Put a lid on attrition with you computer. Part 3

Based on the findings and success of Wallace and Miller, an alternative to the retention formulas mentioned above is to look at the average length of membership and try to extend that within your facility. Using your computer (if you keep expired records on your computer), examine the contracts of your expired members and determine the length of their memberships. Calculate the average by totalling all of the durations and divide by the number of former members. If you have been in business for more than five years (or you don’t have records on computer), this could be quite a task so I recommend you look only at the last five years (at most). Once this task is done, you will have a base average to work with and you can start identifying existing members that might be at risk.

If you could assign membership sales staff and/or other front-line staff to track specific members, you would be able to reach members at their critical points. Pull reports for members who have not been active in the last 30, 60 or 90 days, and make phone calls to these people to get them back into your facility. By the way, it is not recommended that you call and say, “Hey, you haven’t been in lately ….” You might run the risk of their saying, “You know what? You’re right! I’ve been meaning to cancel this membership!” Whoops!

A more advisable, softer approach would be to call the “at-risk” members and invite them to come in for a specific program. Of course, if you have a personal profile on them, you can start with a topic that you know interests them. If you don’t have a profile on them, you can tell them you’re calling members at random to tell them about new programs and get their feedback. These calls can then serve the multiple purpose of getting people signed up for events, notifying members about programs and/or services and, not least importantly, to gain feedback from members about any changes your facility can make to keep them more involved. The contact alone is often enough to keep a membership for one to two months longer than you might have otherwise.

Adding software to the formula

When John Philbin, strength-training coach for the Washington Redskins, opened his own fitness facility in Maryland, he was unhappy with the kinds of computer software available to the industry. He wanted more information and more flexibility with reporting. When he opened a second facility in Virginia, he worked with his partner Steve Shollenberger, a CPA and financial consultant, to design software that not only tracks member usage and flow (by day, time and area), but allows them to input member interests and program registrations. The software allows users to pull reports on specific interests, percentages of program participation, percentages of males versus females, as well as other reports, and tables and reports are user-defined.

Philbin and Shollenberger have their fitness instructors call members each week to get them involved in the club and programs. In addition, they make sure their report writer is flexible enough so that each director can pull reports that will help them with staff scheduling, program scheduling, member retention, program registrations, etc. The software is now being tested in other facilities.

Most of the existing computer software programs available to the fitness and recreation market are being upgraded to Windows versions and becoming more flexible, easy to use and capable of containing more information in each member file. When looking to upgrade or purchase new software, important considerations include a flexible report writer that allows you to customize reports as needed, and the ability to store and track information about members’ interests and activities.

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