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.



From educational tools and events to promotional programs and public policy initiatives, IHRSA brings you success... by association!

Join | Renew
Pledge Your Support

Search IHRSA Blog

Welcome to the IHRSA Blog

The Online Home of news.

Blog Home |  Subscribe to our RSS Feed

Entries in feedback (8)


Best Practices: 4 Ways to Solicit Health Club Member Feedback

The following post was written by Christine Thalwitz for our Best Practices series.

Question: Knowing the importance of listening to members, how should I solicit feedback to improve customer service?

To have a complete picture of your members’ expectations and perceptions, it’s important to make use of feedback.

1. Customer-initiated Communication

Open-ended, customer-driven systems, such as suggestion boxes, Q&A boards, and “open-door” policies are valuable because they allow members to share their thoughts spontaneously, especially when there’s an acute need to respond to them. Of course, it’s also important to make sure that your team members “own” any complaint they hear.

2. Company-prompted Contact 

Focus groups, surveys, and member advisory committees can yield highly focused information that can help you make better strategic decisions. And you can time these interactions to measure particular aspects of various products or services.

3. Unarticulated Feedback 

Also pay attention to your members’ body language, which can express volumes. Sometimes, a warm greeting or a simple apology for an inconvenience may be all that’s needed to smooth things over. It’s also valuable to track other ways that members “vote with their feet,” such as program participation and club attendance.

4. Conversations Outside the Club 

Of course, social media has made it easier than ever for customers to share their opinions. In addition to creating your own presence online, monitor other channels that your customers frequent. Whenever you encounter complaints, consider it an opportunity to respond positively and publicly.

Christine Thalwitz
Vice President of Marketing
ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers
Charlottesville, VA


Gaining Insight from the Customer Feedback Loop

This post is sponsored by Iron Grip Barbell Company:

Listening to your customers is the number one way to increase satisfaction and reduce churn. Keeping an open dialogue shows that you care, and goes a long way toward building healthy, lasting relationships between your club and its members. Not to mention, your members are constantly thinking of ways that your business could be better. Your members’ feedback tells you which of your employees are doing their jobs well or not. Feedback can tell you which processes and procedures are helpful or frustrating. It can tell you if your pricing and discounts are working for you or against you. And it can tell you which equipment in your gym is the most needed and appreciated.

Learn more about receiving feedback from your members.

Click to read more ...


Industry Leaders Treated to Motionsoft’s Technology Summit

You would think a talk about the soon-to-be-unveiled Apple watch’s health and fitness features from Apple’s director of Fitness and Health technologies would be the highlight of a technology event.

While the keynote from Jay Blahnik certainly was a highlight, the 60 or so top health and fitness industry executives and thought leaders at Motionsoft’s inaugural Technology Summit were treated to much more. The main focus was to highlight best practices for solving new technology challenges in the industry.

Read More.

Click to read more ...


Questionnaires among ways to get member feedback

Feedback is important. How else do you know if you are doing a good job, or if the club offers everything your members want?

That is why IHRSA tries to offer up as many hints, ideas and fellow members' programs that work for them.

This week Simon Gale, Colleen Braun and Michael Hoeber Jenkins chime in on what works at their respective clubs.

Q: How does your club solicit feedback from members about their club experience, and how is the feedback used?

A: We solicit feedback from our members via an annual club survey that we send out in January. We email it to members and also make it available at the front desk. The survey asks what new equipment, facility changes and new programming the client would like to see. We charge an enhancement fee each year and implement the most-requested changes. This usually includes adding new pieces of the latest equipment or improving a particular area of the club. Members are very happy with the changes and can clearly see that the money is used for their benefit.

Michael Hoeber Jenkins
Body Kinetics, LLC
Mill Valley & Novato, California

We randomly distribute a brief questionnaire asking members about their experience at the club and asking for ways in which we could improve. We also try to connect face to face and talk to our clients personally on a regular basis as they work out, participate in classes, etc. In addition, we hold a weekly conference call and review the thoughts, ideas and feedback with our staff. We then communicate changes and solutions through our monthly newsletter. I have also considered developing a club member advisory board, but have yet to do that.

