Your gym is like a bucket of water. You may be doing a good job of pouring fresh water into the bucket, but if the bucket has a leak, you’re never going to make any headway. The key to success is to plug the hole by stopping member ‘leakage’. To do that you must keep your members happy, enthusiastic and motivated to chase down their goals. And the only way to do that is to consistently meet your members expectations. 

The problem is that few of your members are going to volunteer their expectations to you. In order to be able to meet those expectations, you have got to find out what they are. In the process, you can even have a hand in helping the members to set their expectations. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be in a position to not only meet, but to exceed those expectations. This article will show you how to…

  • Find
  • Set
  • Meet

the expectation of your gym members. 

Generic Expectations

Gym member expectations can be separated into two categories:

  • Generic
  • Specific

Generic expectations are those that are common to all members. They can be considered bottom line expectations that you need to be getting right as a matter of course before you move on to meeting your member’s specific expectations. 

Over the last couple of years, largely as a result of COVID, generic member expectations have evolved. Here are half a dozen generic expectations that today’s gym members have:

Hygiene

You should expect that your members will have some hesitancy about coming back to the gym post lockdown. The primary concern will probably revolve around hygiene. That’s why you need to go above and beyond your previous practises when it comes to the cleaning of your facility. 

Members draw confidence when they see staff wiping down equipment, and cleaners mopping floors and wiping down shower cubicles. I highly recommend having white boards posted around the gym where staff and cleaners record with a marker the time that the area was last cleaned. 

In terms of COVID, you should meet your member’ expectations by having clear requirements. Whether that includes mask wearing will depend on your local situation. However, all members should be provided with a spray bottle and you should have paper towel dispensers liberally dispersed around the gym. Members should be regularly reminded over the intercom to clean their machine after use. 

Safety

Your members should expect to be able to work out in a safe environment. For that to occur, you need to have a policy of diligent enforcement regarding intimidation, physical violence and obnoxious behavior. Clearly post your rules of conduct and enforce them swiftly and consistently. As an experienced gym owner, you well know that some people can act like jerks on the gym floor. It’s your job to have all areas monitored and to be proactive so that these clowns don’t upset other members. If you don’t, you will fail to meet a basic member expectation.

Digital Integration

Today’s gym members have an expectation that they are able to integrate their fitness experience with their technology. That means that your gym should offer the following:

  • Online streaming workouts
  • Workout & Nutrition apps
  • One demand video workouts

During the lockdowns, these were the only way that most of your members were able to get in their workouts. Many of them would have gotten used to the experience and enjoyed the fact that they didn’t have to drive to the gym and find a parking space. You need to keep that option available for them.

Consider offering hybrid membership, where members pay a reduced price for a combination of home and gym workouts. 

Mental and General Health Focus

The Covid-10 pandemic has led many people to put less emphasis on their aesthetic fitness (bulging biceps and bigger butt) and more on their health fitness (stronger immune system, improved cardiovascular functioning). That should impact the way your gym markets to new and existing members and the services that it offers. 

Knowing that members have more of a health focus, make sure that you are offering classes that meet their expectations in that regard. In actuality, this may simply mean changing the names of some classes and using different keywords to describe them.

There is also a growing awareness of the need to nourish our mental health. Members want the gym to be a place they can unload and unwind from the pressures of their day, rejuvenate and relax. You can cater to this expectation by incorporating elements of mindfulness into your classes. For example, you could combine mindful breathing with HIIT and offer a Mindful Tabata class. 

Enough Equipment

Your members expect to be able to follow their exercise plan without having to wait around for equipment or to be lumped with faulty equipment. Of course, members should also expect for the gym to be busy before and after normal working hours but, unless they see that you’re providing a reasonable amount of equipment to cater to the membership numbers, they are going to walk. 

If you find that things are getting tight on certain machines during peak times, consider setting up a system where members can reserve a machine or station.

Friendly Environment

Your members expect to be treated with respect and courtesy and to be welcomed to the gym. Staff members need to display a consistently friendly vibe to every member all the time. 

Cancellation Policy

Your members rightly expect to be able to cleanly get out of a membership contract if their circumstances change. The most common complaint you find about gyms online is the horror show that unfolded when they tried to cancel their membership. You can bet that, as well as posting for the whole world to see, each of those disgruntled gym members also moaned to at least 10 of their friends about the experience. 

