Customer Experience

Onboarding New Members

Once you have members signing up at you gym, you must ensure that the next step, the Member Onboarding Process, goes smoothly!

Developing a frictionless onboarding strategy will maximize your member retention and improve your member experience.

The most important time period in the membership lifecycle is the first four weeks, and you should be making contact frequently within that period.  What you do immediately once your member has signed up to your gym is critical, and will play a key role in their decision to renew their membership with you down the road.

Your current member onboarding process: what does it look like?

There are some common patterns with the onboarding process: First, you set up a meeting to discuss your client’s goals, followed by an individual tour of your facility. You’ll enlighten your new member about your what services your gym has to offer and then answer any questions, doing your best to make sure they feel comfortable. You might even offer to set up a free Personal Training session to help familiarize them with the equipment. Lastly, they’ll be added to the gym email newsletter list, and you’ll exchange friendly smiles and chats throughout their membership and hope that they renew their membership when it ends.

What is wrong with that Member Onboarding Process? Nothing! However, if you really want to make a difference to your membership retention, there are a few things you can do while onboarding your new members to secure their loyalty in your gym.

1) Provide instant value to all new members

Arm your new members with education by teaching them something they didn’t know. Whether it’s showing them new stretches, a little nutritional advice, a complementary work out plan, or a thorough walk through on how to use some of the equipment they are not familiar with.

Education is a kind of value that lasts much longer than a free protein shake, and this simple, yyt effective, personalization will strengthen their decision to join your gym over the others.

2) Creative an environment of engagement with other gym goers

The number one reason that members do not renew their membership is lack of engagement. 

Humans are social creatures, where friendship and a sense of belonging play a significant role in everyday fulfillment. Ask your trainers to be proactive about introducing members to each other. At the end of a fitness class, get your members to introduce each other to whoever they’re next to. Play to people’s competitive nature – get them smiling.

It’s harder to convince themselves out of going to the gym for a workout, when your member looks forward to seeing a friendly face.

3) Show your members how to hold themselves accountable

Are you helping your members achieve their fitness goals? Help your members understand the roadblocks that they have experienced in the past that have stopped them from achieving their fitness goals. Then, make some suggestions as to how they can overcome these roadblocks.

Utilize the knowledge and education that your trainers have in motivating people to achieve their fitness goals. Take the time to have this conversation with your new members during the onboarding process and next time they try and convince themselves that they shouldn’t go to the gym, they will remember that they are accountable only to themselves.

4) Track member engagement

We all know that a lifestyle change is no small feat, and relapsing can be a common occurrence – a two week holiday can have you feeling like you’re back at square one with your fitness.

Take time to let your members know you care: a simple reminder from an external force can help nudge your members to get back on the wagon.

5) Measure your success

At the end of the four week period, your member should be well on their way to crafting out a healthy relationship with your gym. Use their visitation as a measurement of your success of your onboarding process. What works for one gym may not work for another, so test, test, test! 

The best approach to improving your membership retention is to add value from day one. MXM helps make easy work of tracking your members and staying in communication! 

7 Rules for Being a Great Health Club Member

We write a lot about how to be a great health club and how to deliver great customer experience. We recently worked with Keith Catanzano of 2River Consulting in Washington DC to do someamazing segmentation on our member data.Keith created a “predictive model” using historic membership data to find our common segments reflecting different cancellation rates. This gave us incredible insights into our membership base that I have never had before.

But it got me thinking about what is a “great health club member?” It always pisses me off when someone describes the ideal member as someone that pays for but doesn’t use her membership.  I hate the whole idea of that and chances are, if you are a club operator, so do you. That thinking disappeared with platform shoes – at least I hope. So here are my “instructions” on how to be the IDEAL gym member!


1. Use The Gym

Come in at least 3 times each week. No time?  We can design a kick-ass 12- minute workout that you can fit into your busiest day!  Let us help you with the problem you need to solve so that you can utilize the gym.

2. Report Problems

If you get on a treadmill and that TV doesn’t work, PLEASE let us know.  We want everything to be in working order and you should expect it to be!

NOTE TO OPERATORS: Make it easy and obvious for your members to report problems!

3. Give Feedback

We know you get enough email but as our member we really do want to know how we look through your eyes.  When you receive our email asking for feedback please provide it and don’t hold back!  It won’t take long and we use the information in every meeting to create accountability and to foster continuous change.  We would also love it if you rated us on Yelp! facebook and google+.

4. Bring Your Friends & Family!

Hey, we are a business and would love to grow. If we could get every member to bring in one person to join once a year we would greatly exceed membership goals and have more money to spend on facilities, equipment and programs members love.

5. Bring Ideas

Have you been traveling and seeing anything cool you think we should consider?  Tell us what it is and why you liked it!  Or maybe you are just one of those people that comes up with ideas in your everyday experience.  Keep the ideas coming! We know we need to change constantly and knowing your ideas will help us do just that.

6. Expect Excellence

It keeps us on our toes and we know that your experience here will determine your commitment to these non-mandatory instructions. You see, we know these “instructions” are really “favors” we are asking of you.  You won’t much feel like doing a favor for any business that isn’t working their ass off to earn your trust.  We get that.

7. Use & Know Gym Etiquette

·       Be nice to staff.

·       Be nice to members.

·       Clean up after yourself – sweat, weights, chalk etc.

·       DON’T drop weights – even when doing power cleans.