Colleen Braun
Anytime Fitness  
Madelia & Springfield, Minnesota

Due to the relationships our desk staff has made with our customers, feedback tends to be given directly to them and passed on to management. We also make a point of getting out from behind the desk and interacting with customers in the lobby. Being a tennis club, we have had great success with "parent weeks" where the parents come down onto the courts and are a part of their child's lesson. We answer any questions/concerns they have about their child's progress. By getting feedback and dealing with it head on, we avoid any end of season complaints that may result in a child quitting.

Simon Gale
General Manager & Director of Instruction
Yonkers Tennis Center
Yonkers, New York



Getting feedback from members is imperative to improving

If you don't know your members aren't happy then how are you supposed to fix it?

That is one great thing about getting feedback and suggestions. Whether they are in person, through Facebook, a form on your website, e-mail or an old-fashioned suggestion box, all forms work.

The key is, however, is taking them into consideration, as a management team.

This week's Best Practices talks to three experts and gets their ... um, feedback ...  on what works best.

 Q: How does your club solicit feedback from members about any/all aspects of their club experience, and how is that feedback used?

A: WoW uses an online customer support system, whereby members can open help-tickets for any questions or issues they may encounter. The system is branded WoW but runs via software called Zendesk. Internally and to members, it is referred to as Contact Us. Contact Us tickets can be opened via kiosks located at each club and also accessed online. WoW has a dedicated team of four individuals who read each ticket. Tickets are answered within 72 hours. We have a manager who tracks “issues and trends” and reviews recurring topics with department directors or in corporate team meetings.

Stephen Roma
WoW Workout World
Brick, N.J.


A: Communication with members is innate to our philosophy of treating the whole person. We solicit, listen and respond to feedback in a multitude of ways, both formal and informal. Comment cards are available at all desks and all comments are reviewed each week by the management team. From our front desk staff to our membership team, exercise specialists to waitstaff in the restaurant, we routinely ask our members about their experience and how we can make it better. We always take their comments seriously and look for ways to effectively address concerns and celebrate and build on what is working.

Ruth Stricker
The Marsh
Minnetonka, Minn.

Our members give us feedback through Facebook, via suggestion forms, to department heads and directly to me. I work six days a week, 10 hours a day, and members often come up to me and give me their input - even when I'm working out. We then discuss each issue during our weekly staff meetings and decide what needs to be done, if anything. Sometimes members request the strangest things. In the end, it’s up to me to decide whether their request will be fulfilled.

John Chen
General Manager/ Vice President
Fitness Factory
Kaohsiung, Taiwan 





How do you collect and use feedback?

Any area of business wants to know what its clients think of the job is doing. The fitness and health club industry is no different.

This week's Best Practices question asks about how to solicit the opions of members and how a club should then use the information.

Industry veterans Patricia Laus, Laury Hammel and Scott Gillespie each weigh in on the subject.

Q: How does your club solicit feedback from members about any/all aspects of their club experience, and how is the feedback used?

A: We have four methods of collecting customer feedback:

1) All members of the staff are trained on taking feedback from members and passing it on to the appropriate manager;

2) We have suggestion boxes throughout the club;

3) We have a "give us feedback" link on our website; and

4) We have hired a customer experience management firm, Medallia, to do e-mail surveys to our membership on a random quarterly basis. This is based on the net promoter score question, but goes deeper to allow specific rankings of key club operations like each department’s staff friendliness, locker room and showers, billing department, facility, and equipment availability. These results are dashboarded and ranked, allowing us to see trends, and prioritize our responses. 

Scott Gillespie
Saco Sport & Fitness


Our managers conduct one-on-one surveys on-site with our members, and we also do online surveys via SurveyMonkey. This year, we will launch the Medallia survey product for our entire membership in both locations, as well as our non-member related businesses which will provide a numerical ranking from 1-10 on how we perform each day within each of our core businesses. We believe having a clear understanding about the needs of the member/customer and also being sure that our member/customer knows we are concerned about their requests are required in developing long-term relationships and successfully growing our business.

