Anyone who has ever worked in a gym understands that January is going to be busy. Traditional festive overindulgence leads to New Year health and fitness resolutions, which in turn drives new members to sign up in hordes. Cut to the end of February however and the crowds start to thin. Newly signed members slowly reduce their attendance frequency and in the end, cancel their membership as their high hopes of toned abs and “no love handles” fade. But that’s okay. They’ll most likely rejoin next January and repeat the cycle, assuming they don’t try out a different gym.This will sound familiar to everyone working in the health and fitness industry. And yet, there are so many business benefits to keeping those New Year newcomers engaged, interested and active. So how can gyms take a more proactive approach to retain these members and build an emotional connection with them for the long term, in such a short period of time?
Firstly let’s understand: who is the post-Christmas member?
More than likely, an individual who has put on a few pounds over the festive season and has been thinking about joining a gym for a while - but they’ve put it off until the start of January.
New year, New me!
They will be driven and motivated at the beginning, though with little experience of being in a gym environment, let alone doing exercises, they will most likely stick to a fairly basic routine - treadmill, chest presses, a few bicep curls. They are intimidated and a bit embarrassed in this new environment, and after a few weeks their enthusiasm starts to wane.
The opportunity for gyms at this stage is to take action to stop their new members losing interest and leaving. They need to capture their attention and engage them in a way which will see them not only get better results but also continue their membership. How can this be done?
The importance of customer feedback
For shy, nervous new gym members who are unsure about how to use equipment or perform exercises correctly, having a variety of ways to communicate with their local Gym Managers and staff is extremely beneficial. For those who don’t sign up with a personal trainer, it’s a way to be honest and upfront about their experiences and, if handled correctly, this gives the gym a golden opportunity to address their reservations at point of dissatisfaction, making members feel more comfortable, satisfied and at ease at being at the gym. This leads to greater satisfaction and longer commitment.
Establishing trust and building relationships is key to retaining this new member, so creating a place where they can feedback honesty and comfortably is imperative in maintaining their membership.
The rise of fitness technology
Technology in the fitness industry is predicted to be one of the biggest trends for 2020 - usable technology, online workouts or even Nintendo fitness games. Some of this tech is helping people work out more effectively in their homes, with all the convenience, comfort and lack of judgement this brings. For gyms, this means using smart technology to their advantage to maximise the in-gym experience at every stage, which is vital for the longevity of new members.
Gyms need to look at ways to deploy technology that helps them engage with customers at local level and with a human touch. This can be done firstly by encouraging customers to leave as much real-time feedback as possible; and secondly by staff being proactive and taking action, whether feedback is negative or positive, to create stronger relationships. Feedback from new members in particular is key, since they have a fresh perspective and brand expectations that can provide some powerful insight into the gym’s customer experience.
Empowering local staff
The biggest challenge for gyms is around taking action when customer feedback is received. It’s easy to respond to feedback, but there are often several barriers to actually doing something about it, and taking the steps required to build trust and keep their nervous new customers happy, engaged and loyal.
Empowering local staff to deliver great localised customer service brings many business benefits.
Responding to feedback and taking action could be the defining factor that sways a member who is ‘on the fence’ towards sticking with their contract, appreciating the active interest in their personal experience. Addressing feedback locally allows for health and fitness facilities to truly understand their membership base and their expectations. It also organically creates a sense of trust and ensures staff are well placed to advise members on their personal programme - maybe to take on a personal trainer, come at a different time to join a class, or to bring a friend or family member as motivation.
How technology can help
Technology enables organisations to transform their approach to member feedback, and by utilising specific customer feedback systems, health and fitness companies can significantly reduce numbers of lost members. The key is empowering local representatives to action feedback, maximising the detection of dissatisfied members and winning them back in real-time.
So, as new members flood through the gym doors this January, it’s time for health and fitness organisations to use customer feedback to win the retention battle, maximise the in-gym experience and put the interests of their members first.