Is there a connection between gym culture and member retention?
You know a good gym when you see one, and it goes beyond a clean, modern facility and equipment. The receptionist is welcoming and helpful. Positive energy and good vibes exude from smiling, sweaty customers. Trainers engage in productive conversations with their clients. The enthusiasm and fun of a group class make you want to jump right in.
We can all picture this idealistic gym in our heads, but how do you achieve one in reality?
Look no further than our complete guide of tips that boost your retention rates by cultivating a relational, engaging gym culture! And make sure to check out Exercise.com’s All-in-One Business Platform: the real secret to business success and profit!
Top Priority: Customer Service
While some attrition is inevitable, the average fitness center has an annual attrition rate of 28.6%. Almost a third of customers leaving a fitness establishment every year should give pause to any manager and question why this occurs.
— Why Do Customers Stick Around?
In order to explore creative ways to retain members, we must first know why they remain loyal.
A growing trend across all businesses is services given without any personal interaction. This might be most prominently seen in the popularity of mobile ordering food and beverages: get your order without even making eye contact. These customers aren’t the ones managers worry about retaining; as long as the service is correct, these customers usually return.
The customers who sever their membership contract are the ones who aren’t engaged or have found a better arrangement somewhere else. This can happen for a variety of reasons, leaving managers scratching their heads, hoping attrition doesn’t become a trend.
To once again return to the foodservice analogy, not many of us would return to a restaurant where the waiter was snappy, our order was wrong, and the manager didn’t refund the error. If the manager was apologetic and the wrong righted, we might give them a second or third chance, however, we remain skeptical and unattached to the establishment, ready to find an alternative.
But we all have a restaurant, coffee shop, or grocery store we frequent because we are known, valued, and appreciated. The employees know our name and our order, they ask about our families, jobs, and lives, and thank us for our loyalty.
Fitness centers are not that different from food service. Especially in cities where gyms are almost as prevalent as fast-food restaurants, loyal gym members are the ones who feel known, valued, and appreciated, instead of hopping to the next gym down the street. They also experience the results predicted by their personal trainers.
— Deliver Top Customer Service
For many members, their dedication is based upon how they feel after being at your gym–about themselves, the staff, or the other members. If members don’t feel included in the gym’s community or connected to staff and those around them, they’re less likely to renew their membership.
However, companies that prioritize customer service experience 60% higher profits than their competitors. It should be the top priority of every fitness center, then, to provide the best customer experience and service. Check out the video above for more reasons why customer service matters.
It Starts at the Top
— Have a Captivating Vision
Go beyond simply providing a space where people can exercise; how will your fitness center change peoples’ lives? Choose three or four words that sum up and describe what you’re hoping to achieve, then write compelling mission, value, and vision statements that are customer-oriented.
If these statements aren’t empowering, exciting, and engaging, chances are your employees won’t feel this way either. This means customer service will be lacking, with attrition soon to follow.
— Hiring the Right People
When filling a vacant position, you want to hire people who are motivated by your mission, value, and vision statements. The new hiree should be someone who upholds these statements. If employees aren’t committed to seeing your vision fulfilled, then customer service will suffer. Watch this video to learn what to look for in an employee:
As IHRSA so aptly states: “Every hiring decision is a retention decision.” This means every employee is responsible for retention by keeping a positive atmosphere and customer service experience.
However, it is crucial to understand that not every applicant is capable of doing this! Some applicants may have a more prestigious certification, more experience, or know all the right answers, but managers must discern the applicant who truly upholds the vision for the fitness center. It might not be the applicant who looks most appealing on paper.
When you’ve hired the right people, your employees share and live the company’s values. This means there’s less need to micromanage because everyone is working towards the same goal. When conflict arises, you can easily get back on the same page by returning to the company’s values. This creates a more peaceful and productive gym culture, aiding in retention.
— Cut Your Losses
Hiring and training of new staff is expensive and time-consuming. Managers may struggle to cut grumbling, divisive, abrasive, or lazy employees to avoid the hassle and cost of finding a replacement. It’s especially tempting when such employees convert enough sales to make their grim personality worth bearing. However, this is detrimental in the long run.
Spending time and energy trying to keep the difficult employees happy will drive your excellent employees away. Worse still, those great employees will be hired by another gym and build up your competitors with superior customer service.
