Handing the customer lifecycle: how to reduce cancellations and retain your gym members

There’s no way around it; building a great gym is hard. Not only does it have to be affordable and able to provide great results, but your facilities, classes, trainers, and the level of customer service you offer will all need to justify the cost for your members.

If these areas aren’t up to scratch? Your membership retention rate will suffer.

Although it’s still vital to attract as many new members to your gym as possible, your retention rate is the area that you should be focussing on first and foremost. After all, it’s much cheaper to retain your current customers than to win new ones! This is because happy customers will enable you to build a positive reputation, and they can often bring in membership referrals.

Therefore, keeping your current gym members satisfied will bring in new business without needing to invest too much of your time and budget.

Here’s how to effectively handle the customer lifecycle to retain your gym’s membership numbers…

Bright beginnings

When people first start going to the gym, they tend to be very positive and motivated, and this is often because they’ll have a clear goal in mind. Whether this be to shift some extra Christmas weight, or to simply get fit in time for the summer months, they know what they want to achieve, and will be ready and raring to go as soon as they’ve signed that dotted line on their contract!

However, how long will they be able to keep themselves motivated? It’s a well-known fact that January is the most popular month for people to start going to the gym, and although many members will keep up the habit, a large number will give up on their resolution to adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle by around June. (source: Telegraph)

As a gym owner, you need to have a plan in place to reduce the likelihood of your customers suddenly cancelling their membership, as well as knowing what steps you can take to reattract ex-members. It’s also important to know why members are cancelling their contracts; that way, you can improve your services before the thought of leaving even crosses the mind of your other customers.

To decrease the likelihood of this happening, you should focus on giving your members the motivation to keep visiting their gym. As well as giving them the option to work with your personal trainers to set a specific achievable goal (such as gaining muscle or losing weight), you should remember that working out with other people increases motivation.

Take advantage of this by offering free sessions with your gym’s professional trainers, or encouraging members to bring their friends along to workouts and classes. One way you could do this is by offering a week of free membership to these referred friends.

How to appropriately deal with gym membership cancellations

If one of your members is planning to cancel their contract, there’s a number of steps you should take to either extend their membership, leave the option open for them to re-join your gym in the future, or simply ensure that they leave on the best terms possible.

The first step you should take is to ask why they’re cancelling their membership in the first place. This not only provides you with an opportunity to gather feedback and improve processes for other existing and future members of your gym, but you may also be able to offer the customer an incentive to stay before they make the final decision to leave.

For example, if they feel that their membership is too expensive, you could give them a small discount for a short period of time, or even let them try out a new class for free. This will give you some time to prove the true worth of their membership, as well as showcase everything your gym has to offer in terms of its services and facilities.

Alternatively, you can provide the option for the person to have a suspended membership. Put simply, this means that they will be able to put their existing membership on-hold, and simply resume it when they feel ready to start attending the gym again. During this period, you can then send incentives, such as offers and event invitations, to reignite their interest. This can be either through direct mail, emails, or even a membership newsletter.

Another option is to be somewhat flexible with your contracts, and allow another person to take over someone’s existing membership until it runs out. That way, your gym won’t lose out on a sale, and the person taking over the contract may even sign-up for their own membership when their existing one has finished.

Although a person cancelling their membership won’t be the most pleasant experience for either party involved, the most important thing to remember during this stage of the customer lifecycle is to keep things as positive and professional as possible. Your club’s reputation will be on the line, and a negative experience of cancelling could lead to a bad review (either shared online or through word of mouth), which may potentially cost you business.

Because of this, your staff will need to be polite, helpful and understanding, and happily take any given feedback on board.

Take steps to prevent your members from wanting to cancel

Although there are things you can do to convince members to think twice before cancelling their gym membership, you should ensure you’ve taken the necessarily steps to stop them from wanting to jump ship in the first place.

How can you achieve this? Firstly, you should ensure that your staff offer the highest level of customer service by coming across as approachable, and always being happy to help. Additionally, they should be knowledgeable about the range of classes available in your gym, thus being able to offer members tailored advice and guidance if needed.

Communication is also important, so you need to ensure your members are completely clear on what they’re receiving as part of their membership. This will prevent any misunderstandings from occurring further down the line, which may be the justification a person needs to cancel their membership with your gym. As well as providing them with a full contract when they join, you should provide them with additional documentation that explains the classes and the other services you offer.

Some of the main reasons people stop going to the gym is because they either get bored or no longer feel as though they are able to realistically reach their fitness goals. You can counteract this by offering a selection of classes to suit all fitness levels, as well as allowing members to engage with your personal trainers to set a personalised training programme and achievable, tailored goals.

Finally, another great tip for retaining your existing gym members (and attracting new ones) is to offer a ‘refer a friend’ service. You can easily achieve this by offering a range of incentives, such as discounts on their gym membership, access to free classes, or even cash prizes, to encourage members to spread the word.

Plus, if a member’s friend joins the same gym as them, they’ll be more likely to attend and retain their membership with your club!

How to reattract ex-members of your gym

As with members who have a suspended contract with your gym, you should keep in frequent contact with those that have fully cancelled their membership. Send seasonal offers and promotions, as well as invitations to exclusive events, to keep your gym firmly in their mind, and increase the likelihood of winning back their custom in the future.

To use this method to its full advantage, keep your offers seasonal based. For example, promote them in the lead up to the summer months when people typically want to lose weight for their holidays, or at the start of the year when many people’s New Year’s Resolution will be to lose weight or simply get fit.

You should also promote any new classes you begin to offer in your gym (possibly providing them with the opportunity to try a taster class out for free), and even ask them to bring along a friend- after all, they may also be inspired to sign-up themselves!