Customer Engagement Is the Key to Fitness Business Success, According to New Global Survey

Sixty-four percent of health club operators believe customer engagement is crucial to the success of their businesses, with email, social media and face-to-face interaction being the three most-popular ways to create that engagement, according to a new global survey.

The Customer Engagement Academy (CEA), the research arm of member engagement software provider TRP, Bath, England, recently issued its Member Engagement in the Global Health and Fitness Industry Survey Report 2018. In April 2018, CEA surveyed industry professional across the globe, including those working at commercial, nonprofit, boutique and university facilities. More than 80 percent of respondents were in a managerial position or above.

Almost 90 percent of members appreciate it when staff members at their clubs engage with them, something that 83 percent of the surveyed clubs said they do. The most commonly cited channels of engagement were social media and face-to-face engagement from reception staff, both cited by 86 percent of surveyed clubs, the report found. 

"Members who are never spoken to cancel at a rate 2.8 times higher, equating to an extra 21 cancelled memberships each month for every 1,000 members," the report stated.

The survey also noted that a minority of club operators reported using club-branded mobile apps (48 percent) and SMS text messaging (34 percent).

On the topic of social media, 90 percent of respondents reported using Facebook, with 66 percent using Twitter, 62 percent using Instagram and 38 percent using YouTube. Of those respondents, 77 percent reported using paid advertising via their preferred social media channels, and 54 percent reported posting content at least once a day, if not more frequently.

The survey also reported inconsistencies with member engagement via email. Although 86 percent of respondents said they use email messaging, 54 percent said they engage with their members via email less than once per month.

Finally, when asked to self-rate their business's member engagement on a 10-point scale (with 10 being the best possible score), 23 percent of respondents chose 8, 19 percent chose 5 and 15 percent chose 7, 6 and 4. This resulted in an average score of 6.4.

“It is great to see that operators and managers of health and fitness facilities see the value in member engagement whilst also seeing that there is always room for improvement, and it is encouraging to see that investments in staff and technology are being utilized to achieve higher levels of engagement," CEA Honorary President Melvyn Hillsdon said in a media release. "It feels as if one challenge for the industry is to better define the member experience and what types of experiences are most strongly related to net promoter scores and member retention. This could then inform club/operator level policies to enhance the experiences of all members."

This is the first in a series of CEA surveys that will assess member engagement and operator behavior, according to TRP.

To view the full CEA survey, click here.

For more coverage on recent fitness-related studies, click here.