Regular Surveys

The only way to know if you are actually meeting your member’s expectations in these areas is to ask them. Train your staff to regularly ask members how you’re going and what you can improve upon. In addition, you should email your members a survey at least every quarter in which you go through each of the areas above and ask questions related to them. Then have  space for members to make additional suggestions. 

Once your survey is completed, you should personally analyze it and develop next steps. Then use those next steps as the basis for ongoing staff training sessions. 

Getting Specific

Once you’ve covered your bases with regard to the generic expectations of your members, you are in a position to dig deeper with members in order to find and meet their specific expectations. 

The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that you know what the expectations of your members are. That is a surefire way to miss the mark. Just because an overweight person signs up doesn’t automatically mean that their goal is to lose weight. They may be wanting to primarily gain strength, improve cardiovascular fitness or relieve their back pain. Weight loss may or may not be a secondary goal for them.

The bottom line here is that the only way to find out what your member’s expectations are is to ask them. So, how should you do that?

In the orientation interview, your staff member should ask direct questions of your new member. Rather than putting them into an impersonal survey, train your staff member to ask these questions as they build a relationship with the member through casual, friendly conversation. Here are some questions that can help uncover the member’s expectations …

  • Why did you choose this gym?
  • What are your expectations of us?
  • What would be different about your body in 12 weeks that would signal success for your gym investment?
  • What would be different about your mind in 12 weeks that would signal success for your gym investment?
  • What specific physical changes are you after?
  • What is the underlying reason (the emotion driver) behind that desire for change?
  • What are your life circumstances – working hours, sports and other active activities, as well as family responsibilities?

By listening carefully to the new member’ responses, your staff member will be able to get a good insight into what the person expects and what success will look for them. These things should be recorded  on that person’s record. 

Having a record of what a member expects, however, is not going to benefit anybody, if it sits as a footnote to a document and never again sees the light of day. That’s why you need to have an automated system that allows you to add notes to your member database so that, every time they scan in, the person behind the desk sees a note recording those expectations. 

As an example, when Steve scans into the gym, the computer screen pops with his name, photo and a few words about his expectations and goals. That could be …

No nonsense hardcore – focused on weak chest and calves – wants to compete in 2023. 

The staff member will know not to engage Steve, apart from a friendly welcome, before the workout, because he’s focused on the business at hand. Imagine how Steve will feel,though, on the way out, when the desk person asks how that chest workout went and if his lagging pecs are coming up. That is the type of real, meaningful engagement that your members will appreciate.

Helping Your Members Set Their Expectations

Many of your new members won’t know, beyond a hazy idea, what their expectations are. Others will have expectations that are totally unrealistic. Your job and that of your staff is to help them set realistic, specific expectations regarding their training.

If a member who is sitting on 18 percent body fat wants to develop a six pack in 6 months, that is an unrealistic expectation. You need to be prepared to provide the education that the member needs to reset their expectations. Then work with them to set goals that are achievable.

Other members will set goals for themselves that are not really goals at all. Losing weight, for instance, is not a goal. Help your member to distinguish between weight loss and fat loss and to get away from the scale mindset. Then guide them in the setting of a challenging goal that they can realistically achieve in 12 weeks. 

By working with your members to set 12 weekly goals, they will constantly have a training objective before them that is not too distant to lose motivation over. If they are constantly knocking off another goal every 3 months, their engagement and expectation fulfillment is going to be high. 

Exceed Your Member’s Expectations

Your goal shouldn’t be just to meet the expectations of your members, but to exceed them. Now that you know what the expectations of your members are, you are in a great position to do that. Here’s how:

  • Provide education that is related to their goals in the form of an email newsletter.
  • Offer a gift on their birthday and gym membership anniversary.
  • Have your staff set the goal of having at least one meaningful interaction with every member over the course of 3 gym visits.
  • Get your floor staff into the habit of checking the database when members are training to see what that member’s goals and expectations are and, if appropriate, checking in with them.
  • Train your staff to smile, be warm, engaging and personable – and to listen!

Wrap Up

As the old saying goes, “expectation postponed makes the heart sick.” When it comes to your business, expectation denied makes your members walk. Use the insights, methods and strategies we’ve discussed in this article to identify, help formulate, meet and ultimately exceed those expectations and your membership bucket will overflow with happy, contented patrons who wouldn’t dream of being anywhere else.

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