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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.
Use Positive Reinforcement
One client club, Franciscan Omni Health & Fitness, with health clubs in Schererville, IN, and Chesterton, IN, has given Retention Management parameters to watch for in its usage reports. For example, at-risk members are sent emails about upcoming club events and messages about the importance of staying active.
"They're positive messages that help us stay in contact and encourage members to keep physical activity a priority in their lives," says Sharon Sporman, regional executive director of wellness for the clubs.
The Schererville facility, which has about 9,000 members, has a retention rate of 67 percent, while the Chesterton club, with 3,000 members, enjoys 70 percent retention.
Once a member has been absent for four consecutive weeks, Ekstrom recommends re-engaging by sending a "recovery message." In this email, a compelling offer, such as a free smoothie, free guest pass, an offer for reorientation to the club or a complimentary personal training session, often is proffered. The latter, says Ekstrom, is by far the most popular option among members.
"We can craft any offer the club operator wants; it's completely customizable," he says. "We have a 'recovery message' template, and club operators can change what they like and make their own offers. It's all automated, and yet it shows the member the club has noticed their absence and is concerned. You really have only a very small window to reach an at-risk member, so these communications are designed to capitalize on that."
Even with these efforts, members sometimes still do not renew. If that happens, club operators should reach out to find out why they left. If many departing members say that they just did not have time to work out, it could be a club's cue that they should start offering half-hour exercise classes or personal training sessions, says Carole Oat, national sales manager for Twin Oaks Software, Berlin, CT.
"It's hard for some people to commit to hour-long programs," Oat says.
For departing members you are unable to contact, check their recent fitness and wellness evaluations to see if you can find any clues for their departures.
"The vast majority of members are in a club because of a physical goal they have," says Andy Graham, a consultant with NEXT Fitness. "If you're not helping them achieve the results that are most important to them, why should they stay? All things being equal, results drive retention."