It’s important to understand why an employee isn’t cooperating with company standards:
- They Can’t: The inability to perform duties can be overcome through proper training and accountability.
- They Might: The inconsistency to properly perform required duties can be overcome through coaching, written documentation, and goals.
- They Won’t: The unwillingness or refusal to perform required duties should be met with employment termination.
Once determining where an employee stands, it’s your responsibility to take the appropriate action. If termination is necessary, then that is the best decision for your business! Your customers and other employees might even thank you!
Tips for Quality Gym Culture: The Business
Once you have assembled a team that is pumped about the company’s values and vision, take time to carefully analyze every aspect of your business to maximize the customer service opportunities.
— Lead By Example
First off, make sure the managers are worth emulating. Why? Because what leaders do in moderation, followers will do in excess. If your managers aren’t leading well or holding employees accountable, the business will suffer.
#2 – Enjoy Your Work
Everyone appreciates a manager (or employee!) who enjoys their work. Their passion is infectious, encouraging their whole team to have a positive attitude and work ethic. Lead by example and find enjoyment in every part of your job, even if it’s cleaning the bathrooms again. Everyone is watching you, all of the time! Make the most of your influence and inspire your team to be their best.
#3 – Make Introductions
Be quick to introduce yourself to anyone who is unfamiliar. Although this could be a new employee, usually this will be with new members. Take a few minutes to get to know them, thank them for choosing your gym, and encourage them to ask you any questions they might have.
But don’t stop there! Introduce new members to longstanding members, as well. This eases the new member into the gym culture by breaking the ice of awkwardness, encouraging an inclusive gym community culture.
#4 – Interact with Everyone
It’s easy to only talk to the members with outgoing personalities, where conversation flows freely and easily. But lead by example and interact with all gym members, even the ones who are less talkative or regular attenders. Plus, talking to members who come irregularly is a great way to encourage more commitment and participation in your gym!
#5 – Care For Your Team
Your gym culture is essentially the personality of your gym. Where does this personality come from? Your staff! A staff that feels valued and appreciated, as seen in the video above, will be inspired to be their best, work cooperatively, and contribute their personality to the culture of the gym.
Have regular conversations with your employees that go beyond small-talk and what they did on the weekend. Get to know them as people, what they like and dislike. Involve your team in appropriate decisions, provide clear communication, celebrate birthdays, plan team-bonding activities, and more! Such efforts will be rewarded with a stronger gym culture that retains members.
— Create an Inviting Atmosphere
Since gyms are a service-based company, every single impression counts. One of the first things people notice about your fitness center is the atmosphere.
#6 – Create a Community
Humans have an innate desire to belong to a group. If there’s one easy way to retain members, it’s through creating a deep-knit gym community where members feel a sense of belonging. This takes careful planning and strategy, keeping your pulse on needs and trends, and creating space and opportunities for social connections.
We will discuss community-building ideas in more detail throughout this article, but keep the following areas in mind:
- Each Age Group: Teenagers connect differently than college-aged than middle-aged than seniors. Consider how to maximize community engagement in each age range. Younger members may want more social media interaction, whereas older members may want face-to-face interaction.
- Each Means of Connection: Leave no stone unturned when it comes to ways to connect! Texts, phone calls, emails, social media, websites, member activities or outings, social spaces inside the gym, and more! The more avenues you provide for connection, the more opportunities you have to retain members.
#7 – Create Social Spaces
IHRSA reports that 60% of gym members attribute social motivation as their primary reason for attending a gym. Additionally, 70% of gym members who have relationships or social connections with other gym members self-identified as club promoters in the community! (Word-of-mouth advertising is 92% more effective than other forms of advertisements!)
This means gyms should utilize non-exercise areas to encourage socialization! An easy way to do this is to observe where pockets of people tend to gather and talk. Then add some furniture or decor that makes the space more available and inviting for socialization.
For example, add tables and chairs around the juice bar, make the lounge more interactive, update the locker room so members can mingle, and make the waiting areas outside groups classes more inviting. The more areas you provide for people to connect and build relationships, the greater your retention.
