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RETENTION


TAKE YOUR LEAVE


In the final part of his retention series, Dr Paul Bedford takes a look at why members leave W


e’ve known for some time that the reasons people give for leaving a gym don’t necessarily reflect the


actual factors that drove them to leave. Equally, the reasons people quit clubs are generally different from the factors that motivated them to join in the first place, or to stay as a member. In our recent qualitative research (The


Black Report), we asked members what reasons they gave their club for quitting, but also asked them if these were the real reasons they quit their previous clubs. The figures alone would suggest not: for example, the number of people who claimed to be moving house is much higher than the national average, which is actually about 5 per cent of the population annually. Blaming finances was also a popular


reason to give, but not as commonly the real reason for leaving. Of course not all those who claim financial circumstances as their reason for leaving a club are lying: the global economic change has influenced and encouraged members


across the board to review the value they feel they’re getting from their club. However, some individuals have


certainly used the struggling economy to their advantage. Respondents in our research explained that clubs put up little resistance to early cancellation of memberships when the media was full of stories of companies closing down and unemployment going up. “Club staff find it difficult or


uncomfortable to discuss the situation when you say you’ve lost your job. You can use that to your advantage,” said one. “All you need to do is time it with a big news story. You don’t even need to be working for that company – you just need to get your timing right.” Tables 1 and 2 (below) highlight the


many discrepancies between given and actual reasons for leaving.


Table 1: Top five reasons given for leaving Reason given


Moved house/job


Change in financial circumstances Poor service levels Generally unclean Pregnant or illness


Table 2: Actual reasons for leaving Actual reason


Club didn’t meet my expectations Loss of motivation


Bored with the environment/classes Lack of support from staff Didn’t meet my needs


32% 16% 12% 8% 7%


Percentage of respondents


A need for change When investigating why members actually leave it becomes apparent that, for seasoned exercisers, it’s far more likely that the major factors influencing their decision will be either the way the club operates or a loss of personal motivation. To stimulate members


Percentage of respondents


17% 15% 11% 10% 7%


over the long term, some degree of change needs to be experienced by the member. These changes fall into two major categories: achieving results is the most important, followed by updates and changes to the physical environment. Members stay


when they get results. Simple. They join to achieve physical and psychological changes:


52 Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital


the obvious change in shape of their body or its ability to perform at a certain level, and the feelings that accompany these changes – which include more confidence and happiness and lower levels of stress. When these changes are experienced, they stay, as the results are associated with the club. However, members have many


undisclosed expectations about what it will be like when they join a club. They’re full of enthusiasm to begin with and believe that joining a club will lead to a changed life. The gap between what they expect and what’s delivered is often where the major issues lie. When members fail to achieve the changes they expected, they look elsewhere. So why is there such a gap between


expectations and what’s delivered? First of all, expectations in the


early stages of membership regarding frequency of exercise are often much higher than can actually be maintained. Among experienced exercisers, we see a much more realistic approach to visit frequency. These members have already adjusted to the idea that, due to lifestyle commitments, they won’t be able to exercise as often as they would like. Alternatively, they will already have adjusted their lifestyles to fit exercise in on specific times and days. The challenge for operators is to


understand how those members who are unable to attend more frequently are still able to achieve their goals or recognise the change process that’s occurring before they begin to question the value of membership. Some health and fitness clubs seem to rely on encouraging people to purchase personal training to drive through quicker change, but this will not work with a large proportion of members. As one respondent explained: “You work out for a while and you begin to


March 2014 © Cybertrek 2014


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