Change and Challenge. Part 1

s much as the fitness industry continues to evolve, the major problems seem to remain the same. While this may be discouraging to some, those who run their businesses successfully know that it’s the approach to those problems that matters. As we settle into the New Year, the industry finds itself grappling with the same challenge it has for years — keeping members from walking out the door. What is changing, however, is the method in which clubs are retaining members.

In 1997, the key to retention, according to industry consultants, will be increasing customer satisfaction, stepping up staff and management training, improving use of technology and implementing innovative programs.

When considering attrition, clubs should realize that their competition is greater than the club down the street. When members “defect” from a health club, managers need to know why, says Richard Gerson, president of Gerson Goodson Inc., a marketing and consulting firm that specializes in the fitness industry. He explains, “The fitness industry competes for the leisure dollar. If people leave a health club, where are they going? That dollar is going to be spent somewhere else.”

A number of reasons exist for member defection. A big one, Gerson says, is buyer’s remorse. “Have you ever bought something and shortly after realized that you didn’t want it?,” he says. A large majority of new members experience this post-purchase dissonance and stop coming back after 90 days.

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