Patricia Laus
Chief Executive Officer
The Atlantic Club



A: Each year, we conduct a member survey via e-mail. It asks the same 10 basic questions ever year. They include, ‘On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being great, how do you rate your overall experience at the club?’ and ‘Do you find our staff to be friendly and service oriented?’ We also ask if they would recommend our club to their friends, relatives and colleagues. The response rate to the survey is about 25%, which is quite good. We also get a lot of feedback year-round through our “Express Yourself” forms as well as in person to our staff members, who are quite approachable. We take all member feedback very seriously.

Laury Hammel
The Longfellow Club


How Do You Solicit Feedback for Superior Customer Service?

Nicki Anderson and Christine Thalwitz discuss the importance of soliciting feedback from your members for superior customer service in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "Knowing the importance of listening to your members, how do you solicit feedback to provide superior customer service?"

A: I think one of the biggest mistakes I see clubs make is not understanding the value of building relationships. Every service business talks about the value of building relationships, yet the health and fitness industry continues to fall short. If you have a strong relationship with your members, you’re more likely to hear if something isn’t going well. You’re also more likely to hear when things are going well. I always make an effort to talk to clients that work with other trainers and ask how they’re doing. I think that’s imperative. If you’re building relationships with your members, they are also far more likely to talk to you first, before just leaving your facility, why? Because within that relationship, you’ve also created loyalty, an invaluable asset. 

For a less personal way to get feedback or if you have a much larger facility, send an online survey with an incentive. However, I believe there is really nothing that beats face-to-face conversation. Managers, trainers, supervisors should all be trained on how to build relationships with the members. This will greatly reduce attrition and build loyalty.

Nicki Anderson AFP, CPT
Reality Fitness


A:  Customer-focused organizations have a well-designed strategy for gathering feedback on a regular basis. Make it easy and comfortable for your members and guests to share suggestions, praise or complaints in a variety of formats, including pen and paper, online, or face-to-face exchanges.

In order for clubs to have a complete picture of their members’ expectations and perceptions, it is important to reference several different sources of data: 

1) Customer-initiated communication. Open-ended, customer-driven systems, such as suggestion boxes, Q&A boards and “open door” policies, are valuable because they allow members to share their thoughts spontaneously, especially when there may be an acute need for company response. Furthermore, make it part of your company’s culture for team members to “own” any complaint they hear. Hopefully your team spends a large portion of the day engaged in conversation with your members. They may uncover frustrations or unfulfilled needs as they talk. This is an opportunity to make customer service magic! Give team members the latitude to solve problems without a lot of red tape. Their ability to respond promptly and personally to complaints makes it easier for them to provide superior service.

2)    Company-prompted contact. Focus groups, surveys and member advisory committees can yield tightly focused information to help companies make better strategic decisions. Here the company has the ability to limit the scope of feedback and to time the interaction in order to measure particular aspects of products or services. When collecting structured data, clubs need to ensure that results are not skewed by inadequate sample size or sampling bias. Unstructured data, though not necessarily reliable for making broad generalizations, can provide meaningful context to help make sense of quantitative data.

3)    Unarticulated feedback. Feedback is everywhere you look. Your members’ body language can tell you a lot about the experience they are having at your club. A warm greeting or a simple apology for an inconvenience may be all that is needed to smooth things over. You may, however, see bigger issues brewing, such as long shower lines or equipment shortages. Tracking club attendance, program participation and other ways that members “vote with their feet” is important, too.

4)    Conversation outside the club. Social media has made it easier than ever for customers to share their opinions. Harness this incredible tool to your advantage! You can use social media to create positive momentum for your club, conduct market research and build stronger relationships with your members. In addition to creating your own presence online, monitor other channels your customers frequent. While you may occasionally encounter complaints, consider it an opportunity to demonstrate how responsive your company is to its members.  Responding positively and publicly to resolve a member complaint is a powerful display of your commitment to customer service.

Regardless of what methods you use to gather data, the most important thing to do is understand the results and act on them!

Christine Thalwitz
Director of Communications and Research
ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers


This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday morning. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.


