The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



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How Your Gym’s Cancellation Policy Impacts the Member Experience

This post is an IHRSA Institute preview.

Today’s health club market is in a state of constant flux. It seems like every week there’s a new workout trend or must-have fitness technology, and it’s near impossible for independent clubs to keep up.  

On the bright side, your club is poised to deliver a competitive advantage that will never go out of style: a phenomenal member experience.

“The bottom line is we’re just so intensely competitive that the real differentiator is how you make someone feel,” says Chris Stevenson, owner and founder of Stevenson Fitness in Oak Park, CA. “When you’re able to create an environment that’s welcoming, the customers feel taken care of and appreciated. Coupled with getting results and improving their health, I believe that’s the biggest advantage in our industry.”

Rethink Your Cancellation Policy

To create a welcoming, member-centric environment, you first have to take a hard look at how you categorize your club’s finances. Not all profits are created equal—some are detrimental to the member experience. 

“Oftentimes companies and clubs will focus on what they call ‘bad profits’—that’s short-term thinking, trying to nickel-and-dime people, and as opposed to being invested for the long haul and keeping people longer and increasing retention,” Stevenson says. “I don’t think the right decision is always made for long-term health and customer satisfaction.” 

A common ‘bad profit’ among health clubs is the lengthy membership cancellation policy. A 60-day cancellation policy may provide an additional two months of dues, but it also creates an extremely negative experience for the member.

If you’re thinking, “Who cares? They’re leaving the club,” think again. The member could eventually come back if their situation changes, and even if they don’t they might recommend your club to friends and family—but not if they feel taken advantage of on the way out. 

That’s why Stevenson Fitness instated a 10-day cancellation policy. 

“We’re in the business of getting you healthy, even if you’re going to cancel,” Stevenson says. “We want it to be a good experience because we want you to come back.”

Focus on Hiring and Training Staff

Once you’ve reevaluated your approach to profits, Stevenson suggests turning your attention on the hiring process. At his club, all job candidates start with a group interview that is centered around questions pertaining to member experience.

Here are two of the questions they ask candidates to find out if they’re willing to go above and beyond:

  • Tell us three things you’re really proud of. (“Because we want to hear you take pride in the things that you do,” he says.)
  • Give us an example of a time you experienced great customer service.

Stevenson particularly takes note of how candidates respond to the second question “because I believe that for you to deliver it you have to know what it looks like.”

“It all starts in the hiring process and bringing people onboard that have that service culture and the attitude, energy, and desire to go above and beyond,” he says.

The journey to become more member centric doesn’t end once you’ve hired the right candidate—how you train them is just as critical. 

At Stevenson Fitness, new hires and long-time employees are regularly trained on reading body language, remembering members’ names, and other seemingly small details that can have a big impact on the member experience. 

“Oftentimes a great customer experience feels intangible, but we do everything we can to make it really tangible,” Stevenson says. “We actually monitor it and set expectations to be as specific as we can.”

IHRSA Institute attendees will learn more of Stevenson’s proven member-centric strategies during his Thursday, August 3 session “Member Retention, Experience & Engagement.”

During his session, you’ll learn how your organization can become more customer-centric and succeed at building member loyalty. Discover the importance of utilizing Net Promoter Scores and member feedback to deliver great customer experiences and gain the competitive advantage. Develop strategies to help your staff engage and retain members and explore practical approaches to deliver a service culture.

Learn more about the IHRSA Institute, August 1-4 in Chapel Hill, NC.