Friday, 8 July 2011

Member Interaction on the Gym Floor

Many clubs are coming round to the idea that investing in member retention is at least as important as sales. The fitness team are the people that know your members best, and their interactions are key to member retention. Ensuring that the different types of member contact are effective really pays off. A 1,000 member club charging £35 per month can generate an additional £35,000 by extending member’s length of stay by just one month.

When we start to talk about interactions, most fitness professionals believe that they are performing well; they say ‘hello’ to most members, talk to their favourite members, and offer exercise programme reviews. When challenged, they often acknowledge that they could do more; particularly around contacting members other than their regulars, and keeping more members on track with a current programme.

Saying ‘hello’ to each member and introducing yourself as someone who is there to help is a great start. Every member should know that their needs are your instructor’s main focus (yes, even ahead of cleaning!) An instructor who is not able to say ‘hello’ or get engaged with members is in the wrong job. Sure, sometimes members are plugged into their headphones, avoiding eye-contact, but a quick wave or thumbs-up will help to break down the communication barrier, and will very rarely have a negative effect.

After the 4th or 5th ‘hello’, the effect of the interaction diminishes. This is why we talk about inductions and ongoing reviews.

New members will mostly go through an induction process, which can range from a health & safety check to bespoke exercise programme design. A good induction plan is the foundation of an effective retention policy. However, some members will always manage to bypass the induction process, so it is important that they do not drop-off the radar, and still receive regular contacts going forwards.

The traditional ongoing process is to review the exercise programme every 8-12 weeks. For many members (and therefore staff), the programme review is stale. Members sometimes doesn’t see the benefit, or feel they haven't progressed, or they simply resist change.

As an industry, we tell ourselves that programmes should be reviewed to keep interest levels up, avoid exercise plateau, etc, but this is not the case for many members. They will have a review if it is sold to them properly, and if it is on their timescales. All members have goals or are trying to achieve results, although some need help to better define their goals. The review interval should be up to the member, with some input from the fitness professional. Depending on what the member is trying to achieve, you can then re-define the exercise programme.

Many Personal Training businesses have great retention rates because they place so much more focus on their members. For example, a PT studio in North London, =Results measure themselves on their members’ performance. They ensure that they get results for their members, they shout about these results, take before and after pictures, or graph progress, and are hugely successful.

By going back to basics, and helping members to get results and achieve their exercise goals, your members will naturally stick around for longer, and your instructors will have a more interesting job, be more successful, and more motivated.

This is an extract from fitpro Business Magazine - Jul/Aug/Sep 2011

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