Dr. Paul Bedford is the fitness industry’s leading authority on the management of retention, attrition and the customer experience, and author of the world’s largest retention study. You can find out more at The Retention Guru or by following @guru_paul on Twitter.
In this article Paul shares his insight into the added value that group exercise instructors should be bringing to the clubs in which they operate.
One question I always ask operators is ‘how much time do you spend with your group exercise instructors outlining the member experience you expect them deliver?’ More often than not the answer tends to be, ‘Not a lot. We give them a space, they turn up and teach’. This is where many operators are missing a trick.
Interaction with a professional is much more likely in a group exercise environment than on the gym floor
Instructors are expected to deliver a class in line with the standards the members have come to expect, but as freelancers rather than salaried staff, they aren’t viewed in the same light by the employer – the operator. As such, while salaried staff are inducted into the ethos and expectations of the business, freelancers typically don’t receive the same level of training and guidance. But, while they are teaching in your club, freelancers are representing your business.
Members place a lot more value on greetings and interactions with professionals working within the club than from front of house staff
Interaction is really powerful in retaining members. Interaction with a professional is much more likely in a group exercise environment than on the gym floor because of the nature of the group class and the fact there is professional there delivering the class. So often in the gym environment there are fewer professionals on the gym floor, and those that are tend to be self-employed PT’s working with their own clients.
Members place a lot more value on greetings and interactions with professionals working within the club than from front of house staff. The reception team are there to ‘receive’ you so a greeting is expected. For those members that only do group classes, the instructor may be the only person they interact with so a ‘hello, how are you?’ will go a long way.
I’ve picked out three areas of interaction that are simple to implement with group exercise instructors but have a significant effect on retention:
Warm welcome – arriving early and getting set up prior to the members getting there. Standing by the door and welcoming each member into the class. Introducing themselves to new members or those they don’t recognise. Ideally, using the members’ first names.
Feedback – giving meaningful feedback in three areas; skill (how well members are performing the exercise), intensity (how hard they’re working), performance (how well they’re progressing). You’re looking to avoid a situation where phrases such as ‘good’, ‘well done’, ‘great work’ lose their value and become meaningless.
Confirming next visit – at the end of the class, asking ‘who’s here next week’? Getting some level of response from the group, by show of hands or verbally, will increase retention for that group because people have expressed a verbal commitment externally, so other people have heard it. These people are 70% more likely to turn up next week.