How Gyms are Working to Retain Clients with Closed Doors

In the last two weeks, hundreds of gyms and studios around the world have had to close their doors due to uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. We recently did a survey with various gym owners across the city to uncover more information and best practices during this time.

In the survey, roughly 60% reported 10+ members have placed their membership on hold or cancelled, and a handful of others have reported between five and 10 holds or cancellations.

Some good news: About 25% have said they’ve had zero cancellations or holds so far. A few even said they have picked up some new members who approached them after their gym closed, using this as an opportunity to find a change of pace. Finding a way to rent out your equipment has proven to be a valuable asset to keeping members involved and accountable during these times.

The most common remote services gyms/studios are offering include:

  • Daily at-home programming
  • Online Zoom group classes
  • Team fitness challenges
  • Equipment borrow/rental
  • Individual programming

Though many gyms have experienced positive outcomes during this time, most have only been closed for seven to 10 days and many are aware of what could happen should this pandemic cause use to be closed for many more weeks, or even months. If you’re a realist, you’d fully expect if we go into month two, people will hold or cancel their memberships.

In Italy for example, some gyms that have been closed since February – with no end in sight – and most members are no longer paying at all. If your membership is designed to be sold for three, six or 12 months up front, there can be pros and cons to this payment plan, but many members will be hesitant to renew as they come up for renewal again.

Watch your numbers: If you are live streaming classes, make sure you are keeping track of your numbers. If they start to drop, you’ll know your audience is getting tired of Zoom classes. Right now, they’re a great way to buy good will, but plan ahead and develop a back-up plan should things start to go south. Brainstorm ideas with your team.

Keep in mind coaches have limited programming options hosting at-home workouts too. Having air squats, burpees, and lunges on repeat will lead to hip problems, boredom and people finding themselves with some aches and pains if done too much.

Think about keeping your Zoom workouts shorter than a normal class and begin offering individual programming in addition to your go-live classes. This will introduce your members to an elevated service option too.

Focus on the relationships: If a gym has decided to cancel all of their services and membership fees, this might put you in a better position to collect some new members. Remember you are in the relationship business and retention comes down to engagement. Get creative with how you’re going to add value to your members during this time of isolation.

Pick up the phone and call each member if you have to. Ask them how they’re doing and how you can help. What do they need and how can the gym be of service to them during this time.

Assign specific coaches to specific clients: If you have more than 300 members, assign clients to your coaches and provide them with personal accountability. Perhaps you will not be reaching out to each client every single day, but it’s important to stay in touch more often than not at all.

Members helping members: If some of your members decide to place their membership on hold, offer your other members an opportunity to pay-it-forward and do whatever they can to help their community. If all of your members agreed to increase their membership fee by $1, would that save a member? What about $2 or $3? The price of a cup of coffee could save a few members while building community.

Johnny Wilkins, owner at QNTM Fit Life, suggests keeping your community engaged and accountable with a creative hashtag tied to your brand. “Our company tagline is ‘Make It Count’, so we’re using #MakeQuarantineCount.

Reduce the price of membership: Others have said they have lowered their monthly fee, or intend to lower it, should the closure carry on into a second month. Think about this possibility. After all, some money is better than no money.

Additional programming options: Some gyms/studios are also offering more specific classes or programming options, such as nutrition consulting, mobility classes or running or endurance programs.

Similarly, offer a “quarantine responsible” community night. Hosting a Friday night Sip n’ Stretch class via Zoom where members can come together for mobility with a glass of wine, or alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink of their choice is a great idea. You might end up with even more people attending this class!

Bottom line: Getting through this pandemic as unscathed as possible will come down to your relationships. Reach out to people and check in daily with your members if you have to. Whatever it takes, do not let them feel isolated or unsupported during this time.

Although this may be a scary time and a lot of us are anxious to get back to some sense of normalcy, we must also recognize the opportunity in front of us to fix that was perhaps broken before. Use this as a strengthening opportunity for you and your members.

“This is the best time in the history of fitness to show your members you aren’t four walls and some gym equipment,” says the Morning Chalk Up. We couldn’t agree more.