Customer Orientation Model Increases Revenues, Retention

by Valerie Applebaum, MPH, CHES on Jan 22, 2009

Orientation should not be viewed simply as a nice gesture to new members, but rather as an important transition between recruitment and retention. A well-structured program provides a warm welcome to new members and, ultimately, increases long-term revenue.

Bolster Retention

Most of the attrition in the fitness industry comes from people who quit before they even get started. The goal is to integrate them into your facility from day one. Transform the orientation process from a single-day experience to several sessions over the first few weeks. Include a facility tour, a thorough fitness assessment, an introduction to all profit centers, and opportunities for social connection.

Revive Your Facility Tour

The club tour is the first step in the orientation process. During the tour, ask members about their past experiences with health clubs so that you can determine the members’ likes and dislikes and focus on overcoming potential obstacles in meeting their fitness needs. Introduce important contacts, such as the facility manager, the head of personal training, the daycare supervisor and others who are key to your operation. Encourage questions along the way. Every answer is an opportunity to address a concern before it becomes a problem.

Fine-Tune Your Fitness Assessment

Make the second meeting the fitness assessment. When done properly, this step results in a realistic, customized exercise plan that helps the client achieve goals safely and effectively. Assign each new member a fitness coach, and have this person conduct the assessment, obtain an initial health profile, complete a goal analysis, discuss activity interests and then develop a personalized plan for the member.

Pump Up Your Profit Centers

In the third meeting, discuss all of your facility’s offerings. Many members do not take advantage of club services simply because they are not aware that they exist. Provide details regarding personal training, spa services, tanning, daycare and all profit centers. Then, and this is the crucial part, make it easy for members to sign up immediately for services. Offer special discounts that day only or create a coupon booklet for club services that has an expiration date. Offer this only during orientation.

Support Social Connection

A supportive, close-knit environment goes a long way toward promoting consistent attendance and loyalty. Quickly engage new members in club activities, and furnish newcomers with opportunities to interact with staff and other members. Encouraging relationship building is the fourth aspect of your orientation phase, but this aspect should continue long term. Organize regular social events for members and their families so that your club is more than just a place to work out; it is a community where members form friendships.

To learn more about maximizing orientations and how to make a strong first impression, see the complete article in the January 2009 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager or online in IDEA's Health and Fitness Article Library.

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About the Author

Valerie Applebaum, MPH, CHES

Valerie Applebaum, MPH, CHES IDEA Author/Presenter

Valerie Applebaum, MPH, CHES, is a certified health education specialist with a master’s degree in public health from the University of South Carolina. She currently resides in Connecticut, where she is a health writer for a variety of trade and consumer magazines. She can be reached at