programme reviews every 8 or 12 weeks will work for the club as a whole, particularly for new members, but one size will not fit all. It is most important to check and record each member’s goals and timescales at the initial programme and at subsequent reviews. A member who visits three times each week will probably want to review their programme sooner than someone who only visits once per week. So consider setting a number of visits review (think car services – 1 year or 12,000 miles, whichever is sooner). Ultimately, it should be up to the member when they want their programme reviewed; someone who only wants 2 reviews per year should be asked every 6 months, rather than drop out of the system, or be asked every 8 weeks. In general, a reminder after 8 to 12 weeks or 20-30 workouts is good as a recommended standard or for a new member.

This is one of the reasons for the success of personal training studios where members buy a number of sessions. A review is built into the end of each block of visits purchased, with progress, goals and achievements assessed, which should lead to a further block booking. “A review after 8, 12, or 16 sessions is integral to our business model” says Browne Bailey, owner of =Results in Muswell Hill. “We show our members that they have achieved their goals, and they keep coming back for more”.

So keep it simple, or make it as complex as you and your systems can handle. Ensure all staff understand the system, what the recommended rules are, and how to bend them. Most importantly, try to keep your members on a regular programme review cycle. And for those people that don’t currently want a programme review, ask them again in 11 months’ time at the latest.