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Using Leisure Member Feedback To Build Loyalty

Feedback from members of your sports and leisure facilities is a valuable business asset with the right approach. Systematically gathering feedback and taking action will help you build member loyalty.

The Legend & Xplor team recently hosted a live panel session with a selection of leisure industry operators and experts. We discussed the ways you can use member feedback to build loyalty.

In our recent live panel session, we were joined by industry experts to talk about all the ways fitness businesses like yours can use member feedback to cultivate loyalty. You can watch the session here.

Read on for all the key takeaways from the session and a complete overview of how to get member feedback that you can use to build loyalty.

Meet the experts

Our ‘Using member feedback to cultivate loyalty’ panel was hosted by Julie Allen Business Development Director at Leisure-net Solutions. Julie has built an impressive 18-year career in the active leisure industry. And is passionate about building engaging, memorable leisure member experiences that lead to happier, healthier lives.

Julie was joined by an outstanding set of expert panellists:

  • Sara Rawlinson – Head of Customer Service at Parkwood Leisure – Sara has held a wide variety of roles during her 17 years at Parkwood Leisure. The leisure operator runs over 70 leisure centres across England and Wales. Sara brings a wealth of leisure industry knowledge and a deep understanding of the challenge that operating at scale brings.
  • Lee WoodCommercial Director (Deputy CEO) at Active Tameside – From owning and managing gyms to moving into multi-site leisure centre management, Lee has 18 years of experience in the fitness and leisure industry. Active Tameside runs 12 leisure centres across the Tameside region.
  • Amy Ritson – Partnerships Manager at Independent Gyms UK & Ireland Amy is a former gym owner who has held various roles at several big chain operators including Fitness First and Cannons (now Nuffield Health). Amy is now a part of the Independent Gyms UK & Ireland team – the national membership platform for independent fitness facilities.
  • Guy Griffiths – Fitness Industry Revolution Consultant & Founder of GGFit – Guy has worked with leisure centres of all sizes and is a leading authority on member retention. Guy is spreading the word on member retention tactics that work on his mission to help more people to be healthier and happier.

Feedback is important

If you want to have actionable feedback that you can use to build loyalty you need to make sure everyone in your organisation understands the value of feedback.

How do you want your brand to be perceived? How would you describe what a visit to your facilities feels like in 3 words? You’ll likely already have this articulated in your mission statement. Feedback shows you if members see your leisure centres in the same way that you do.

Use feedback to identify gaps between how you want your brand to be perceived and how it’s actually perceived. It will show how consistent the experience your members get is, how well your teams deliver on your brand values.

“Historically many of us have thought it’s just feedback, I know the issues. But we really need to shift that focus to understanding that feedback is vital business intelligence that you can act on and move your business forward.” – Julie Allen

Make sure you approach feedback with the right mindset, understanding the value it brings. Continuously show members you are listening and acting on the feedback they give to you.

Feedback is essential to delivering a consistent member experience that keeps your community coming back at all stages of life. Through feedback you’ll find trends and be able to adapt effectively. Look beyond feedback about the in-centre experience to your digital member experience too.

“The online journey is just as important in getting feedback. Most people would book a restaurant without going there first. So, we need to adapt to and make sure we’re looking at how feedback shows up online as that impacts the member journey.” – Lee Wood

It’s always the right time for feedback

If you want to get actionable feedback from your leisure organisation’s members, you need to seek it out regularly. That means embedding it into your organisational culture. Strategically look for and welcome feedback through a mix of proactive and reactive channels. Feedback should be happening daily.

Make feedback part of your joining process. Display feedback on noticeboards, in-centre screens and online to show potential new members what existing members are saying about you. And, when you have the opportunity, ask people who choose not to join for feedback.

Next up is your onboarding process. Research has found that 87% of members who are onboarded effectively will still be active 6 months later. Make feedback a key part of your leisure member onboarding process to enhance the effectiveness of onboarding. Plus, start getting your new member into the habit of giving you open, honest feedback.

