Keep Communicating with Your Members and Other Retention Tips for the Coronavirus Era

Retention tips
While your most active members will likely seek to maintain their routines during the coronavirus pandemic, your less active members may disengage and even cancel their memberships entirely. Take time to segment your club's membership into usage categories and understand which members are at risk of walking away, according to Paul Bedford of Retention Guru.(Photo by Monkey Business Images / Getty Images.)

Whether your health club is open or closed in the coming weeks, there is one reliable business strategy you must adopt as you face the coronavirus pandemic, according to Paul Bedford of Retention Guru.

Keep communicating with your members.

Bedford shared this tip, among other retention insights, in a March 15 video he posted to his website titled "Strategy to Keep Customers." The 14-minute video addresses the unique challenges most club operators are facing as new government mandates, intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus, prompt health club closures in the United States and abroad.

Bedford said the coronavirus’s impact on the fitness industry will manifest in three phases.

First is the exercise reduction phase. While your most active members (12 or more visits per month) will likely seek to maintain their routines, your less active members (four to eight visits a month) may disengage and even cancel their memberships entirely.

Take time to segment your club's membership into usage categories and understand which members are at risk of walking away, Bedford said. If you're open, remind the at-risk members you’re open. Show them how you're sanitizing your facility. If you're not open, make sure they understand that you still care about them. Offer virtual training packages or other appropriate amenities.

Second is the isolating phase. Again, while your most active members will likely remain engaged with their routines, your less active members may withdraw and lapse into bad habits while away from the club, Bedford said.

High-risk situations require coping mechanisms, he said. Members who cope well will maintain their confidence, which decreases their likelihood of slipping into bad habits. Conversely, those who cannot cope with the situation may lose confidence.

"People are worried about coming to the club, so their coping response is, 'I'm going to work out from home,'" Bedford said. "You need to think about what prompts and suggestions you can give to them to help them in that situation. If you increase their confidence that they can get through this and continue exercising, you decrease the probability of them lapsing and relapsing.”

Third is the return phase. When mandates are lifted and business resumes, some members will be hesitant to return to the club. To engage these members, you must provide them with evidence that their return to the club will be safe and worthwhile, Bedford said. Post pictures and videos of other members' workouts. Consider soliciting testimonials. Showcase your club's community.

Communication tends to fade away whenever a high-risk situation arises in business, Bedford said. Strong messaging, especially during troubling times, conveys confidence, competence and trust.

"[This means] confidence in you as an operator and them as an exerciser," Bedford said. "Competence that you know what you’re doing, and that they know what they're doing. ... You want to show the people who are not quite sure about coming back in, 'Look, we're open, people are exercising, they're enjoying exercising and it's time to come back. That will build trust.”

Click here to view Bedford's full video.

Click here for more insights on protecting your business and your members during the coronavirus pandemic.

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