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How to Lose—or Keep—Members

By Patricia Amend

My title, as I write this, is executive editor for CBI. In the last two decades, I can only estimate how many articles I’ve written on clubs and their operations, as well as trends and issues in the industry. I think it may be as many as 700.

Interviewing hundreds of club operators has, I think, taught me at least a little about clubs.           

Now I’m going to change hats. I’ve been a health club member for just as long at a number of clubs.

What I’d like to do here is point out some things that I think club owners often overlook which, I believe, really do mean a lot to members. I offer my opinions both as a journalist and as a customer.

Take my advice as you will—it comes from a good place.

© Faysal Farhan - Fotolia.comHire good-hearted people. This really makes a difference. The staff at my current club (which I won’t name), doesn’t know my name. However, I don’t care about that. What I do care about is that they greet me pleasantly, respond when I have a question, and bid me good night when I leave. In my book, the fact that they’re responsive is more important to me than their remembering that my name is Pat.

If a member reports a problem, pay attention. In this same club, I made a point of letting the front desk person know when my favorite piece of equipment had a glitch and didn’t work properly. As I said, the staff has been kind and responsive—but the manager wasn’t.

In one instance, I reported it, and asked that it be fixed. Several days later, when I came to the club, nothing had been done. I reported it a second time, and left a note for the manager as suggested, and still nothing. While I’d been on a first-name basis with the manager before this problem, she lost my goodwill and respect when she failed to acknowledge my correspondence and follow through on my reasonable request.

© Faysal Farhan - Fotolia.comDon’t ignore the details—even the small stuff. Another time, the music/TV system had problems—crackling and cutting out when I tried to use it while I worked out. I reported this also to the front desk; yet it took weeks to get it fixed. This isn’t a budget club, where I’m paying $19 a month, but a so-called “middle-market” facility, where my monthly membership fee is substantial, and has been slowly rising. I want to feel that I’m getting what I’m paying for—equipment that works.

Don’t nickel and dime people. At one point, I had an off-peak membership, which worked out fine due to my work schedule. Once that changed, I upgraded to a regular membership. Great! A salesperson easily opened a program on the computer and took care of it in just a few minutes. There was no charge to do so, except for the bump up in membership dues, which made sense.

However, when I asked about a reciprocal membership, which would allow me access to other clubs in the company’s system, the salesperson told me that I’d need to pay a $100 fee. Why the difference? That didn’t seem reasonable to me at all—especially since I wasn’t charged a fee to upgrade before, I’ve been a member for five years, and the economy remains sluggish. Didn’t seem like a smart move to me—at all.

© Faysal Farhan - Fotolia.comThe bottom line?

Despite these issues, I’ve not canceled my membership. Were the club not convenient for me, I would have on several occasions. For now, I’m watching the market for another, more responsive club that might suit my needs better.

While this club hasn’t lost me yet—it may soon.

I urge you to do your best to listen to your members so you keep committed people like me—who will bring in other, good members who are equally devoted to fitness.

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