Friday, 16 March 2012

Communicating with Absent Members - Part 3, Who?

Calling absent members is one of the least popular jobs in the gym. Most instructors prefer cleaning to calling absentees. Sure, the gym needs to be clean, otherwise people will leave, but you could stop 6 people from dropping out by spending 30 minutes on a few phone calls.

The gym team are usually the ideal staff to call absent members and encourage them back into the club. They should have the best relationship with the members, having talked about their needs, goals, habits and exercise programme. Alternatively, you might have the person who signed up the member in the first place (useful for new absentees), or a retention officer or membership manager who makes all the calls.

It’s important that the team know that this is why they are making the calls, and what it is they are trying to achieve. If you need another carrot and stick to help instructors to make the calls, then;

  • Provide training & support in making the calls
  • Include calling absentees in their job description

A call is successful when the member returns to the club, not when they promise to do so, or when a voice-mail message has been left. Knowing what outcomes are acceptable and what follows is a key part of the process. If the member does not return after a call, when do you call again? How long after leaving a voice message do you try again? It can help staff to know that they have to record, say, 3 attempts before the contact is passed onto the membership manager, this way it is not an endless task.

So we now know that the intended outcome is to get the member back into the club. In retention workshops we have found that instructors don’t like ‘cold-calling’, and don’t know what to say to absent members. Role play is about as popular as making phone calls, but it can help with these issues…

Members do not join a club intending to leave. Good fitness instructors are motivated by helping people to get fitter or achieving their fitness goals. If you are selling anything, it is health and fitness, but it is certainly not cold calling!

Knowing what to say is simple if you have a little information from the front of house or retention system. As well as name and phone number, know when each member joined and last visited as a minimum. Bonus information might be their fitness goals and visit history, along with other recorded attempts to get them back.  If a message has already been sent, this is a great ice-breaker – “I’m just following up the message we sent last week…”

Contacting absent members should just be another regular task in the running of a successful club. It is part of good customer service, or trying to deliver health and fitness to your members. Some of them need extra help, and will really appreciate your efforts.

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