Exceptional customer service makes the difference between retention and churn. Plain and simple.
Even as you work to add new members to your community, you can’t neglect the members you already have, not least because it’s significantly more costly to acquire a new member than it is to retain an existing member.
And the “three new members in, and one lost member out” routine that we sometimes see with fitness businesses can be disheartening.
Fortunately, it is possible grow your community while keeping your existing members happy. The answer is stellar customer service and member experience.
What Does Exceptional Member Experience Look Like?
The best customer service, or member experience, 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.
Great customer service 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.
Lastly, your customer service has the power to improve 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.
By Contrast, What Does Poor Customer Service Look Like?
Negative member experience 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.
When a member is having a negative experience, you often won’t know anything about it until they are cancelling their membership.
Bad customer service is insidious because you likely don’t know it’s happening. Members might assume 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.
Solution 1: Hire, Train and Incentivize the Outcomes You Want
Great customer service starts before you have a single member in the door. It starts in your hiring process.
Exceptional customer service should be at the top of your list of values and a foremost consideration during the job interview. During the interview, ask questions about how 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.
Once you determine new team members are likely to provide the level of service you require in your fitness business, train them with the express intention of keeping these values fresh on their minds.
You can even make it a top priority by creating a pay incentive that is tied to member 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, it’s more likely that they’ll be a powerful ally to you in that mission.
Solution 2: Empower Your Team to Own Issues
As the owner of your business, you cannot be the only one with the ability to make changes or solve issues in a member’s favor.
Empower your team to make decisions to mitigate member dissatisfaction! You can do this in a number of ways, but a couple examples include:
- Allow your staff to issue refunds, provide class vouchers, etc.
- Create a direct line of communication between your staff and your members
Solution 3: Constantly Seek Feedback
We all know the common adage “What gets measured gets managed.”
It’s simple, and it’s true.
If you aren’t asking our customers if they are happy, you’ll never know where you’re missing the mark, where you could have improved before losing their membership.
A typical business only hears from about 4% of its unhappy customers, according to Market Connections. So, if retention matters to you, a simple quarterly survey is worth its weight in gold.
Solution 4: Thank Your Members
Your members have a nearly unlimited supply of options for exercise and fitness. Thank them often for choosing your fitness business.
Also, when a member gives you positive feedback, take advantage of that moment. Give them a personalized response, something extra special to let them know that you’ve heard them.
You can also ask if it’s something you can share on your social channels! Get the word out about what members are loving about your offering. Amplify the message.
Solution 5: Apologize When Things Go Wrong
It’s not enough to take a complaint and resolve it in silence. Be transparent about every issue you’ve become privy to and how you plan to tackle it.
People value honesty and transparency. 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.
Solution 6: Make Being a Member Easy
When organizations grow, it’s not uncommon for their processes to become complex and inefficient. Doing periodic checks on 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.
Solution 7: 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. Can you challenge your team to deliver an amazing first and last impression?
- Make your members feel special. 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. 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…”
How Zen Planner Can Help
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.
Article originally published February 2018 and updated June 2022.