Studies on how experiences influence behavior have found that there is a far greater ratio of positive to negative experiences required to make people happy. As an example, successful marriages maintain a 5-to-1 ratio of pleasant feelings to unpleasant, whereas relationships with a 1-to-1 ratio have a far greater chance of ending in divorce.
Researching the effects of design on pleasure, it is believed that humans need three positive experiences to compensate for every bad one. So simply doing one good thing to counteract a bad experience a member may have won’t be enough to erase those negative feelings. Wooing a prospect who was turned off by something about your club will require your sales team or staff to showcase three positives just to get back to level ground. Based on these studies, operators really cannot afford many bad encounters if we aim to keep our members happy.
Specific designs that make some members feel good may not work for others. A common mistake is thinking that one very good design positive can eradicate a host of negatives. An example is a designer using all resources to make the lobby look good, while leaving bad lighting, worn materials, poor acoustics and inadequate airflow in the rest of the club. This might appeal to a prospective member, but a current user will be annoyed and possibly leave.
Design can help move the prospect to a new member, encourage the new member to become a regular, and ultimately provide the right environment to allow the easy transition from a regular to an enthusiast. Each transition requires a different strategy and dedicated efforts to keep members in that happy zone. Here’s a look at each transition:
Prospect to member. The prospect never really uses your club. Most of what they will be excited about will come from what they see. While touring the club, prospects are thinking, “Do I like this place? Do I belong here? How easy or hard will it be to come here? Do I feel safe here?” This group critically needs overwhelming positive visuals to overcome the stress of joining. First impressions are very important, so a nice lobby, in this case, will sell. The design should get them excited as they move through the club. Developing your facility tour is important for this group. The tour should be carefully designed and choreographed, and the predetermined pathways should clearly and naturally show off the best attributes of the club.
Member to regular. The design considerations to accommodate this group are more pragmatic, since they are already members. They use the showers, wait for treadmills and experience the environment in a very different way. We want to make it easy to use the club and navigate from point A to point B. The design features that help with this group have more to do with flow, accessibility, socialization, convenience and comfort. Any hassles associated with using the club need to be eliminated. They will appreciate legitimate studio space and programming without waiting in tight hallways and stairways. The experience of being able to get a great workout, take a shower, and get dressed for work becomes important. Hassles equal negative emotions. Two cardio decks give me options and different energy levels. Social nodes that encourage meeting new people offer incentives to come back. Programming and classes will play a big part, but easy in-and-out for storage and well-designed rooms do make a difference.
Regular to enthusiast. As a member becomes an enthusiast, design intelligence that supports the workout experience becomes critical. Success and accomplishments will feed the enthusiast. But is your facility designed to accommodate the diversity of programming necessary to keep this group engaged? Great water pressure is a bonus, but it is more important to give them enough room to do individual or small group training. If the newest trend is shoehorned in a hallway, they may look elsewhere.
Design has much more influence in your club than what you may expect. Good design that considers all users can be the basis for a long-lasting relationship. Keeping members happy as they evolve to become your biggest supporters is certainly a relationship worth the effort.
Rudy Fabiano, a registered architect and interior designer, is president of Fabiano Designs, an architectural firm for fitness, wellness, sports and recreation centers and spas that has produced more than 400 projects in 21 years. He can be reached at [email protected].