#8 – Get Feedback
Do members enjoy coming to your gym? Why or why not? Encourage regular feedback from your members, whether it’s verbally or through an email survey. Feedback provides insight into the mind of your customers. It staves off attrition because it allows customers to feel heard and you to make changes that might drive customers away.
Include your front desk staff and trainers in acquiring feedback. Members may not have the courage or time to share their opinions or preferences with you, but the staff might have beneficial suggestions. For example, trainers might notice frustration when a machine routinely has a line, or maybe the floor plan isn’t conducive to traffic flow. Including your staff encourages greater loyalty and ownership, which ultimately results in greater customer retention.
For more tips on how to utilize feedback to grow your business, watch the TEDx video above!
#9 – Improve Group Exercise Classes
Whether it’s the desire to connect or not knowing how to exercise, many members across all age groups participate in group exercise classes. In fact, 36% of members participate in fitness classes. Engage more members by considering the following improvements:
- Keep tabs on participants. The experience is less enjoyable if a certain class is popular and overcrowded. Consider providing additional times for overpopulated classes by cutting less popular classes.
- Regularly survey members for which classes they attend and how often. Offer potential classes that would provide additional member engagement and get feedback if members would participate.
- Offer post-class social events, such as encouraging socialization after classes either in-house or out in the community.
- Encourage participation in group classes (because group classes open doors for social connections, and social connections improve retention!) by offering an incentive like a free gym shirt or water bottle after completion of a set of group classes.
#10 – Improve Gym Floor Experience
As mentioned above, overcrowding–especially during peak hours–can frustrate members and discourage completing a full workout. To combat this, track each machine’s use and consider replacing machines that aren’t used as often for machines that are.
For example, leg press machines may not be as popular (or have as long of a wait) as treadmills. Trading out a few leg machines for treadmills will result in greater customer satisfaction and retention.
Additionally, make sure all equipment is cleaned properly and regularly examined for safety. Keep the bathrooms, showers, locker rooms, and other amenity areas clean and functional. Replace or repair broken items or equipment quickly so as to not disturb a member’s experience.
#11 – Have the Best Software
You can have the most knowledgable staff, cleanest facility, and bonded gym community, but without the right software, something will be missing.
Exercise.com’s All-in-One Business Platform is the secret ingredient to retaining members. Check out what is offered through our comprehensive program:
|Management Software||WORKOUT SOFTWARE||E-COMMERCE SOFTWARE||PERFORMANCE HEALTH ASSESSMENT SOFTWARE|
|Schedule Appointments and Classes||Easy-to-Use Workout Routine & Plan Creator||Sell Memberships/Training Packages||Turn Leads Into Clients|
|Automate Payments Securely & Easily||Deliver Workouts for Any Scenario||Sell Single Workout Plans||Engage Clients via Assessments|
|Online & In Person Booking||Customize Your Own Exercise Library||Deliver Individual Training||Track Measurement and Other Data|
|Automated Email, Text, App Reminders||Client & Trainer Workout Logging App||Run Workout Challenges||Deliver Personalized Workouts|
|Business Dashboard & Reports||Workout Progress Made Easy||Sell Recurring Workout Memberships||Track Nutrition Goals|
|Staff Roles, Permissions and Schedules||Automated Workout Engagement|
|Endless Marketing Integrations|
|Manage Unlimited Client Base|
|Manage Software from Anywhere|
Our software increases retention by keeping things simple, easy, and fun for your members. They can track their workouts, stay in communication with trainers, join groups for community and accountability, and more on our user-friendly website and app.
Managers can easily moderate paperwork, billing, and scheduling. Trainers can design workouts, introduce new exercises with videos, track client progress, and so much more! It’s a software that you can personalize for your business to maximize member retention.
Grow and manage your fitness business better with Exercise.com
Tips to Engage Members
Now that everything is set up to welcome and impress your customers, it’s time to win them over with a personalized exercise experience.
