The age-old question in the fitness business: Do you make contact with inactive members or let sleeping dogs lie?
Both approaches here have a strong case. On one hand, reaching out to members that pay their bill every month but haven’t attended the gym in a few months could be just the motivation they need to get back into the gym working on their fitness goals. The fear is this outreach is a reminder to cancel the membership. Plus, that member may be feeling frustrated already by not having been able to stick with their original plan, which could potentially stir up concern. When it comes to a data conversion in order to implement new gym management software, you want to take the best approach when you awaken these zombie members. Here are a few tips to make this the best possible outcome:
Sandwich the announcement between between other fun news and announcements.
Do you include inactive members on an email chain with regular announcements already? You can simply include the update in a regular email. There’s a better chance that this won’t alarm them if it’s in the form of something they are used to receiving and may look at on occasion. Conversely, a startling email about changes to billing might fluster someone who hasn’t been into the gym in a while and has already considered canceling. Focus on the positives, like a new app or easier booking process, and highlight these along with other positive information in an email newsletter.
Do you best to keep billing dates the same, and a bank memo line that includes the gym name.
If at all possible, keep the billing dates the same! Find out from your vendor what the bank memo line will be listed as, and compare this to your current memo. Keep the two as similar as possible, as well as the billing amounts and you will stir up the least amount of attention. Sometimes billing software transitions make you aware of things to fix. Were you charging the wrong amount of tax? Do you want to change your billing dates to be on a few select days? You can use this as an opportunity to make changes but consider them carefully. If there’s a way to first transition and then slowly make other changes, your members and staff might find this more palatable.
Keep it simple, and don’t require any action on their end if possible.
In most cases, the member will not need to do anything, and you can keep the transition nearly invisible to them. If you determine that it is the best approach to incorporate other changes like billing dates or agreement terms, you may require new signatures from your members. While this isn’t ideal, if there’s no way around it, make it as simple as possible for them. If an electronic signature is collected via email, it’s better than requiring every single member to come into the gym. If members do prefer to come in, have an open window for this particular need, and supply coffee and healthy snacks as a perk of stopping by the gym.
Consider giving them a sweet offer along with the changeover.
When you awaken these sleeper accounts, it helps to have some incentive for them to come back into the gym and start using it again. Send them something exciting along with your notice. “Hey, we miss you! Come see us for a free smoothie,” is one example. If could also be a coupon for 20% off a merchandise item, or one free personal training session — whatever would provide a genuine desire to come in and redeem it. This will give you a chance to win them back over, and get them motivated to start working out at your facility again.
Host an event around the same timeframe, with an incentive to get the sleeper accounts back in.
Along with your notice, you can also announce a special upcoming member event. Invite all your members, including the zombies. It could be a family night with fun activities and food provided, for example. The most important function of this event is to have your staff prepped and available to chat with members to answer any of their billing-related questions.
Prep your staff for incoming calls, and how to handle them with the most positive tone possible.
The most common form of contact from alerted sleeper accounts will be phone calls. Unfortunately, a portion of those callers had previously considered canceling, and the billing change reminder might spur them into inquiring about how to cancel. Train your staff to tell the difference in these types of calls, and how to handle each kind.
If they do mention wanting to cancel, this is actually an opportunity in disguise. Why? Because these members hadn’t previously made up their minds to cancel. The majority of these members will call by guilt. They feel guilty that they are paying for something that they’re not using. They feel guilty that they know they should be working out, but aren’t making the time for it.
Train your staff on how to take these calls. The simple fact that they have reached out is a brand new opportunity to get through to them. Empower your team to do whatever it takes to get them back in. If you and your team can successfully break the ice with these callers in the first few minutes, you can offer incentives to get them back in, invite them to upcoming events, or offer a free month to a workout partner to join them.
For those callers that do not mention canceling and simply want some more information about the billing changes, have a script for your team. Keep it brief but informative enough to answer any possible questions, along with an invitation back into the gym.
Seize the opportunity
In an ideal world, you want your members using your facility, getting great results, posting about them on social media, and telling their friends/family/coworkers. So while you do want to handle these sleeper accounts with kid gloves, you can also see this as an opportunity to get these members active again. When you own a fitness business, you have the chance to genuinely change lives, and your inactive members might just need a little boost to get going again.