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To improve retention rates, the first step is to identify members who may be at risk of bolting. The most obvious sign is someone who has stopped paying dues, but a second obvious sign is someone whose usage rate has dropped.
Pay Attention to Participation
Club operators who use software to track members' participation rates in programs and classes have an added advantage of tracking reduction in members' participation in these activities, which also is a sign they may be ready to quit.
"Our benchmarking studies have shown that if we can get our members to participate in more than two programs/departments with the JCC (Jewish Community Center), the likelihood of retaining members is around 90 percent," notes Steven Becker, vice president of health and wellness services for the JCC Association, New York. "We encourage JCCs to educate members in the wide variety of program options, such as early-childhood, cultural arts, social events, camping and social action programs, available to them."
Once you have identified at-risk members, you need to contact them to find out why they have been absent. Their absence, declining check-in numbers or low class participation may be occurring because they have been discouraged by a lack of progress on reaching their fitness goals or because they are bored with your offerings.
Of course, their absences may have to do with something outside your club, such as illness, a busy work schedule or traveling. For that reason, when you reach out to declining-usage members, you want to tread carefully and retain a positive spin. But do not let that stop you from reaching out, as doing so shows that your staff noticed that member's absence and that you care.
If club operators choose to reach out by email, they can do so on their own, or they can use companies such as Retention Management, which provides email (as well as social media branding) communications services to about 800 client clubs.
Richard Ekstrom, president of Retention Management, recommends reaching out by phone or email to members who have not visited your facility in two consecutive weeks.
Retention Management can send that member an email, branded to the club, to "softly and clearly reach out," he says. The email may offer a health or nutrition tip and a note that invites the member back to the facility—just a friendly and unobtrusive reminder that the club is there for the member and is concerned enough to offer some advice.