— The New Member
The first six weeks are crucial to building the relationship that retains new members. This is the “first impression” period where a member makes up their mind about whether to renew their membership or not. Here are some ways to boost their retention probability:
#12 – Be Welcoming
This should go without saying, but as mentioned earlier, it’s easy to just smile and give an acknowledging nod at a new member. Instead, train all your staff to introduce themselves, offer help, get to know new members, incorporate them into the gym community, invite them to group classes, and countless other inclusive ideas. Watch this video to learn more:
This is not just for the first few times they show up, but for the critical six week period! It’s easy to forget that members are still new, even though they’ve come several times. A member who feels forgotten will have no regret canceling their membership. But a member who feels included, known, and missed when they are absent has an emotional connection that often results in a renewed membership
#13 – Include All Members
Most people have a reason for signing a membership contract: they have a goal they want to achieve. Many members don’t want or can’t afford a personal trainer, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored by trainers. Receiving affirmation from personal trainers is an excellent way to encourage a supportive gym community. Trainers who know a member’s goal and are encouraging and instructing them along the way are key assets to retaining members.
— The Longtime Member
Don’t forget about your faithful members or assume they will be loyal forever. This is the group most likely to become dissatisfied and detract from your business. Consider these ways to engage longtime members and keep them happy:
#14 – Utilize Their Experience
Make longtime members feel special through acknowledgment of their loyalty and experience. Ask if they can share their favorite things about your gym in a testimony to be used for promotional purposes. Encourage leadership by having them be an assistant instructor for their favorite group class or being a “workout buddy” for new members.
#15 – Reward Their Loyalty
Everyone appreciates saving money! Reward their loyalty with discounts, offers, tips, or other member benefits. Consider running a referral program where current members get further discounts for referring new members.
#16 – Encourage Them to Try New Things
It’s extremely common for members to get in a routine that’s comfortable and fits their time capabilities. But this routine can often turn into a rut of boredom and customers let their membership drop.
Fight comfort and boredom by encouraging members to try new things! If they like high-intensity workouts, offer a kickboxing class. If they like a dance-based exercise class, offer a class with a different dance style. Or go out of their comfort zone and challenge them to do something completely different. They might find a renewed love of exercise, and with it, a further commitment to your gym.
For more reasons why trying new things is important, check out the above video.
— The Waffling Member
#17 – Reach Out to Infrequent Members
IHRSA lists the group with the highest risk for membership drop out as those who haven’t attended for more than a week—but have attended within the last two weeks. Don’t hesitate to contact members who haven’t come to the gym in a while! This gesture boosts retention by letting the member know they’re missed and helps them get back on track with their fitness goals before motivation completely fades.
#18 – Reach Out to Previous Customers
If a membership is canceled, this doesn’t mean the customer left on bad terms. After a period of time has passed, consider reaching out to previous customers who left because of increased financial or life stressors. You can inform them of a special promotion or discount that might result in a renewed membership.
— Care for All Members
Regardless of if a member is new, infrequent, or has been around since the gym opened, there are basic standards of membership care that boosts retention rates. Watch this video for tips on caring for your members:
#19 – Get to Know Them
Members can tell the difference between a fake and genuine connection. Are you having a conversation out of obligation or true interest? Get to know their life beyond the walls of the gym! Letting members know they are known, accepted, and appreciated through conversation and thoughtful gestures aids in retention.
#20 – Treat Members as You Would a Friend
It’s the little things that are big things. Show them that you care about their lives beyond the gym by asking intentional questions. Say thank you to your members and always be ready to point out improvement, growth, or commitment. Sincerely apologize when you make a mistake
What happens once that initial goal is completed–once the weight is off, the competition is over, or the race is finished? Members might stick around for a while if they have strong social connections, but members will quickly feel idle and aimless.
The best way to prevent this and keep commitment and engagement high is by planning ahead with a future goal. Help members set fresh goals by looking forward to the future and by reminding them that success is a process.
#22 – Provide a Personalized Experience
This is where all of that membership data comes in! A personalized exercise experience keeps the member engaged and on track with meeting their fitness goals. A great way to personalize their experience is through Exercise.com’s All-in-One Business Platform! (And for additional ways, watch the video above!)
Exercise.com’s Business Platform allows you to easily collect and keep track of first-party data, such as initial and re-assessment numbers, class and club attendance, frequently-purchased items, personal goals and milestones, and equipment usage.
Collecting this data enables you to personalize a member’s exercise experience by sending email or text reminders, targeted promos, direct communication, congratulatory messages on goal achievement, and more. When members feel like a priority, they’re inclined to keep their membership!