“You should ask for feedback on the first visit. It’s just something else that we should get our new members when we’re onboarding them into the habit of doing…

If you keep asking for it consistently, at some point you’ll get it. Hopefully, it will be good. If it’s bad, then again, you’ll have got it and you can then respond to it. But getting people into the habit of giving feedback and showing them all the different ways to feedback matters.” – Guy Griffiths

Keep asking for feedback throughout a member’s journey with you. That means asking for feedback at the point of cancellation when you can. If you can get honest reasons for leaving, you’ll get the information you need to make beneficial changes to your facilities.

“If we spend more time at the point of cancellation and change our language, we will actually learn a lot about the overall customer experience. And hopefully find a way of signposting members within our facilities to ensure they stay and continue an active lifestyle. Or at least end the relationship positively, to leave the door open for a return.” – Julie Allen

Use your leisure management software to enhance any feedback you get from members who leave with further data. Drill down to find member experience trends that are indicative of a bigger picture.

Put in the processes and work to get more data, perhaps beyond leave reason. Did they have an induction when joining? Did they have a programme? Did they leave a review? Put all that data together with a leave reason if you have one and you’ll get the bigger picture. Incrementally try to get more feedback from leavers each month.” – Guy Griffiths

Seeking out feedback

As a larger organisation it can be tough to routinely gather and analyse feedback. That’s where technology comes in. Automate the feedback approach by using your leisure management system to invite feedback at key milestones in the member journey.

“We make sure we get that data to the right place to be able to analyse it and get the outcomes that will let us make a difference. It’s really tricky to do, and takes resource, but to get that balance right we use automation in a big way.

The phone is absolutely the most personal touch you could have, but increasingly people don’t want to answer or make phone calls. Automation makes it easier to get regular feedback and data we can use – positive and negative. We give daily opportunities for feedback.” – Lee Wood

It’s important to give members the right options in how to feedback. That means taking a cross-channel approach to capturing feedback. Think about both reactive and proactive options. Give members a confidential, non-confrontational way to provide actionable feedback they may not be happy to give directly.

“You have to be aware of people’s preferences in how they want to feedback. With a smaller membership base, you can really tailor that. Multiple channels are essential. Some people don’t like giving feedback, for example if it’s negative. They might not feel comfortable telling you on the phone but might email you. Even retro feedback boxes work.” – Amy Ritson

Use phone calls to compliment automated messages asking for feedback. A manageable starting point for larger organisations is to phone members who haven’t opened emails requesting feedback.

Set your website up to capture feedback. Think about other digital channels, like social media, where unsolicited feedback may be left. Make sure you’ve trained your team to respond effectively.

“We have to be on the ball because we have to be responding to people. It’s great there are easy places for people to message us or criticise us. But if we’re not there to reply it makes us look bad. That’s a staff training process where we need to make sure we have the right people responding to these kind of messages.”­ – Sara Rawlinson

Look at your feedback resolution process overall. You should show members that you are listening carefully, that you hear them and value what they have to say. Communication is important in showing this. Even when you can’t make requests happen, show you have empathy and are listening by explaining why (where possible).

Phone calls are also a great way to respond to feedback a member has left. You’ll be likely to obtain more information to act on, plus its more personal than a written response.

“Phone calls are an underrated way of retaining members. It’s hard to do, especially when you have 1,000s or 100s of members joining each month, but it shows you care. And it shows that you are reaching out to people checking in with them. It helps drive them to the best channels to give feedback.” – Guy Griffiths

NPS surveys are a fantastic way to measure both leisure centre member satisfaction and loyalty. NPS surveys use one question asking members to rate on a scale of 0-10: ‘How likely are you to recommend [Your Centre Name] to someone you know.’

“Why is NPS powerful? It proves both dimensions of loyalty. On one hand members will question whether they are getting value for money and are satisfied. On the other hand, NPS really packs a punch when it highlights the emotional element of loyalty with wonderful comments that can be used to celebrate successes.” – Julie Allen

Leisure members who give you a score of 9 or 10 are your raving fans. Members who score you 0 to 6 are detractors – those most likely to leave, experiencing operational issues. Those who score you 7 or 8 are passives, this group could be at risk of leaving to try something new.

