Over the past week I learned a very important lesson. For my small gym, I wrongly thought that my manager and personal trainers were enough. What I realize now is that this isn’t true. Having one employee dedicated to member retention is a necessity.
I had a revelation: Member engagement, satisfaction, and overall care must be the responsibility of one person alone. This role has to be completely separate from anyone that has a sales, customer service or training role.
As a team that operates a small gym my staff understand that selling memberships, other services and products piggybacks every role. There’s a lot of multitasking and the wearing of many hats. We all have and share vital roles. But now, I have come to the conclusion that membership retention is different.
Gym Membership Retention As Customer Relationship Management
To illustrate my point I’d like to use an example from the Automotive Hall of Fame. There’s only one car salesman in the Hall of Fame and his name is Joe Girard. His belief about selling cars was that it was part of an ongoing relationship and not just a transaction. He was a likable "people person" who could relate to a diverse customers like they were family.
Girard stayed in touch after the sale, sending cards for birthdays and around the time to replace the family sedan with a new model. He had generations of repeat customers as the children of past customers grew up and came back to him to buy their cars. The relationship he had with each customer brought him loyalty and recommendations throughout his career. This made him the top automotive salesman twelve years in a row. *
I believe that a small gym owner should think like Joe Girard. You need to invest in a relationship manager who can focus on maximizing member retention. But as a business owner, you need to delegate the task. To start, it could be part-time, hire one person that makes happy birthday calls, makes calls to members who haven’t used the gym in the past month.
You could have them check up on absent members to make sure they are doing all right. See if you can get them walking through the door for some type of engagement, even if it is just to talk about a recent injury they suffered and how to rehabilitate it, what their new goals are or if they’re uncomfortable with the equipment.
Is Retentionist A Word? Because It Should Be…
You need the relationship with the customer to be between the members and the gym. It’s great if trainers have a following, and I encourage that. I love it if a trainer brings in new customers who followed along from elsewhere. Of course, the flipside is that I’m never thrilled if a trainer goes off to join the competition and takes her or his fans along too.
In order for a gym business to survive and thrive, the aim is to generate loyalty to the gym and not to just some rock star trainer. That’s another reason your retentionist needs to be separate and dedicated to all customers, working on your behalf. If the customers have a stronger relationship with the gym, it’s a good thing.
If trainers aren’t certain they can entice lots of customers away, then maybe they’ll be a little less likely to move on too. This is the double impact of an effective retentionist. Your turnover can be reduced for both staff and members.
Before The Member Has Left The Building
Your retentionist has to have a full knowledge of the business and the gym management software that you use. They need to be able to search for signs on the system that a member is drifting away. When the pressure is on, they can’t afford to hesitate with customer information, they need to be dialed in to your system while talking to the customer and getting them turned around.
Like Joe Girard, increasing the relationship value customers receive from their memberships is a really important way to increase your profitability. Decide who on your staff is trainable in this capacity or bring in a retentionist from outside. They will be a very valuable player on your team.
*Source: The Joe Girard Story – Lessons from a top salesman, (April 23, 2012), Dearborn Free Press Online, http://dearbornfreepress.com/2012/04/23/the-joe-girard-story-lessons-from-a-top-salesman/
Over to you…
Do you have staff whose sole job description is dedicated to membership retention?