Tips to Grow Gym Loyalty
Perhaps your members are fine with your gym offerings but don’t care about promoting it. How do you achieve bumper-sticker raving fans? Here are some tips to grow your members’ loyalty and excitement about your gym!
#23 – Utilize Social Media Opportunities
This is perhaps one of the easiest and most effective ways to create loyal members because there are nearly limitless opportunities and ways to connect members. These websites and educational sites make it easy to keep up with trends.
- Create social media fitness challenges
- Offer raffles for participating in surveys, a new group class, or hiring a trainer
- Create a hashtag personalized for your gym for member photos
- Use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms for communication and community-building opportunities
- Encourage members to do races, tough-mudders, or other events as a gym group; post pictures and praise participation!
- Post testimonies, interviews, Before-and-After photos, or goal achievements; make them “shareable” so members can share on their personal page (and promote your business!)
- Live stream in-house competitions
- Share videos of proper exercise techniques or tips
- Write informative and engaging blog posts
- And countless other ideas!
Social media is where people can connect, have fun, and be held accountable. Most people enjoy being able to share videos and photos where they are featured and praised for their hard work and achievement, so it’s an excellent way to create loyal members who promote your business at no cost to you!
#24 – Utilize Other Technology Opportunities
Although many people are proficient with social media now, some members may prefer receiving text or email reminders, newsletters, or phone calls as opposed to connecting on social media. Even though there may be fewer people who want these services, this produces a personalized experience for your members that promotes retention.
Keep your gym’s company website and Facebook page updated and user-friendly, moderate Google or Yelp reviews, and other connection opportunities.
— Encourage Gym Loyalty
#24 – Offer Seminars
Want an event that promotes both employees’ and members’ loyalty? Try offering seminars on various topics like marathon training and nutrition, meditation and stress reduction, or a Q&A forum with the staff.
Seminars are a great way to promote the superiority of your gym because they’re something gyms rarely offer. Every gym has treadmills, but your gym has training on how to improve members’ running technique to meet their goals. This not only encourages members to then work on their running technique (which means more check-ins at the gym) but also challenges your trainers, gets them excited, and promotes loyalty.
Seminars can be a member-only event–but advertise your seminar schedule so potential customers can see the benefits of your gym over competitors. Or encourage members to bring a friend, who might turn into a member, too! Either way, your business is sure to benefit!
#25 – Get Creative with Pricing
Don’t get stuck in the standard pricing models if they’re the cause for attrition. Change to different packages, tiers, or strategies to attract or retain customers who can’t afford your current pricing. Offer a discount if they recruit a friend or Gold Card benefits for 5+ year membership. Watch this video to learn more about how to price your personal training services:
#26 – Advertise New Features
Have you spruced up the locker rooms or purchased new equipment? Time to let everyone know! Post photos and promos on every social media platform, email, and newsletter. Point out the specific benefits of your new investment. Doing so will help members see the value of sticking with your gym and appreciate the benefits and changes.
#27 – Avoid Selling Too Much
We can all relate to that squirmy feeling when someone is offering a service we really don’t want, like a store rewards card or a door-to-door salesman.
Similarly, be careful not to push services (especially if it involves a financial commitment) and thereby make members uncomfortable or turned off. They may avoid gym visits if they feel they’re always being sold to. Advertisements should be strategic and timely to avoid coming off like a sales pitch.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
— Why is a good gym culture important?
Members who enjoy their gym are the ones who renew their membership year after year. Attrition occurs when members aren’t satisfied with the culture of their gym and join another gym instead.
— How do I nurture a positive culture in my gym?
Gyms are a business, and like any business, customer service is the priority in order to retain customers. Make sure your staff’s main goal is superior customer service. Engage members through relationships, community, and social media.
— How can you attract more members to your gym?
Your current members are your biggest assets. Word-of-mouth recommendations are 92% more effective than company advertisements! Provide opportunities for your members to promote your gym: paraphernalia, invite-a-friend rewards program, community seminars, and more! Make sure to market strategically!
And there you have it! A complete guide to creating a positive gym culture that retains members.
Using Exercise.com’s All-in-One Business Platform is the thread that holds all these tips together! There are countless ways to personalize the software to fit your business and members’ needs. Book a demo today to learn more!