Your bottom line isn't affected by whether or not people enjoy going to a health club; it's affected when they quit going to one. You can't save every customer, but if you know the top reasons why people leave a club, you can start trying to address the problems before they even start. As always, keep in mind that this is survey data with people reporting directly. Sometimes people won't say or don't even know the real reason that they actually quit. For example, they're not likely to admit that they're just far too lazy to work out, regardless of the consequences.
- The Cost.
It's a decent percentage that's taken out of members' paychecks each month for a gym, especially when you factor in all of the other expenses that can come up in a month. Considering they know it's possible to fill balloons with sand and buy an exercise tape, it's probably pretty hard for them to justify continuing to pay far heavier fees to keep going to a gym. Your biggest job in marketing is convincing them what they're getting for the costs. Whether it's equipment that is safe and easy to use, instructors for classes that will push them when they want to stop or a healthier lifestyle, make it clear that they can't get these things at home.
- Lack of Attendance
If people don't get into a routine right away when they join your club, it's pretty much all downhill from there. They need to make the time during their busy work weeks, and often the gym is all too easy to skip. Excuses are incredibly easy to make, especially as an adult, but a true devotee will find a way to get their workouts in (even if they're in Siberia.) This can be a hard one to market against, but try putting up posters that help create reminders for them, such as, "After work, it's gym time to unwind." Once people have a response built up in their head, such as, "As soon as I turn the keys in my car to go to work, I turn left to go to the gym," you'll be able to keep your members for longer.
You can't help it when someone moves, because at that point, the person's entire routine is disrupted — he or she will no longer be turning left to get to the gym anymore. This might seem trivial, but it really isn't. It can take a long time for people to recover from a change, and it can be very difficult for your business not to become the casualty here. Or sometimes, people sign up thinking that your gym isn't that far, but then after a while, even that 10-minute drive can just be too daunting to make. Again, your literature and materials should be focusing on creating a routine here as much as possible. Your club would be the one constant amidst change.
- Found a Free Place to Exercise
How can you compete against free? Well, exercise is always free, but there's a reason why people pay to do it. Equipment, access to pools, spas, classes and so forth are certainly one part of it, but a lot of people also won't do it unless they're somehow invested in the process. For example, if I don't go, then I'm just losing $30 a month. Remind your customers that they likely wouldn't stay on track if they had no financial incentive to work out.
- The Crowds
Having a crowded club seems like a dream come true, but it can work against you too. You obviously can't make more physical space unless it's gotten to the point where you absolutely need to construct an add-on, but you can rearrange your layout to fit in more machines. People don't like to wait, and if their favorite equipment or classes aren't available now, they might not want to risk that type of hassle the next time. Again, these can seem like trivial matters. Maybe it was only once that they had to wait, but that one incident can lead to a negative association with going to the gym.
There's not much you can do about this one. No matter how safe equipment is, people will still find a way to use it incorrectly. The main thing to do here is let them know that your policies are flexible and that they can ease back into working out and building up their strength again. Also, make it clear that staff is there to help people with technique so injuries don't occur.
- Didn't Fit In
Some people go to a gym just to meet people, and some people want to remain entirely anonymous. If people feel like they can't talk to the other members, then you obviously can't force them to feel comfortable. What you can do is hire intuitive staff who can treat people the way they want to be treated. If they can either give people space or make them feel like a part of a family (whichever one they're more likely to want), then you can create a sense of peace around their visits.
- Lost Job
Again, you have no control over this one, but you can let people know that your policies are flexible for when they get back on their feet.
- Don't Like to Exercise
Exercise is supposed to release all these endorphins and make people happy, but if that were true for everyone, you'd see a lot more people working out. Adults understand that sometimes they have to do things in their lives that they don't want to do. Exercise is something they need to do to make themselves live longer, better and more fulfilled lives. Don't necessarily tout the reasons why exercise is good for them; they already know that. Have marketing materials that show that you understand where they're coming from, but that ultimately, they're better off continuing to do something they hate to do.
- Couldn't Achieve Fitness Goals
People have this image in their minds that they're going to become ripped or a supermodel after they start going to a gym. It doesn't help that impossibly attractive people are featured in the ads. Yes, it can help people become motivated to sign up, but it can also serve to discourage if people don't start looking like that sooner rather than later. This is the time to be specific. Any step is better than no step at all. This is the message you need to hammer into everyone with whom you're in contact. Your trainers should not be pushing extra sets on people or giving them goals they can't accomplish. It takes a special kind of employee to realize who needs to be pushed (because some do need that) and who needs to be encouraged just for doing something at all, but they're worth it. Little changes can lead to larger shifts in people's lives, but it takes time.
- The Intimidation Factor
Gyms can be intimidating for beginners. A person walks in for the first time and knows nothing. Others in the gym already know how to use the equipment, know the staff and have a routine. It can take people a while to feel comfortable, so the key is baby steps. You can encourage someone to just try one machine for the day. Test it out, and then go home. The next time, the person can try another machine or possibly even a class.
- Not Enough Help
Your staff members are working with people, so they need to be people-pleasers. Everyone wants something different, and it's a lot to ask of your employees to do a difficult (but doable) type of mind reading. Your employees should at least know the basics, such as when people are uncomfortable with attention or when they require more guidance then just a simple point of a finger if asked where the treadmills are.
These are all things that can be addressed with the right values instilled into your health club. It may take you some time to see the benefits, but your customers will appreciate the extra efforts put forth by your dedicated employees.
So often, it's hard to see the forest through the trees, but the truth is that it doesn't take a lot these days for a person to give up on a company. Just one broken machine or wrong comment can turn someone off forever. You won't be perfect, but a consistent and forward-thinking approach will always pay off.
Survey source The 2015 IHRSA Global Report