“7s and 8s are a very interesting category because we can learn a lot from them. They’re the category we’d ask but what’s one thing we can do differently to improve your experience. They’ve got the answers.” – Julie Allen

Consistency is key

Harness the power of consistency to gather plenty of actionable feedback and drive satisfaction and loyalty. You need to build an organisational culture that values feedback and proactively seeks it out in everyday interactions with members.

Feedback should be encouraged, welcomed, and communicated at every level of your organisation. That means continuously talking about customer experience in team meetings and 1-to-1s, so your whole team keeps focused and putting consistent energy in.

Consistency is key across every interaction a member has with your leisure organisation. Every experience should align as closely as possible with how you want your brand and organisation to be perceived by members. That’s tougher for larger operators and where training comes in.

“It’s very hard when you’ve got over 70 leisure centres to maintain consistency between teams. Staff turnover is high which means we must continue to train staff and lead the teams to provide consistency that filters down throughout the organisation. It’s an ongoing process.” – Sara Rawlinson

Think about everyday experiences. During the panel, Julie shared two scenarios that are valuable to review so you can evaluate how consistent customer experiences can add up. And what happens when performance slips.

Scenario 1

“In this example, I’d gone into this facility and the receptionist was distracted. Not busy, just clearly head down and not ready to welcome me in. I’m heading on through, ignored by the cleaner and then I head on to the gym. An instructor says hi but carries on talking about the weekend because that’s far more interesting than showing me something new. Today I can see a PT texting, so no time for me in this instance.

I’m going to poolside, and I’m ignored by a manager on the way. The lifeguard walks straight past me when I’m swimming. Now on my way out I get a goodbye from the receptionist, but the manager is there. So, it’s one of those awful insincere ‘I better say goodbye because the manager is here right now’ situations.” – Julie Allen

This scenario can easily happen in a busy leisure centre with lots of members around. Yet, it clearly shows how the little experiences add up to a negative experience for members.

Some members who visit you often and are committed to being active may not be concerned. For newer members who are just starting on their journey to being active, this experience could leave them questioning your value.

Scenario 2

“In this example, we have a warm friendly greeting from the receptionist. Coming through, I get a hi from the cleaner and then I head on into the gym. The instructor says hey Jules let me show you a couple of things today. This is incredible value for my membership. I had a PT session; he was fully engaged during the session. And then on my way to swim, the manager asked if I was enjoying my visit – the opportunity to give verbal feedback. And this time the lifeguard says have a lovely swim. And on my way out in this example the manager asks how my visit was and when I’ll be back, hopefully any member of staff is empowered to ask that.” – Julie Allen

This experience harnesses the power of engaging members and asking for feedback as a habit. Leisure-net research found that 67% of people who were inactive said a simple smile and greeting when going to their activity, would be the difference between remaining inactive and becoming active.

Asking when the member will be back helps build the commitment to a behavioural change that will make keeping active a habit.

Celebrate feedback to create consistency

As well as providing continuous training to make sure all members of your team deliver a consistent experience and are empowered to seek feedback, sharing, and celebrating feedback regularly will help you create cultural consistency.

“From the pot of feedback tickets that come through I send out a monthly leader board. It gives managers a little nudge to look at where they’re sitting in the table. And creates a culture of making sure we’re looking at our feedback and doing something with it. At each centre we have an employee of the month and a member of the month.” – Sara Rawlinson

In essence…

To use leisure member feedback to build loyalty you need to build the right organisational culture. A culture that values feedback and acts on it. You need to let members feedback their preferred way. And respond appropriately.

Creating a consistent customer experience, with the right training and conversations happening daily, will help you get the feedback you need to create satisfied, loyal lifelong leisure members.

Request a demo to find out how Legend can help you manage feedback.