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Defining Member Experience, Part 1: Programming

This is part one of a four-part series on member experience. Each month, we’ll be exploring a different facet of creating a member experience that ultimately impacts your bottom line. Be sure to the ABC Blog for the latest.

Member experience: a term you’ve likely heard again and again from fellow club owners, industry reports, and many others in the health club and fitness industry. And at a high level, one thing is for sure: clubs thrive because of the unique value they bring to members. Otherwise, members wouldn’t sign up in the first place, much less justify how they spend their time and monthly dues.

But what makes up member experience and creates that value? What factors result in this intangible, difficult-to-measure element, and how can you take this information and apply it to your business? At ABC, our work over the last four decades with fitness clubs gives us a unique insight into how gyms of all types and sizes operate. We see that member experience boils down to four key factors that influence members’ opinions:

  1. Programming
  2. People
  3. Facilities & Back Office
  4. Technology

In this article, we’ll dive into programming: an aspect of the member experience that should perfectly align with your brand’s personality and your members’ goals. Programming covers any and all elements of classes and in-club engagement you and your team deliver, from hot yoga to member contests to HIT. For your group exercise junkies, this is where they’ll receive the bulk of their interaction with your brand and seek exciting evolutions in their daily routines. For those seeking community, programming creates a framework for like-minded individuals to form long-lasting bonds…all thanks to your gym. Once you’ve collated your full offering to members (beyond classes), it’s time to take an unbiased look at your opportunities to grow.

Driving Revenue from Several Angles

It’s likely a good portion of your members joined not just for the plentiful equipment on the floor or amazing locker rooms, but to take part in your programming mix. Your marketing messaging is likely fueled by your latest and greatest offering. Beyond attracting new signups, keeping members excited by meeting and exceeding their expectations for programming is a surefire way to increase lifetime value and – critically – encourage them to bring their friends.

Many club models create revenue growth through expanding and enhancing programming. It’s among the most classic upsells in the industry. Even if boosting class attendance doesn’t directly impact the bottom line at your gyms, the financial benefits of taking a critical eye to your members’ level of interest in these programs pays dividends quickly.

Reevaluating your programming mix can energize lagging members, getting them back through your door and making them less likely to cancel. Consider when you’re changing your mix, too. Rolling out a hot new offering just in time for the January rush might be too late to save the cohort of less-engaged members from last year’s high season. Take a look at your member data and identify which months you saw the highest number of cancellation requests in the last few years. Is there an opportunity to refresh and try something new in the weeks and months leading up to that risky time, mitigate impact, and build excitement and referrals even earlier than normal?

Some facilities and brands are naturally more flexible with new offerings than others. However, there’s almost always a chance to test new offerings and engagement angles, especially with your most loyal fans. Once you’ve complied a few options for new programming, consider offering VIP sessions for new possible programming at under-utilized times. Track your registrations and attendance (and even willingness to pay) in your core gym member management technology to make sure insights are available year after year.

Where Member Sentiment Meets Data

Now that we’ve defined the bounds of programming and started the creative juices flowing, how can you be sure you’re making an informed decision? There are several key sources of data you should incorporate:

  • Registration and attendance records
  • Engagement metrics
  • Member surveys and staff feedback
  • Signup data and referrals

You’ll need to apply your critical thinking skills to make sure you’ve separated the signal from the noise and get a solid picture of what members are really seeing on an everyday basis. That’s where member surveys, 1:1 conversations, and staff feedback can help you augment registration data – did an engagement initiative miss the mark because your members never heard about it? Are registrations high and attendance low because some instructors aren’t enforcing check-ins? Only by adding qualitative insights can you get the full picture.

Finally, you’ll want to set and measure goals for your programming as part of your overall approach to member experience. These are unique to your business: it might be getting more members through the check-in desk every day, extending your average member tenure by one month, or driving 3X revenue from your new barre class. Before you get started on the path to improving member engagement, make sure you can measure what matters with reports and dashboards that will help you tell your team: did we meet our goal, or not?

An Owner’s Perspective

We checked in with Bernie LeCocq, owner of River North Gym in Chicago, about his approach to examining programming trends and how they help drive his in-club experience.

Making Great Ideas a Habit

Armed with ideas to spare and the insights to make a difference, you’ll want to make regular programming evaluation part of your team’s DNA by building it into your monthly leadership meetings. Take a hard look each quarter and make the tough calls – cut the lagging initiatives and classes, double down on what’s working, make room for something new, and make sure members can’t wait to see what’s next.

Providing easy access to the data needed to make critical programming decisions is just one reason why ABC Financial is the club management solution provider of choice for leading fitness, health club, and gym brands. The team at ABC Financial is here to help you optimize your business by lending its decades of industry experience. Let’s discuss how you can best prepare for the programming and reporting needs of tomorrow.

Next up: the power of your team.