Your favorite team is playing today and they are relentlessly driving the ball down the field. Grinding runs and perfectly executed passes have them on the brink of the goal line. It’s first and goal, a touchdown seems inevitable. Taking the snap, the quarterback turns right, but the running back runs left. In the confusion, the two collide. The quarterback drops the ball and the opposing nose-tackle pounces on it. What seemed a certain touchdown ends in disappointment. It’s frustrating when this happens in football, but when it happens at your fitness center it’s catastrophic.
In this series, we’ve seen how properly onboarding a new member is the key factor in long-term member retention – increasing retention rates by up to 75%. We’ve examined how to give a great tour and how to drive them toward your onboarding program. But, in my experience, far too many times fitness centers give a perfectly executed tour, the prospect decides to join, but then the critical handoff between membership and wellness is fumbled. The first wellness appointment is not scheduled. The wellness team doesn’t follow up with no-shows, or doesn’t know who they are scheduled to meet with… the list could go on. The key to the whole onboarding process is successfully scheduling and completing the critical first three or four appointments with a wellness coach, so don’t drop the ball just inches from the goal-line!
Here are three key things you need to have in place to ensure a seamless handoff of a new member between membership and wellness:
Have a Plan. Let’s think back to your favorite football team driving down the field. Even with something as basic as a handoff, every step is intricately planned. The quarterback knows he is supposed to take exactly three steps back and turn right. The running back is to take one step left, then veer right, holding his left hand below his rib cage and his right just above his hips. As the quarterback places the ball on his stomach he is to clamp down on it and run to the gap between the tackle and the guard. And then they practice… and practice… and practice until they do it perfectly. As a result, fumbles in on this exchange are extraordinarily rare.
In order to have a similar success rate in the membership to wellness handoff, your plan needs to be just as complete. In my experience, this is where most fitness centers drop the ball. Often, the membership team and wellness team think they understand their respective responsibilities, but as we sit down with them and walk through the whole process of onboarding a new member, confusion over who does what reigns. It’s vital for fitness centers and YMCAs to get their entire staff together and walk step-by-step through this process.Ask questions like: How is a new member scheduled for their first appointment with a wellness coach? Who is responsible for sending out appointment reminders? Who calls if the new member doesn’t show for their appointment? Process mapping can be an incredibly helpful tool for this. A careful plan, where everyone understands their roles and responsibilities will keep new members from falling through the cracks.
Leverage Technology. Much of the problem with handing members off from membership to wellness is that the processes used have not kept pace with the times. Appointments are made on a membership staff member’s calendar and must be copied onto the wellness coach’s calendar. A wellness coach has to call a new member to schedule an appointment because there is no mechanism for scheduling that appointment while they are still with the membership staff. Many such problems bog down the system resulting in new members falling through the cracks. Technology now exists that makes such problems obsolete. With a platform such as MobileFiT’s Get On Board iPad app, membership staff can not only give totally paperless tours, but can instantly schedule the first critical appointment between the new member and their wellness coach. All the information gathered by membership is immediately available to the coach and text reminders for the appointment are sent out to minimize no-shows. This allows for a seamless handoff from membership to wellness every time.
Track Your Onboarding Program. Since onboarding is so significant in long-term member retention, onboarding program attendance is one of the most important metrics for your fitness center to track. In fact, the percentage of new members who enroll and graduate from your onboarding program are key leading indicators that allow you to forecast your future membership growth. If you carefully watch these two metrics, you will be able to make adjustments to your processes to increase your effectiveness. If the percentage of people enrolling in your onboarding process is low, think about changing the talk track for membership staff, marketing the program differently, or creating new literature to inform members of how important the program is for helping them reach their goals. If your enrollment percentage is good, but your graduation rate is lagging, think about the content covered in each session, the duration of each session, or do a survey to discover why members dropped out.
Mastering these key principles, like a professional athlete mastering his sport, will allow you to perfect the handoff between membership and wellness, increase your member retention, and grow your membership base.