11 Best Practice Guidelines to Increase Customer Retention

In a competitive market, being able to predict and maintain recurring revenue is critical. Retaining your members and clients may now form the lifeblood to your business’ bottom line.

Paul Bedford, Ph.D., research director at Retention Guru, contributed to this article.

High member and customer retention is a critical element of any successful fitness business. Retaining an existing member demands far less investment than recruiting new ones. IHRSA research shows that a member that leaves can cost as much as $674 in annual revenue per dropped account.

According to a survey by Invesp Consulting, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25-95%. The success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60-70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is only 5-20%.

If you are looking for ideas on how to improve member retention, follow the best practices below and then check out the additional resources at the end of the article to learn more.

This article is one in a series of 28 Best Practice Guidelines for Operating a Fitness Facility.

Building a Strong Customer Retention Strategy

For your business to be successful, you need to focus on the ones that make it succeed—your customers. Follow these guidelines and increase your member retention strategy.

  1. Ensure Your Members Are Using the Gym
  2. Engage Your Customers
  3. Build Relationships
  4. Help Your Customers Succeed

Ultimately, making sure your members are happy will in turn create loyal customers that will keep coming back.

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Ensure Your Members Are Using the Gym

1. Drive visit frequency and ensure customers are using your facility 1-3 times per week (4-12 times per month). Start with the lower end of the range and help customers ramp up to the higher end of the range.

2. Use group fitness classes to help customers develop a same day, same time routine. Build your class schedule so that customers can attend the same class 2-3 times each week at the same time. Make it easy for your customers to add classes to their calendar.

Engage Your Customers

3. Create a retention plan for inactive customers and initiate a re-engagement strategy, such as automated email campaigns based on visit history.

4. Create programs specific to the demographics in your club and in your community. Don’t get distracted by industry trends that don’t fit your demographic. Evaluate every program you offer to identify the impact it has on customer retention.

5. Customers age 35+ are sometimes easier to retain than customers under age 35. But you should program for all age groups within your market.

6. Provide customers with multiple options to do business with you. Consider an option that offers cost savings, possibly with an annual commitment, which may help the customer make a psychological commitment. Ideally, you will have 2-3 membership options.

Build Relationships

7. Create a relational community within your facility. Engage and socialize with your customers.

8. Welcome customers when they enter your facility. Interact with them throughout your facility. Ask questions and engage them in conversation. Ask them when they are coming in for their next visit. Ideally, there are at least three interactions: a warm welcome, connection during their activity of choice, and a fond farewell.

9. Understand that customer discontent kills retention. Discontent is everything that gets in the way of a positive experience. Over time, singular issues and incidents can ultimately create a tipping point that results in the customer leaving your facility.

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Help Your Customers Succeed

10. Use goal setting to build confidence and achieve customer happiness. Identify the customer’s superordinate goal, which is the key driver of their behavior. Ask them what achieving their goal will do for them. The answer is essentially their version of confidence or happiness. Break down large goals into smaller, daily goals—e.g., What is your goal for today? What is their dominant buying motive?

11. Develop an onboarding process for customers who are new to exercise. This helps build confidence to come into the facility and competence to use the facility. Building customer confidence when it comes to using the facility is paramount to their success.

Make sure to follow the 28 Best Practice Guidelines for Operating a Fitness Facility series as we cover topics like group fitness, sales and customer acquisition, and more in upcoming articles.

Additional Customer Retention Resources for Fitness Professionals

IHRSA has an extensive library of retention articles, webinars, publications, and videos. View our member retention section to learn more about how to retain your members and customers. A few key resources are listed below.

How to Maximize Your Gym’s Data Strategy for Sales & Retention: This IHRSA ebook will help you to make sense of psychographics, CRM, Biometric, and survey data to improve your sales and retention.

The Definitive Health Club Member Retention Toolkit: (Member exclusive) This IHRSA toolkit is designed to help you create a strategy to keep members active and engaged in your club from the day they join and for years to come! It discusses:

  • Why members quit (and how to make them stay);

  • Onboarding strategies;

  • The role staff play in member retention;

  • How fitness technology enhances member engagement; and

  • A member retention tune-up checklist.

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This article was a team effort by several IHRSA experts.