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RESEARCH ROUND-UP


how they treated customers. Some new equipment arrived which I’d been using for weeks. One day, while I was working out, a member of staff asked if my induction had included this new equipment. As it was prior to the equipment’s arrival I said no. The staff member told me I could no longer use it until I’d had another induction. I asked if I could have this immediately and was told no, so I asked for the manager, who was also very unhelpful and said I would have to wait.” For Neil, this led to an immediate decision: “I told them I would like to cancel my membership immediately. They let me leave and I will not go back.” But there were other underlying


reasons for him leaving. He mentioned


that the gym was very crowded, and that he would prefer to pay a higher membership fee for a better level of service and more exclusivity. For Neil, membership of a gym is about perceived value for money, not absolute cost. But for many of our leavers, cost made


all the difference – and in most cases, their reasons for leaving were directly linked to frequency of usage. For example Ray, 32, a student paramedic, said: “I just wasn’t using the gym enough. My fi nancial situation is diffi cult at the moment and gym membership seemed an easy saving. I was only a member for four months. I work near the gym but didn’t attend as much as I hoped I would.”


APPARENT INDIFFERENCE


Once the members of the focus group had decided to leave their respective gyms, how was their decision taken and how was the process handled? None of the 12 members felt their request to leave was used as an opportunity to recover the situation. Not one was asked to discuss why they were leaving, and only two went through any sort of exit process. Mark, 54, a retired offi ce manager, was


typical: “I rang and told them I wanted to cancel and they just said I would have to come in to sign a cancellation document. This annoyed me. I thought they would try and make me change my mind, but in fact the whole process only took a minute and was a waste of my time as well as theirs!”


Neil was even more amazed by his club’s


response: “I didn’t receive any contact from anyone – just a letter accepting my cancellation. Considering why I was leaving, this made me even more angry.” Dianne, 55, a recently retired teacher,


was asked to go through her reasons for leaving, but as she explains, even this didn’t feel like an attempt to dissuade her: “The young instructor was really pleasant and just said he needed to fi ll in a form before he could organise my cancellation. I answered about six questions but he didn’t address any of the points I raised. It seemed a bit of a box-ticking exercise really.” One member of the group – Ben, aged


45 – actually felt obstacles were put in his way to try and prevent him from leaving. He had a back problem and wanted a six-month break: “If they’d offered me a membership freeze I would have accepted, as I do intend to start working out again, but they seemed to want to make it quite diffi cult for me to cancel. That just made me more determined.” The main impression shared by the


entire group was one of indifference. Sarah, 32, a radiologist, said: “They really didn’t seem to mind one way or another, and they certainly didn’t see it as a personal comment on them or their facility.” Evidently the clubs and centres our


focus group used felt no obligation to make members feel valued or treat them as individuals – both factors proven to drive customer loyalty.


Most issues could be resolved by gyms 70 Health Club Handbook 2014


“Evidently the clubs and centres our focus group used felt no obligation to make members feel valued”


www.healthclubhandbook.com


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