·       Let people work-in with you.

·       Don’t wear offensive clothing.

·       Don’t take yourself too seriously.

·       Deodorant usage good, cologne/perfume bad.

·       Smile.

That’s it. As club owners we are always trying to create better and better customer experiences.  Perhaps we should include instructions on how to be a great member every time we onboard someone? And while I don’t think it is reasonable to expect all members to follow the instructions, I do think it is reasonable to offer them.


We Say 'Yes'!

The product of the health club business is the member experience.  Just as the product of a restaurant is not only the food but the overall experience.Say this in a group of gym owner/operators and most will agree.  Asked if they deliver an excellent, average, or poor member experience and I bet at least 80% say “excellent.”  I would also bet that 80% of members say “poor to average.”


This indicates a gap in the implied strategy and the ability to deliver the strategy.  If your strategy includes the intent to delight your members, design your business to deliver.  This requires more than telling staff to be nice and say “hello” and “goodbye.”  Whether you are a full-service multi-sport club or a low-cost fitness-only gym, there is no excuse for poor service.  The difference in these two models is simply the scope of services provided.

It is important to understand that the member experience is defined by the member, not the operator.  Operators create policies, strategies, launch initiatives, and train staff.  The affects of those decisions will be positive, neutral, or negative in the member experience – only the member can make that determination.

Great customer service that builds loyalty begins with two rules:

  • First, create no unpleasant surprises.

  • Second, create lots of pleasant surprises.

During a member visit if you can avoid any of the former and create several of the latter, members will have an excellent experience. Many businesses fail at this because policies and staff training are done to primarily protect and benefit the company, not the customers.   How many policies and procedures are created with an individual member’s experience in mind? A member’s experience is disrupted with policies that make no sense to them, cost them money, or even make them angry. The front line staff is left with the most aggravating words in customer-service history – “that’s our policy.”  A member doesn’t care if that is your policy or not, she wants to know how your policies are designed to bring value to her, your member. It is very important to differentiate between the intent of a policy, process, or procedure, and the feeling that the policy, process, or procedure creates for a member.  Intent means nothing. Feeling is everything. Design your systems with the end feeling of the member in mind. 


In addition to burdening front line staff with too many company-centric policies and procedures, the time spent training staff to “enforce” policy becomes disproportionate with time spent teaching values, connectivity, complaint resolution, and delivering pleasant surprises. I would even argue that an over-regulated service environment with disempowered staff does not attract the best employees.  In my experience, service environments that give the front line staff authority and in fact the directive to “do whatever it takes to make the member happy” will attract employees that love helping people.

A key word (albeit a grossly misused word!) is empower – to give power or authority. I say misused because many who claim to have empowered their front line have done no such thing. They give them the power to say “no” but not the power to say “yes.”  If you truly empower your service staff to deliver great service, you bestow the authority to say “yes” as well as “no.”

Years ago we did a beautiful experiment with our front desk staff in an effort to get better at serving our members. We empowered them to do whatever it takes to make the member happy.  Next we told them that they had to ask for manager permission to tell a member “no.” We cringed and waited for them to give everything away.  They didn’t.

Four things happened:

  1. Members were happier.

  2. Staff became happier.

  3. They did a great job!

  4. We discovered their limits of comfort when they came to ask permission to tell a member “no.”

If your strategy is differentiation, not commoditization, then this points in the right direction as there are very few who will have the courage and the patience to deliver on a true customer care strategy. Chances are, you will be the only one in your market and that is true differentiation.   

Best Practice - Create Community


Do your customers know each other? You are a common bond. Can you facilitate opportunities for them to interact? The concept of the "mesh" of crowd-sharing is alive and well.

Example: makes it easy for real-life neighbors to meet and share ladders, lawnmowers, and helping hands. helps people find space (a house, a room, a sleeping bag) in other people's homes. Once upon a time, Saturn held annual reunions and factory tours for new car buyers.

Satisfaction Shift (ROI)


Segment your customers into three groups: Detractors, Passives and Promoters. Identify the percentage of your customers that each group represents. Define the value of each group to your company based on how much they spend per visit, per month, per year, or over a lifetime. Now answer the question: What is the business impact of transforming 10% of Detractors to Promoters?


The answer to this question defines the world of opportunity created by greater customer satisfaction. Pin one big, aspirational number on satisfaction

Just For You


Identify one element of your experience that you can personalize for your customer. Consider the barista who knows and readies your favorite drink, or the car service that tunes your stereo to your favorite radio station. How can you demonstrate to your customers that you really know their tastes?


Prove that you listen and that you care about the customer's comfort. That builds loyalty. Once you capture that first element, it becomes the foundation for a closer customer relationship.



Choose one interaction in your customer experience. Now benchmark the company that is the best at this interaction. Not in your industry, but on the planet. Look for all companies that are excellent at that single interaction.


Too many companies benchmark customer experience leaders only in their industry. Thought leaders benchmark outside their industry and leapfrog their peers.


Take a look at your MXM Score Card. Scroll to the bottom of the page and see the average NPS scores for Hospitality and Retail. 



In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell explains the power of first impressions. What first impression are you offering your customers? When they walk into your location, what's the first thing customers see? When they call, what's the first thing they hear? Now work backward. Define the ideal first impression and determine what you need to do to deliver time and time again.


Sometimes we design experiences, and the first impression is the outcome. However, you can flip that approach; start with the first impression and then reinforce it.