Club Insider

Solving the Retention Riddle

  • For this article, Log In to:
  • Download PDF Download PDF

Jeffrey PinkertonJeffrey Pinkerton

The more social interactions your members have in your facility, the more likely they are to stay. Most operators agree, and every bit of research confirms it. Interactions not only create a more social culture at your club, but in addition to retention, it massively affects your reputation. But, are all interactions equal? Of course not. Just like all experiences are not equal, i.e. working out on machines alone is a totally different experience than working out together in a group. And, even in a group, one experience may vary drastically from another depending on your instructor team, training protocols and delivery standards. So, how do you solve the retention riddle? More screens and scoreboards? More trackers and technology? Might I suggest: genuine and personable interactions, and inclusive, social, shared experiences.

There are really two solutions, or at least two pathways that you could take to increase your interactions. One option is you can invest in additional staff and additional member data and interaction technology. You can train those staff members (and hold them accountable) to have and record personal interactions with members. The technology could identify and predict high-risk members based on visit frequency, unusual gaps in check-ins, email opens and other factors. You could even build out a sophisticated system that would alert staff when a VIP or high-risk member walks into your building. This could prompt your staff to interact. But, would it make any difference? Maybe (probably) not. Because, again, not all interactions are meaningful.

A couple of years ago, I boarded a Delta flight, headed on a business trip. With Delta based out of Atlanta, I fly with them most of the time. I wouldn't say that I've had any amazing experiences on Delta, but I haven't had any miserable experiences, something that I can't say confidently for the other airlines.

My "preferred" status isn't anything to brag about, but I do get to board somewhere just before the vacationers and families with small children. On this flight, shortly after the cabin doors had closed, a flight attendant walked up to our row, double checked our aisle number, leaned over the person sitting next to me and said, “Are you [looking down at his phone one more time]... ummm, Mr. Pinkerton?” “Yes,” I replied enthusiastically, eager to hear what he had to say next (move to an exit row, upgrade to Comfort+, move all the way to First Class perhaps?) "Well, Mr. Pinkerton, we really appreciate you flying Delta. We know you have other choices when it comes to air travel, and we appreciate you choosing us. Thank you."

As he walked off, the two women sitting next to me inquired, "Are you some super-miles Delta flyer or something?" I quickly reminded them, "Would I be in the middle seat, in the back half of the plane if I was?" Apparently, Delta read the research or hired a consultant who assured them that personal connection is important, that talking to customers is better than emailing customers, and maybe (similar to the retention reports for health club members), that the more they talked to customers, the more likely the customers would be to return and fly again.

Sure, using someone's name is nice. And, thanking them for their business is important. But, when it's robotic and contrived or read off a screen, it loses its value. It feels forced and fake, and honestly, I would have preferred a text message and a drink ticket.

Another option for improving retention is directing more people into group fitness. And, not just any group fitness but a group fitness experience that is inclusive, innovative and inviting to all. One that is welcoming to all fitness levels, all ages and generations, men and women. One that sets the stage for the workout by providing a social space outside the room and wows them when they walk into the room. One that harnesses the collective energy of the group, moves to motivational music (with something on the playlist they like) and helps them feel accomplished and proud when they finish. One that leaves them with a genuine smile, thank you, a congratulations and invitation back... by name!

Group fitness builds social connections and interactions organically. It's the shared experience of being together and of moving together that creates a special kind of comradery and connection. It's the thing that helps people disconnect from the pings and dings of emails and text messages and various screens, and challenges them alongside likeminded people, all coached by a motivating and inspiring instructor. It can be, and should be, the key to your retention strategy.

Of course, knowing the answer to the riddle --get people to group fitness-- and solving a complex equation are often two different things. To solve the problem, you'll need to evaluate your current group fitness formula, you'll need to understand and account for all the variables, and more than likely, you're going to need to make some strategic decisions to reorder your order of operations. Oh, and you're going to have to show your work.

• • •

If you are interested in learning more about our formula for creating innovative, inclusive group fitness experience, visit, then give us a call and let's work on the solution together!

Back to Edition

TG The Gym