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Addressing member pain-points to increase gym member retention.

Dru Hill
Dru Hill
Published on Mon, May 25, 2020

When it comes to running a fitness club one of the most important metrics for owners and staff to monitor should be the rate of member churn. During times such as these, with a pandemic running its course and it’s associated economic impacts hurting the wallets of potential gym members, the number of new sign-ups has taken a hit in many countries around the world. As this rate of acquisition decreases, even higher importance is placed upon the retention of existing customers to ensure your club can maintain its level of income. Taking a member-centric approach to increase retention is also a useful approach to ensure long-term profitability outside the pandemic, as it is much more economical to maintain existing members than to replace them with new ones–on average it costs 8 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.

There is much that can be done to increase member retention, some low hanging fruit which your club can address to get a quick boost is the pain-points of gym members. These are the things that, when experienced by a member in your club, instantly detract from their levels of satisfaction and result in a poorer perception of your club (thus making them less likely to continue visiting over time).

Here’s some of these pain-points commonly experienced in gyms, and how your club can address them.

Keeping workouts to appropriate areas.

As a gym member, there’s nothing worse than having someone blocking access to equipment during their set. One particular pain-point for this is usually the dumbbell rack, almost every gym member has experienced where someone else is either working off the rack or standing very close to workout in the mirror and blocking the way. This scenario usually ends up with at least one of the members being upset, either through attempting to grab the equipment and getting in the way of the member working out, or the other member being forced to wait for the other to move. The COVID-19 outbreak may also make people more conscious about their personal space when working out, which may amplify the effects of these scenarios as people will be more anxious having someone working out close to them.

Consider the above when planning your workout area. Creating ‘zones’ for particular workouts, such as deadlifting, can be a great way to do this. I have seen gyms do this through providing padded bumper mats, setting up special lifting platforms, or simply outlining the area with bright tape and text on the ground stating “Deadlift Area”. Doing this can also help reduce the likelihood of weights being regularly left out or put back incorrectly outside staffed hours.

Equipment being put back correctly.

Another strong antecedent to a high rate of member turnover can also due to the equipment being incorrectly put back after use, or not at all. A club culture allowing members to feel at ease when dropping weights where they please, not returning them to the rack and not taking care to ensure they are returned to the correct position is not only unsightly and dangerous but also can make it difficult for certain members to use your club effectively. Spending time hunting for equipment not returned to their rightful place, or trying to use equipment buried under heavy plates that not everyone is able to lift can lead to high levels of dissatisfaction and over time result in people terminating their membership with your club.

Addressing this issue could come down to better informing members of the rules and consequences of not following them–not only for them but other members as well. For example, someone might feel comfortable in the risk of getting a fine for leaving equipment out during out-of-hours if they believe no-one will see them do it, but they might respond to a poster in the club telling them to think of the elderly members who like to use the club early in the morning who will be unable to lift the 45lb plates off the shoulder press machine.

Along with these posters, it can also be helpful to set the tone at the beginning of a member’s time with your club– during the first onboarding training session with a new member, or even at the front desk when they’re signing up to be a member can be a useful time to set the ground rules and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Keeping on top of queues in your club.

Queues are caused through a lack of available equipment in a given time, leading to members waiting for equipment to become available to use. For example, if you operate a large gym with only one bench press, there is a good chance members are left waiting their turn (either in lines, or meandering on other equipment waiting for them to free up), if this takes too long there is a good chance people will leave without using the equipment and their levels of dissatisfaction will increase.

Queues are particularly important to address now given the COVID-19 outbreak forcing many gyms to operate below capacity to ensure social distancing regulations are adhered to, as keeping the flow of members steady will help ensure everyone gets their time to work out.

To address this, there are a few things you can do:

Know your audience - for example if your club is predominantly bodybuilders then there’s a good chance you can swap out some lightweight machines or cardio equipment for an extra bench press or deadlift zone. You could also run a KPI report to see the breakdown of your members and make a decision based upon their demographics and how this group tends to workout. A more objective approach can also be undertaken, observing people working out and noting down what equipment people they are the most and what is left untouched (and can be replaced).

Flatten the Peak - probably a term we have all heard during the last few months, but in this context you can look at the flow of members coming in your doors as what we are trying to more evenly spread to ensure demand for equipment is reduced. If you use a gym access control system, you can easily run a gym visitation report to create visualizations such as graphs to outline peak-times. This can be provided to members via social media or a bulk newsletter email so they can better time their workouts to reduce their wait times.

Discourage ‘hogging’ equipment - the general idea should be one lot of equipment per member at peak times (and to keep time using that piece of equipment reasonable). This means super-setting key equipment, training with large groups of friends, sitting on your phone for prolonged periods of time between sets (5-10 mins) and ‘saving’ equipment by putting a towel or workout gear on them so others can’t use it should be advocated against times where your facility experiences high traffic. To do this, you can use posters as reminders which members can use to ‘self-police’ the rules, and also make an effort to reach out to members who you observe breaking these rules, most will be understanding.