Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Communicating with absent, paying members : Part 1, Why?

Opinion is still divided on whether you should contact paying members who are not visiting your club. The naysayers argue that you risk prompting the member to cancel, and that you should let sleeping dogs lie. We say contact absent members. Do your best to encourage them back into your club. Give your members more motivation by showing that you care about their health and fitness, that you want to help them achieve their goals. It is their responsibility to get down to the gym, so send them a reminder and then they are less likely blame your club. Business-wise, if half of your members have not visited for more than 3 or 4 weeks, you risk losing half your members tomorrow (contracts aside). If you do nothing about this, you could soon be looking at an empty gym. Contact your absent members, and you will get some back, and hopefully extend the membership of many more.
An empty gym, yesterday
Ethically, it is right to contact someone who is paying you for a service but not using it.  Regardless of contract (more of which later), it is simply a good thing to do.  Businesses that think ethically are on the up, whether offering discounts for reducing emissions or best plan reviews on mobile usage.
For members who do cancel after a couple of months reminders, all is not lost.  When that person is ready to join a gym again, they will consider your club, and would certainly recommend you to friends.  Compare the ex-member who had no contact from their former club – they almost certainly have negative feelings toward the club that didn’t support them.

Hopefully this makes sense for members on one month notice, but what about members on contract?  When should you contact a member on a 12 month contract who stops visiting in month 3; month 4 or 12?  It’s going to be a lot more difficult to get them back in month 12, so it’s even more important to get in touch with contract members quickly. 

Many clubs report their average length of membership as around 12 months, but many clubs offer 12 month contracts.  Analysis shows that members stop visiting around months 3-7.  A reminder that their contract is due for renewal at month 12 is unlikely to have a positive outcome, whereas a reminder at month 3 or when they stop visiting increases the chance of renewal.

Consider this personal training scenario… 
Two clients each buy 10 sessions from two personal trainers, Adam & Zak.  Both clients come for 3 sessions, but do not show for the fourth session.  
Adam calls his client, and they explain why they missed the session (work commitments) and promise to be there next week.  Zak does a workout himself, but doesn’t call his client, they’ve already paid, so it’s their loss.  
In week 5, Adam’s client returns, and Zak is not surprised, or really bothered that his doesn’t show again…

Hopefully you can see where this is going, and have a feeling about what’s right.  So lot of clubs don’t offer a personal service, and scaling the model up to hundreds of members is difficult, but there’s no reason that all clubs should be in touch with absent members, it’s just the right thing to do.  

Check back for future blog posts to find out ways of contacting absent members, who will do it, and how to go about making the call.  

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