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retention series

At a basic level, where should clubs start?

RICHARD APPS: Building up member relations can at times be difficult and it will never be just one initiative that leads to success. However, in any club, customer relationships will be improved if all the basics are done well. These include cleanliness, customer service, equipment and policies. MARTIN VAN ASSENDELFT: The club needs to be a place where people want to come not just to exercise, but to use as a meeting point for friends and business relations – a genuine home away from home. NIGEL WALLACE: Strong foundations relate to how a member enters and moves through your club – from the greeting they get at reception to their interaction with trainers on the floor. All around the facility there are touchpoints; most clubs understand this and, at least on this level, are getting it right.

So where do staff fi t into your member relations objectives?

RICHARD APPS: Once the basics are in place, a great team of staff is vital, with continual investment in them to develop their excellence. Every employee at SIV must follow our customer service standards and engage in our training programme. Only then can you progress to the social and interactive phase of your strategy. THIERRY DELSOL: Staff are encouraged to participate in member activities such as the running or walking club, water polo, golf, quiz night etc. Our group fitness instructors are also encouraged to join class participants for a coffee after the class. By increasing the level of interaction, we’ve improved our understanding of our members. NIGEL WALLACE: There are skills you can teach staff to ensure they’re interacting with customers in an optimum way – in a manner that empowers the

member to want to return. These skills need to be embedded, understood, monitored and measured. We’re in the business of changing habits and it’s generally believed that it takes around six months to arrive at a new habit. We need to give instructors the skills – and our training includes elements of NLP, cognitive behavioural therapy and motivational interviewing – to help customers arrive at that habit, so they come back time and time again. NIC JARVIS: Many members join clubs in a negative frame of mind – they’re moving away from something they don’t want to have, whether that’s extra weight, tiredness, stress and so on. We can teach fitness consultants to know what their customers want, as the customer will normally not get it straight away – a process of education and goal-setting is fundamental in this process of change.


Which of your member relationship initiatives are working well?

THIERRY DELSOL: We proactively seek members’ feedback. Our members’ forum is a quarterly meeting with eight to 10 people from our membership and club management, and it offers an opportunity for views and expectations to be expressed. We also have new members’ evenings every other month and carry out an annual survey, which helps us monitor customer satisfaction. MATT SANDERSON: Our online mentor programme is relatively new for us. It’s especially useful for new members, who can email a question and hear back from a mentor within 24 hours. We’ll look to automatically assign all members with an online mentor via the database in the future. We have our ‘Focused Member’

scheme too, which gives two of our 500 members a full fi tness assessment followed by access to fi ve personal training sessions each week for a month;


their results are then publicised online and around the club. This is not only a fantastic offer for those chosen each month, but it’s also a great motivator for others in the club, who are able to follow their progress. Also, our business really took a

leap forward when we installed a new database last year. It alerts us when a member’s attendance starts to drop off, for example, which prompts us to get in contact – whether by email, text or postcard. The system has helped us to communicate with our members as much as possible, and at the right time. RICHARD APPS: We have an ‘Options’ scheme – a type of personal training offered free as part of the membership package. Following a two-part induction, customers are encouraged to book in for as many one-to-one Options appointments as they wish. The customer gets a great personal service

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and is able to learn more about making each visit far more effective. JOSH BICKNELL: We’re currently launching an overall strategy that we picked up from one of the global leaders, Les Mills in New Zealand. Our goal is 21 visits in 84 days. To encourage this we use inductions, re-programmes, follow-up calls, texting, email updates with a call to action, seminar evenings and so on. MARTIN VAN ASSENDELFT: I create absolutely bespoke programmes for my members. These get them the results they want, so they remain a member. Also, every two to three weeks, we

organise an activity that people can join either for free or for a very small fee. I see this not only as a working tool for retention but also an income generator. For example, we may offer a free running course for 20 members. They come eight times, perhaps drink 16 cappuccinos each over the duration of the course – that’s €32 x 20 = €640, which covers the cost of the course.

july 2010 © cybertrek 2010

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