Asking Better Questions

Q: “I want to ask better questions in order to really help my guest figure out why they made the decision to come to the gym... not the surface reason like "I was curious" or "My friend asked me to come"... the real reason?”

A: When guests come to our clubs, we generally only scratch the surface to the deep down reason because we don’t have rapport. As a result we get a superficial answer: “I want to get fit!”

I believe that to get the REAL reason someone has come into the club starts way before you ask them. 

You have to ensure when they have their first contact with the gym (phone or walk in) that it is an awesome experience where they feel that they are the only person in the world. They must initially feel that you genuinely care about them.

Then when they arrive the congruence of the care factor must continue. Your front desk team show support and caring when they arrive and your membership consultant continues seeing your guest as a person and not a commission dollar!

Your guest will now be closer to trusting your organization and you. This trust will mean you have permission to ask more probing questions. But not yet!

Begin your face to face conversation asking about them and their life. You need to be genuine and show an authentic curiosity about them. When you feel that there is bond between you and your guest, then ask “So what brought you down today?”

This preparation will guarantee to get the REAL reason that have made the decision to join the gym.

Justin Tamsett 
REX Round Tables
Twitter: @JTActiveMgmt

A: The answer lies in learning effective verbal and non-verbal communication skills when talking with a prospect over the phone and/or in person. To best execute this, you first need to understand the typical thoughts and behaviors that are normally present with a prospect. Things such as “fear of failure”, “lack of confidence and intrinsic motivation to succeed”, “time constraints” and “past failure and negative feelings towards exercise” are often the types of barriers that a prospect faces when inquiring about a fitness membership.

Remember, these people are in the “contemplation” stage of making a decision to exercise and although the club’s features and pricing are objections you might need to overcome, the key is building a solid rapport to overcome any barriers regarding their attitudes and behaviors toward exercise.

To build a solid rapport and to truly discover the deep feelings motivating your guest to come to the gym on that occasion, these are tips of “Verbal Mastery” I use in training both front desk and membership staff at health clubs using the ClubReady Inc. Productivity Management Solution all across the US:

  1. Use calming, positive and re-assuring body language. Talk and position your body “on their side” so to be as non-confrontational as possible. An example of what NOT to do is to ask personal questions about their goals while standing opposite the guest at a front desk counter.
  2. Play the part! Make sure you dress and act like a Fitness Professional NOT a salesperson. This creates believability and allows for a serious conversation on the guests goals and needs. If on the phone, explain your “role” as fitness expert or fitness enthusiast in the very least.
  3. Master your Intonation! – relay your message verbally in a calming, yet very energetic tone. This means you show some excitement and passion in learning about the guest, but do not speak to fast or aggressively.
  4. Use the power of the pause. Ask questions that “elicit” specific responses and then pause and wait for the real answer. For example, simple questions like “when were you in best physical condition of your life…?”, “have you ever truly enjoyed a health club membership before…?”, and “how can I personally help you achieve your goals…?” are all simple questions that typically delve deep into the minds of your guests unlocking a wealth of information while building rapport while showcasing your passion.
  5. Listen! After setting the stage with the correct body language, approach, attire, attitude and verbal mastery; just sit back relax and LISTEN! Amazingly, a lot of us get so tied up in rambling about the club’s features, we forget about “listening to” our guest at all!

Chris Gallo, President
Health Club Development Company

A: Usually the real answer as to why someone comes into the gym does not come by asking just one question. The best way to understand why people are coming into your gym is by making a connection with them and engaging in a conversation. Some of the conversation starters that we use at Fitcorp are:

  • What is your fitness goal?
  • What are you interested in?
  • How can Fitcorp help you meet your benchmarks?
  • Where would you like your fitness level to be in 3 months? 5 months?
  • What has worked well for you in the past? What hasn’t worked?, etc.

These questions help jump-start a dialogue that will allow you to gauge a clearer and more accurate picture of why that individual has decided to come into your gym. Once you learn some of their trigger points and interests, it is easier to provide a better and more effective tour, experience and sales effort.

Emily Liskow, General Manager
Fitcorp - Prudential