Feature Article - March 2011
Find a printable version here

Focus on Members

In a Tough Market, Customer Relations Is at a Premium

By Brian Summerfield

Performance Tracking: What to Look for

As the old business aphorism goes, "If it can be measured, it can be improved." But what should you measure? And how should you measure it?

For the former question, the critical issue is tying it to your organization's mission and goals. There will be variations between facilities and companies, but typically, that's going to involve driving revenue by attracting and retaining members. "A cornerstone of any facility is membership dues," said Jarod Cogswell, general manager at ClubSport Oregon in Portland.

Thus, attrition rates will almost always be an important metric. There are differences in opinion as to what a "normal" level of attrition of membership will be, but regardless of what figure you view as standard, it's useful to distinguish between controllable and uncontrollable loss of members, with the latter being due to things such as moves to other areas, job losses, family problems and the like.

As for the question of how to measure, the best way to find out how well your customer relations system is working is to go directly to the customers themselves.

"We have systems in place to collect feedback on a regular basis," said Christine Thalwitz, director of communications & research at ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers. "Having a variety of tools for members to give feedback, both on a daily basis and on a larger, formalized scale, is very important to us so that we can stay in touch with our members and know how we can continue to serve them best. For example, we articulate a service standard of 'Exceeding Your Expectations' to our members and ask them to leave feedback for us on how well we are doing. We have a designated location in the club where they can fill out a form at any time sharing how an ACAC team member has exceeded their expectations or any comments, suggestions or complaints they wish to voice. The forms can be left anonymously or members can include contact information. All comments are read by club managers and the appropriate department heads. If contact information has been provided, a team member typically follows up within 24 hours.

"Our annual member survey is also a valuable tool in giving members a chance to give us feedback on all aspects of the club. Every member household receives a mailed copy of the survey, which asks for ratings of the facility, each individual department, what members value most about their membership as well as suggestions for improvement. We also ask the important question, 'How likely are you to recommend ACAC to a friend or colleague?' We compare results year over year, and it helps us with the big picture of how our members value our club and our services and programs."