How to Be a Retention Pioneer

For Gym Operators

How to Be a Retention Pioneer

How can you earn your members' loyalty? To get high retention rates, you must take a proactive approach to member satisfaction. The best clubs use a powerful tool to determine where improvements need to be made and to measure the results of changes: data.

If you're not already basing your decisions on measurable data, it's time to start.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA Convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at

About the Speaker

Melissa Christie is the Director of Member Experience and Integration at Newtown Athletic Club.

Become a Retention Pioneer

How to Be a Retention Pioneer

Member retention is one of the toughest challenges faced by fitness facilities. Providing outstanding customer service and implementing great programs that keep members engaged and coming back all help to increase retention.

The ability to converse with staff and members is an art, and an important component of the fitness industry. A friendly, smiling staff that genuinely takes an interest makes members feel they are appreciated and a priority.

Member integration is a vital retention tool. Failure to properly integrate new members leaves them feeling overwhelmed and intimidated. Familiarize members with all services and facilities. Provide equipment demonstrations and work to ensure that members are using all of the club's facilities.

Retention Tips

To improve your club's retention rates, ask new members about their interests and goals, their current fitness levels, how often they plan to visit the club, and how much hands-on help they would prefer from your trainers. In addition to these starting points, adhere to the following tips:

  • Elevate the member experience by interacting with members both in person and online.
  • Gather member feedback with face-to-face interviews, surveys, or comment cards.
  • Ensure customer service standards throughout all departments.
  • Offer customer service training based on departmental needs.
  • Inform members of available perks.
  • Schedule paid and complementary personal trainer sessions.
  • Track conversion to paid personal trainer clients.
  • Engage with high-risk members identified through data-collection software.
  • Meet with members at their time of joining to schedule new member perks.
  • Build and maintain relationships with new members through scheduled follow-ups.

Challenge Your Members

Make attending your club a habit through challenges and competitions, which are effective retention tools. Challenge new and current members to attend the club for a certain number of days per week or to work out for a predetermined amount of time. Place leaderboards and offer prizes to make the challenge fun and add a competitive aspect.

This will significantly increase retention rates and create a sense of community. When members feel a connection and camaraderie with their club's community, they are less likely to leave. Involve the whole club in building a supportive environment. Create an exclusive Facebook group to encourage involvement and lend a social aspect to your challenges.

Feedback Is Essential for Change

Monitor customer activity to determine whether they have a high risk of leaving. Collect data on visits and workouts through software integrated into member cards or through apps. Collecting data and identifying the members who are at a high risk of leaving will provide valuable information that you can use to improve retention rates. Being informed allows you to preemptively speak with high-risk members and offer one-on-one help to get them more engaged. Always focus on customer service and improving your member experience.

If a member has already left your club, reach out through email or phone to bring them back. Cater to their needs and interests when appealing for them to return. You may also want to offer complimentary personal training sessions to reintegrate members into the club.

Send surveys including questions about member-satisfaction levels. Ask how likely members are to recommend your club. The identification of problems allows you to take steps toward a club solution and improve overall member retention.

Collecting feedback can:

  • Increase profitability
  • Provide an indication of trouble ahead
  • Discover areas of competitive advantage
  • Reward and recognize staff for excellence

To correct problems, you first need to identify them. Look for coaching opportunities where staff falls short and track the impact of implemented changes. Benchmark your performance against other clubs as you improve your overall member experience. Have members nominate employees for outstanding service and reward them with perks. Through your employees, you retain members and create an exceptional member experience.

Key Loyalty Metrics

Ask your members about the following topics to gauge their overall loyalty:

  • Likelihood to recommend your club
  • Likelihood to continue attending
  • Overall experience
  • Value received for price
  • Gym cleanliness
  • Staff friendliness
  • Equipment condition

Remember, data is critical to identifying weak points and implementing effective change in your club. With the feedback you collect, improvements can be made to your facility that increase member satisfaction and, in turn, retention rates.