Posts Tagged ‘member service’

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wake up call

I’m a fan and follower of Jonathan Fields (link to his blog).  He’s one of those jedis, mavericks, or renegades (do not call him ‘guru’), the kind of leader you hope to emulate.  I once heard that to make history (in anything – work, life, your organization) you have to misbehave.  In Johnathan’s teachings I’ve found that you can make history not by misbehaving, but by simply behaving differently.  His journey captivates a health/wellness/non-profit minion like myself.  The dude made the leap and came out the other side shiny, healthy and happy.  I’m happy to boast we have a lot in common: raising young daughters, broken 40+ year old bodies (he’s in far better shape), passion for health and fitness…well I digress, we have a few things in common.

He posted a blog that should have been a severe wake up call to the health and fitness industry in February and I have been unable to stop thinking about it and continue to refer back to it.  The post is titled Business Strategy: The Recurring Income Trap (click for it).

It was an epiphany.  I’m proud to have witnessed and led some dramatic member retention turnarounds in my career, from 40% to 60%+ member retention in some instances.  After reading Jonathan’s piece, I was not misbehaving or breaking rules — I was simply teaching staff teams and organizations to behave differently.  I was doing something after “institutionalized complacency” had set in.

The bank draft or EFT (electronic Funds Transfer) methods of membership dues payments has crippled an industry that is stagnant.  Stagnant may be a bold statement to some, HOWEVER if we simply look at the level of obesity and inactivity in our nation — whatever we are doing is not working.  We have slipped into a mode of surviving, not serving.  Shame on us.

And we sell the automated payment systems quite well: allocate less resources to billing, mailing, collecting, administrative costs, and on and on and on and on.  So we can better serve members?  I don’t see it.

Now to broach creating a different revenue model other than the holy grail of automated payment would be equivalent to walking up to the owner or CEO of any fitness organization (for profit or non-profit – can’t we get along?) and poking him or her in the eye with a stick.  It’s become part of our DNA, a key indicator, a benchmark, leaving it behind would be like leaving the house without your Blackberry or iPhone — tragic.

What can we do?  We can do what motivated us to first get into this business when we were cutting our teeth wiping down equipment and leading people through orientations (50 machines in 50 minutes, that sure hasn’t worked…).  I apologize for the bold assumption, however, it’s my belief that a majority entered the field to help others.  There is not a weight room or fitness center in the country (and I have been in some real nasty, dirty,  steroidy places) that I don’t feel comfortable in — it’s my zone.   My joy comes from making others feel comfortable in that zone — the fitness environment.  Let’s help others, it is time for us to step up and serve.

Members walk through our door every day.  Each individual has goals.  We must acknowledge and embrace those goals and begin the journey (relationship building at its finest?).  If members do not achieve their goals or make progress, they leave — bye-bye recurring income, hello scramble for more sales.  Operate from the mindset that you must re-win every member every 30 days as Jonathan suggests — imagine our impact.

We’re a nation in deep, deep health trouble and the industry to change that is not the hospitals, insurance companies or the government — it is us.  It’s the local small biz fitness center, the YMCA, JCC, megaplex gym, country club, yoga studio, boot camp, etc.  Start serving, and leave the surviving strategies to those that prefer to “behave”.  As Jonathan notes, the burden of cancellation is on the member — at least the process of it, the impact of that cancellation should burden us.  And if you honestly believe that 60% of your members are moving away, call me because that’s the market in which I’d like to open a moving company.

Thank you Jonathan from the bottom of my heart.  Hopes it OK I linked to your blog.


Our customers or members have goals.  What are we doing TODAY to help them achieve their goals?

An enlightening exercise is to contact 30 random customers or members and ask each, “what can we do for you?”

Be remarkable, not replaceable.