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Why do Members Leave, or Stay?

If you don't know what is important then everything is important...but do you have time to do everything? As a PT - probably not. So read this page and focus on what you can do to help retain your clients and the clubs members

At the turn of the century IHRSA (The International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association) investigated the reasons people gave for cancelling their fitness club membership, as well as the reasons they gave for staying at fitness clubs.  In their report entitled ’50 million members by 2010’ they published these reasons. 

It is vital that all personal trainers know these reasons as they give a critical insight into what you need to do to keep members (and clients) active, and what mistakes you should avoid at all costs.  So firstly let’s look at what not to do…


Why do people leave fitness clubs?

There are two categories that can be considered when a person leaves a club. 

Firstly, was the reason the person left the club ‘controllable’ or ‘uncontrollable’.  The reasons for uncontrollable departure from a club includes; relocation, divorce, separation, illness, injury, medical conditions, loss of job, loss of income, family crisis.  According to IHRSA research this accounts for about 50% of all club leavers.  This means that the other 50% of people who leave clubs, leave for ‘controllable’ reasons.

Secondly, for the proportion of ‘controllable’ departures you want to consider whether the person quit because of ‘club-related’ reasons or ‘member-related’ reasons.  ‘Club-related’ reasons are specific to complaints that individuals had about their club experience.  These are shown on the following table, and include factors such as overcrowded or unclean facilities and dissatisfaction with activities, programmes and staff. 



Member related reasons point to a different kind of failure.  They relate to what didn't happen. That is a failure to connect, engage, personalise, energise and motivate a member.  The following table shows these factors which include; not making sufficient use of membership, loosing interest, never achieving goals and never feeling comfortable.




Looking at the member related reasons for people leaving clubs it should be obvious that as a personal trainer you can have a positive impact in every single area – by finding ways to make exercise interesting and enjoyable for your clients they’ll make better use of their membership and actually achieve results.  By having more interaction with people you’ll help to make the club atmosphere more friendly and ‘pleasant’ so it is more comfortable for all users. 

personal%252520training%252520former%252520member%252520statementsIn relation to the controllable reasons members leave clubs, IHRSA surveyed former club members on their views towards frontline fitness professionals (which includes personal trainers of course).  The results of which are shown on the adjacent graph.

Most significantly for front line fitness professionals are the low number of ex-members strongly agreeing with statements of ‘staff professionalism’ (only 24%), ‘staff interest’ (only 21%), ‘belonging’ (only 15%), ‘responsiveness’ (only 14%) and ‘achievement of fitness goals’ (only 13%). 

These are all factors that the fitness professional is able to directly influence and in this research they are very low.  See the table adjacent for the role they play in members leaving.

Stunningly (poor) is the additional feedback from IHRSA research that 50% of members said that at the time they left the club they had formed ‘no relationship’ with anyone on the club’s staff.  No-one, not a soul!


So why do people stay at fitness clubs?

Research by IHRSA has identified the following three factors as key to the service experience members have in clubs.  Essentially they are saying the club and you (the fitness professional) need to ensure these key things happen for each and every member:

  1. Great first impressions
  2. Significant personal involvement
  3. Creation of positive results


The Power of First Impressions:

Positive first impressions correlate strongly with overall member satisfaction.  Some of the major factors involved in creating such impressions are: the overall quality of the facility (45%), the quality of the introductory orientation (37%), the professionalism and personal involvement of the staff (24%), the ability to see results from the initial series of workouts (19%), and a feeling of “belonging” or to “fitting-in” the club (15%)


personal%25252520training%25252520consultationThe Power of Personal Involvement:

Personal attention pays huge dividends with respect to overall club satisfaction. Of those club members who give their club the highest possible satisfaction ratings, 84% state that the “staff take a personal interest in me.” Even those who left a club were four times as likely to rejoin that same club if they thought positively about the staff.


The Power of Positive Results:

As  a personal trainer you must ensure that you never take this for granted!  Members and personal training clients alike want to feel and see results as an outcome of their involvement with a club.  Of those who experienced such improvements, 88% gave their club the highest possible satisfaction rating.  Such results validate the value of the membership. There is an important lesson for the entire fitness industry:  In many members’ eyes, customer service is not simply about being friendly or involved; it is about helping members get results

As fitness professionals the way we ply our trade should always ensure that these key elements are executed consistently well.

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