Why do people let their gym memberships run out

Analysis: Understanding why people give up their gym membership is key to knowing how to get it back

by Theresa HurleyAnd the TU Dublin

Are you a member of a health club or have you been a member of a number of different health clubs in the past? Did you know that less than 52% of health club providers bother figuring out why you’re leaving? The author of this study examined factors influencing re-engagement intentions and re-engagement behavior of lagging health club members.

A mail survey of 100 Irish health and fitness providers has been completed along with a mail survey of hundreds of members who recently dropped off at a mid-size health club in a suburb in Ireland. An empirical field study was then used to measure the actual re-engagement behavior of 300 backward members of the same health club.

Attrition rates in health clubs are generally high, representing a large market for untapped members, lucrative and available for re-engagement. However, if health clubs actually don’t know why members are leaving, how can they fix the problem and how can they get fallen members back on track and rejoin?

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From Jennifer Zamparelli of RTÉ 2fm, a recent study found that young adults prefer going to the gym before saving for their future.

It is critical that health club providers find out why members are leaving by completing an exit analysis of all members who are quitting, as it can cost up to seven to ten times less to reactivate a former member than it would to register a new member in terms of marketing, recruitment, and member training New to hardware, club operation issues, etc.

Findings from this study indicate that 45% of those surveyed would rejoin if invited, with 95% stating that they would be better motivated by price. Some operators ignore this lapsed member market and instead focus on targeting new members. This excessive focus by health club providers on new members versus the lapsed organ market has been highlighted in a number of previous studies over the years (Thomas et al., 2000, Reinartz et al., 2004; Homburg et al., 2007; Mandina and Karisampodzi, 2016).

So while it’s not a new phenomenon, it doesn’t seem to have been addressed by the Irish health and fitness industry. Health clubs should consider a change of strategic focus, from an overemphasis on acquiring new clients to actively re-engaging in the elapsed organ market by figuring out why they are leaving and offering an incentive such as a price to re-engage. In fact, offering a stimulus of any kind to reactivate excitable organs appears to be preferable to providing no stimulus at all in this study.

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Interestingly, 85% of the elapsed member market examined had not joined any club since exit, with 54% indicating that they would consider joining the same club, reinforcing the need for health club providers to offer the elapsed member a good incentive to join again.

21% of terminated members in this study cited “club-related” as the main reason for termination of membership, including cleanliness, opening hours, access, and operational issues. These are issues that the Club can control and take action on as part of its broader customer service policy by regularly seeking customer feedback throughout the customer/membership experience, offering and rewarding good customer service suggestions, and letting members know that they have been acted upon.

Highly satisfied customers were found to have stronger intentions to re-engage as part of this study, so striving to increase customer satisfaction should form a major part of any customer service policy. More frequent attendees also had higher intentions to re-engage with those who had fallen most recently demonstrated stronger re-engagement behavior. This supports the idea that the earlier a reactivation program is started, the greater the chance of re-engaging the elapsed organ. Ideally, members should be given a promotional incentive or customer loyalty reward before membership expires.

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RTÉ Brainstorm, UL’s Leanne Quinn talks 10 reasons why more women are carrying weights in life

The use of joining fees was found to be effective in boosting client retention but only up to the six-month period, with 29% of lapsed members stating that it was helpful in prolonging their club membership. Membership increases should be considered as a strategy to extend membership while boosting the bottom line of clubs during the typically low-income summer season. Those elapsed members in the €21,000-40,000 income bracket have been found to have stronger intentions to re-engage than other income groups, so knowing your market segment can be helpful in knowing which customer segments are likely to react best to a policy Reactivation of motivating clients.

There are clearly a number of strategic ways in which health club providers can reduce member attrition rates and enhance customer retention, customer service and frequency of use, strategies that can be instrumental in improving more than just the club’s bottom line.

Note: This study was based on a medium-sized suburban health club in Ireland and therefore no comparisons can be made between the results of this study and those involving large health clubs, chains, urban clubs or those outside Ireland.

Dr. Teresa Hurley He is a lecturer at TU Dublin currently on secondment in Campus Planning from the President management school role in the College of Business.


The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ


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