Retention is always a top concern for fitness business owners. Even when you’re regularly adding new members to your community, you need to focus on keeping the members you have. One of the many reasons that it’s so important to keep your current members is that it costs six to seven times as much to win a new member as it does to keep a current one. Plus the ‘three new members in, and one lost member out’ routine that we sometimes see with fitness businesses can be disheartening.
Fortunately, there is a simple way to grow your community while keeping your existing members happy. All you need to do is provide amazing customer service. It’s that easy. Your members are buying a service from you, and that service is judged, in part, by how your team makes your members feel. Studies from Kefron McLaw show that emotion influences what we buy six times more than the rationale behind the purchase. Or said another way, your members care how you make them feel, and that feeling will be a deciding factor in their choice to stay with your business.
Great Customer Service:
- Builds value in your fitness business. Great customer service can be a core competency of your business, meaning it can be something you’re known and appreciated for.
- Solidifies brand loyalty and long-term relationships. If you’re treated well, you want to come back again and again. Even when something goes wrong, you assume it’s a one-off incident and not an indication that you don’t matter to the business.
- Improves your member retention. Great customer service, from the person at the front desk who greets members to each and every coach and instructor, will make your members want to stay with you.
Poor Customer Service:
- Stands in the way of customer loyalty. When members aren’t being treated well, there’s no incentive to stay. And with fitness businesses on every corner, it’s likely you won’t keep your members for long.
- Is often something you won’t hear about. Bad customer service is insidious because you often don’t know it’s happening. This is due to a number of reasons, but commonly either a member assumes you won’t care to hear the complaint or they may prefer not to make a “scene.” Most often, your members will just decide to cancel their membership without telling you the truth behind their decision.
Hire, Train and Incentivize the Outcomes You Want
Great customer service starts before a team member is hired. If you’ve made the unwavering goal that customer service is important, it should be a foremost consideration during the job interview. Dive deep to determine if the candidate enjoys working with people, how they handle frustration and difficult customers and what their previous employers think of their ability to deliver great service.
You’ll also want to train your team on delivering great service to keep it relevant and fresh in their minds. You can also make it a top priority by creating a pay incentive that is tied to retention. Do whatever it takes to make the connection for your team that your members are their paycheck. If your team recognizes they have an important role to play in your member retention, they will be a powerful asset.
Empower Your Team to Own Issues
Customer service is always better when people are empowered to make decisions and own issues. Employee empowerment is the foundation of Zappos’ legendary customer service. Company founder, Tony Hsieh, believes team members responsible for customer service should be able to make independent decisions. Some of the stories told in his book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, provide a look into how this works. But we don’t need to read the book to know we get better service from someone who isn’t constrained by the need to get approval to make a particular situation better and solve an issue immediately.
Make Being a Member Easy
When organizations grow, it’s not uncommon for their processes to become complex and inefficient. Doing occasional audits of your members’ experience can help uncover such pain points. For instance:
- Is it easy to pay you?
- How about checking in for classes?
- Can you be found online with a quick search?
- Is it easy to reach you when you’re needed?
- Is your gym member software easy to use?
You can also reward employees who look for ways to innovate and streamline processes to make things easier for your members. Offering a small bonus for good ideas you implement will keep your team thinking creatively and your members at your gym.
Apologize When Things Go Wrong
Long ago I worked for a company that advised employees never to say sorry or indicate that a mistake might have been made. I shake my head at that now. People value honesty and transparency, even when an organization is clearly in the wrong. Your members don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to care. Establishing trust by being honest solidifies relationships and improves retention.
When a mistake has been made, urgency should be placed on working to solve issues quickly and then learning from mistakes. Teaching your team to pause and reflect empathetically, from your members’ point of view, will help them feel a sense of urgency associated with issues.
Remember to Thank Your Members
Years ago I flew with an airline who made it a point to say, “we know you have many choices, and we appreciate you choosing us.” That example still stays with me and reminds me of how important it is to genuinely thank customers. We often don’t think about it like this, but people have a nearly unlimited supply of options for exercise and fitness. Thank them often for choosing your fitness business.
Measure the Satisfaction Within Your Community
My favorite take-away from business school is this: what gets measured gets managed. It’s simple, and it’s true. If we aren’t asking our customers if they are happy, we can’t expect to know when we’re missing the mark.
We discussed the low issue-reporting rate above, but a typical business only hears from about 4% of its unhappy customers according to Help Scout. The rest of them simply take their business elsewhere. So if retention matters to you, a simple quarterly survey will be worth its weight in gold.
Look for Ways to Go Beyond the Basics
Once you and your team have made great service a foundation of your business, there are always ways to go beyond the basics to truly delight your members. Here are a few things to think about:
- Consider first and last impressions. It’s long been recognized that these are the things that will be remembered most. Can you challenge your team to deliver an amazing first and last impression?
- Make your members feel special We are drawn to people who are interested in us and make us feel important. Can you leverage that to create life-long members? Encourage your team to think of ways to exceed expectations, and you’ll create an army of loyal members.
- Practice active listening When listening to your members, try to determine what it is that they are really saying. Remember that sometimes the real issue won’t be clear. Train your team to clarify, paraphrase, summarize. Reward them for saying “What I’m hearing you say is…”
Customer service is an important strategy for improving member retention. Looking for additional ways to keep your members loyal? Get your free copy of our guide, 7 Essential Strategies for Member Retention.