4 Ways to Improve Gym Retention with Effective Onboarding

ClubReady Fitness
January 20, 2017

As a business owner, you wouldn’t wait until your roof collapses before repairing it.

You realize that the day you need to start taking preventative measures to ensure success is the first day. So, why then, do so many health clubs wait until a member gives his or her termination notice before they try to retain that member? What so many fail to realize is that the retention process starts on day one with a solid onboarding process. In fact, low attendance during the first month of membership is an indicator that that member is far more likely to become part of your churn.

That’s why it’s critical to have a clear onboarding process for new members written up and crystal-clear for all employees. This onboarding strategy goes beyond simply handing over a class schedule or offering an introductory training session if the member wants one. For strong member retention from day one, you need a comprehensive strategy that includes the following:

1. Fitness Assessments

A new member—especially one who is new to fitness—will find it far harder to reach goals if he or she doesn’t know what those goals are, how to get there, or from where he or she is starting. When you ask Google for directions, the first thing it wants is your starting location. You need to know where you are to figure out the best way to get where you are going. This is the same way that setting an appointment for new members to meet with a trainer or training manager for an initial assessment can make a difference for the member’s success and your retention numbers.

This appointment serves three purposes:

  • Ensures the member returns to the club within a day or two, developing the habit of coming in.
  • Helps the member make a connection with a member of your staff.
  • Lets the member know a starting point and realistic endpoint or goal for his or her fitness journey.

2. Incentive/Loyalty program

Enroll members into the loyalty program as soon as possible, hopefully at the time of enrollment. If not, include info in your joining packet and welcome email that is sent to all new members as part of your club or studio management system, at the very least. Building a relationship needs to be done quickly, and incentive and loyalty programs have been shown to establish a base customer retention rate of around 92 percent.

3. Free Training Session

Whether a member is brand-new to fitness or someone with years of experience, he or she can benefit from the guidance and advice of a professional. This needs to be more than the traditional fitness orientation many clubs have used where a trainer takes a member through a generic workout, helping him or her adjust seats on equipment and learn how to start the treadmill. A real workout based on the goals and test results during the assessment will not only help the member get a jump on reaching his or her goals but will also have a side-effect of boosting retention, training sales, and even referrals.

4. Classes

Even if you are a traditional health club where group exercise is part of your offerings, classes can be a vital part of your revenue model but can also be essential in building loyalty with your membership.

In fact, health and fitness members who go to the gym but do not partake in group exercise are 56 percent more likely to cancel their membership. Much like a fitness assessment and an initial personal training session, helping members get involved in group training is a vital step in onboarding and retention efforts. Offering a sampler class or adding class registration at the onboarding stage can help get that new member to step into your group-exercise studio and come back to your club over and over again.

While a great onboarding process can’t guarantee a member will stay forever, it will certainly give you a better shot at reducing attrition.

What steps are part of your onboarding process?