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To Boost Member Retention, Prioritize the Member Experience

This is an associate feature post, sponsored by Digilock.

March Madness is right around the corner, which means the New Year’s Resolutions crowd has probably already started waning. As the January 1st frenzy fades, many health clubs and facilities are left with empty ellipticals, unused weight rooms, and one longing question: why did our members leave?

Studies have shown that companies that prioritize the customer experience generate as much as 60% higher profits than their competitors—this is directly applicable to your health club or gym. Creating an environment that consistently meets your members’ standards can be a daunting task, so we recommend taking some of the following key factors into consideration to ensure enhanced levels of customer retention. 

Location, Accessibility, and Hours

An important consideration for many gym-goers is, not surprisingly, the location. How close is your gym to residential spaces or neighborhoods? Is it easy to access, or is it isolated from a majority of the city’s population? If it is somewhat excluded from the busier parts of town, be sure to provide adequate signage nearby. Many people cite accessibility as a reason for abandoning a gym routine, so do whatever is possible to facilitate their trip to and from your gym.

Most facilities don’t have the luxury of being able to move locations once established, so consider the flexibility of your hours of operation. If you open at 8 a.m. and close at 6 p.m., you are depriving a huge segment of the gym-going population of their workout. In addition to creating flexible hours to suit your clients, consider promotional events or discounts during off hours. Although late-night gym sessions are unappealing to some, a discounted rate may offset the inconvenience factor and encourage attendance among the cost-conscious. Ultimately, you should strive to be a gym that fits the needs of a majority of your clientele.

Equipment and Classes

Fitting the needs of the majority of your clientele doesn’t just stop at hours of operation. The greater the variety in equipment, facilities, and classes, the easier it will be to satisfy a greater number of needs. Do you provide a variety of machines targeted to a single muscle group, or is there only one Smith machine, one leg press, etc.? Less equipment means longer wait times, which may discourage clients altogether.

Are the machines newer or are they on the outdated side? A gym with updated equipment can mean a greater degree of comfort, which can ultimately attract a greater number of new customers, and increase retention.

Many gyms offer a variety of instructor-led classes to their members. Consider whether your facility offers an assortment of classes at various times, as this is an important element of attracting clientele. If there is a class that you do not offer, consider polling current members in order to find out which classes they would like to see offered in the future. 

How easy is the registration process? Do you offer multiple sections of one class during the week? More popular classes, such as beginner’s yoga, might fill up pretty quickly, and will likely benefit from having multiple sections. Additionally, consider offering free classes with your memberships, as this provides great incentives for both prospective and existing customers.  

Locker Rooms and Other Amenities

What sorts of amenities does your facility provide (e.g., pool, sauna, hot tub, basketball court, indoor fields, climbing wall) and are they well maintained? If your gym has few amenities and you do not want to invest in expensive rock climbing walls, consider a lesser alternative, such as a communal seating area or a television set for guests.

Locker rooms are one of the best places in the club where you can differentiate from the competition. While the locker room might not be the first thing that attracts members to your facility, providing the right experience and ensuring your locker rooms are up-to-date, clean, and safe can make a big impression and dramatically help with member retention. As this is the one area that almost every member sees at some point during his or her visit, the locker room should be an integral part of the member experience. From aesthetics to cleanliness, your locker room sets the tone for the rest of your facility.

For instance, a pre-work trip to the gym will require appropriate amenities, such as showers and changing rooms, and perhaps even a hairdryer. Post-work or after school trips to the gym might mean carrying laptops and other expensive devices that need to be stored securely. You most likely already have lockers in your facility, but if you do not already provide locks, consider offering built-in locks so your members don’t have to worry about bringing locks.

Better yet—consider upgrading to electronic locks so your members won’t have to worry about carrying keys. Losing valuables is likely to put a damper on one’s workout, and may deter future visits altogether.

Read more about the importance of securing valuables in health and fitness clubs.

Staff and Maintenance

Even the flashiest, most impressive gyms are only as welcoming as the person working the front desk. Gauge how your staff reacts to and welcomes those entering the gym. Are they friendly? Approachable? Remember, if a member requires any sort of assistance, your staff members are expected to answer the call.

Invest in adequate training for your team, as they will be the face of your facility. If your gym offers personalized training, be sure that trainers are professional and accessible to clients. Consider including free initial assessments for new guests, as this could promote a positive jump-start to a new routine that keeps members coming back for more. If training sessions are available at an additional cost, incorporate options at various price points to meet the needs of your various customers.

Beyond ensuring pleasant customer service, make sure that the environment in your gym is equally satisfactory. How well maintained is the gym? Is it clean? Whether in the weight room or the locker room, a lack of cleanliness takes a toll on member experience. 

Price and Budget 

The last factor to address is surely the number one concern for many potential new members as well as existing members: price of membership.

Where does your facility stand within the wide spectrum of price ranges offered in today’s diverse market? What do you offer that could justify a higher fee? An honest assessment is necessary here in order to construct a number that accurately reflects the comforts and amenities your gym offers. In order to acquire more memberships, many gyms offer tiered-pricing options, providing more membership features to those willing to pay for them and reserving a more basic package for those on a tighter budget. It is also important to decide if any features will require an additional cost on top of membership (classes, personal training, etc.).

All aspects previously discussed come into play here, so make sure that your calculation is thorough and comprehensive. Though a higher fee may discourage some from attending your gym, the features and amenities that you provide can be sufficiently enticing and ultimately render you the optimal choice.

Last but Not Least: Community

Don’t forget to create a sense of community—a supportive and inspirational environment goes a long way to promoting consistent attendance and boosting overall member retention.

From offering workshops to sending out monthly newsletters with educational articles on relevant health and fitness topics and success stories, fostering a community helps to make your club a second home for members—a safe place where members can feel encouraged, inspired, and surrounded by friends.