What members want: key survey findings

InfographYou don’t need to be a mind reader to know what your members want. You just need to read this handy summary of the 2012 Australian and New Zealand Fitness Industry Survey, writes Simon Hall.

Now in its fifth year, the Australian and New Zealand Fitness Industry Survey (ANZFIS), provides club owners and managers with the most up-to-date research and data on fitness club operations, as well as information on the thoughts, feelings and perceptions of its members.

This year’s survey concentrated on what members – the lifeblood of your business – think and feel about how their club operates.

Respondent profiles

Before we look at what they want, it is useful to look at who the responding members are. Nearly 14,000 members from across Australia and New Zealand took part in this year’s survey, with the majority of respondents being located in major and capital cities. This massive amount of data makes the ANZFIS the largest collection of member data of its kind in the world.

The survey respondents were predominantly female (68.3 per cent). This does not mean, however, that over two-thirds of all club members are female – rather it reflects the fact that women have a greater tendency to respond to surveys and provide constructive feedback – thanks ladies!

The survey got a good cross section of ages. The majority of the respondents (16.1 per cent) were in the 26 to 30-year age category, with the 31-35s being the second largest group (13.2 per cent). Minimal response came from the under 16s (0.5 per cent) and over 65s (2.4 per cent).

This information highlights the fact that, although percentages vary, today’s fitness facilities play host to a very wide range of demographics – a clear rebuttal to those outside of the industry who retain outdated views of ‘gyms’ as being predominantly populated by young men pumping iron.

Club type
The majority of respondents were members of a ‘privately owned part of a chain club’ (44.2 per cent). A further 16.7 per cent were with a ‘privately owned single club’ and 16.5 per cent with a franchise club.

The remainder were members of council owned, university or licensed/RSL/Catholic Clubs, and a handful were Bootcamp or Crossfit Group members.

Getting back with your ex…

A percentage of survey respondents were ex-members of a club, and their responses provided some valuable feedback.

For example, a combined total of almost 90 per cent of respondents said that they either would or might rejoin a fitness facility, which is very encouraging. This figure suggests that although this demographic of ex-members have let their gym memberships slide – for whatever reason – they have not been permanently deterred by their experience, and are potentially open to the idea of rejoining a club should the circumstances and club offerings be right.

This suggests that it could be worthwhile marketing to your ex-members – providing the campaign is right. Fortunately, the ex-members also divulged what would influence them to rejoin a club – from a financial perspective at least: 38 per cent said a NO contract membership could tempt them back; 27 per cent said a no join fee might do the trick; and 20 per cent said that a membership fee of no more than the rate they paid previously would be attractive.

Location, location, location

Your may think you have the best club in town, with a unique point of difference, the newest equipment, the best staff and the best marketing. However, there is one thing you probably cannot change: location.

The location of your club was cited by 80 per cent of members as the main reason for joining. Sixty-four per cent said it was the biggest influence on their long-term commitment. An inconvenient location was an important factor in affecting ex-members’ decisions to cease membership.

It is interesting that quality of service, facilities, equipment and even value for money were deemed to be significantly less important to members than the location of a club.

This can be viewed from two different perspectives: on the one hand, it can be reassuring to a club that a certain percentage of its immediate demographic will be interested in joining, as a direct result of it being nearby or conveniently located. On the other hand, this could, in theory, allow some sub-standard clubs to continue operating because the benefit of their location outweighs any potential pitfalls they may possess.

Of course, a combination of careful location scouting and premise availability may mean that your facility is excellently located – in which case, fantastic. For many clubs, however, as with any business, their exact location is probably a consequence of the premises being available for rent at the right time. For these clubs, it is positive to note that although location is of utmost importance, when it comes to the greatest influence over your long-term commitment to staying at a club, professional and friendly staff also ranked highly.

This suggests that although location is a critical factor for members when deciding to both join, and remain with, a club, once they have established their membership, members appreciate the importance of a professional and supportive staff. In other words – where you are might get members through the doors, but who you are has the power to keep them there.

Member satisfaction

A happy customer means a happy business. So how satisfied are members with their clubs?
A positive outcome was that the largest single percentage of survey respondents (35.4 per cent) felt very satisfied with their club, and the second largest percentage (25.4 per cent) felt ‘somewhat satisfied’. However, that left 39 per cent of respondents feeling indifferent or negatively about their club – which clearly indicates that the fitness industry has a great deal of room for improvement when it comes to enhancing customer satisfaction.

A gauge of customer loyalty, the Net Promoter Score (NPS), was also applied to the survey findings. On a chart ranging from -100 to +100, fitness clubs achieved a score of +19, which is considered ‘good’, but some way off of the scores over +50 which are considered ‘excellent’.

Member engagement with personal trainers

Almost half of responding members (47.3 per cent) claim to have used or be using the services of a personal trainer.

Although this figure appears to be relatively high, it may be slightly misleading, as many clubs include some initial ‘FREE’ personal training sessions when members join up – meaning that some respondents may report having used the services of a personal trainer, even though they may not have chosen to do so of their own volition or actively hired the expertise themselves.

Regardless, whether half of the members have used personal trainers or not, the fact remains that the other half have not done so – meaning that there is a large pool of active gym members who remain prospective personal training clients.

Of those members who used the services of a personal trainer, motivation was cited as being the main reason for doing so (70 per cent). The second most important reason was to improve understanding of how to achieve desired fitness outcomes (58 per cent). Interestingly, 25 per cent just wanted someone to talk to during their work out. This information can help personal trainers understand the varying reasons clients have for training with them.

Communicating with members

Our members love the human touch, don’t they? Hmm, well perhaps not, judging by the survey results.

Although getting in touch with members in person was the third most popular form of communication, it was vastly less popular than email and emailed newsletters (9.3 per cent vs 52.9 per cent and 17.4 per cent respectively). This may seem anomalous in an age where the value of good customer service and personal attention to clients is often touted as the holy grail of business. However, it doesn’t mean that members don’t want good service – rather that what defines this has changed.

Perhaps they don’t want to be ‘bothered’ by staff when they are arriving at, or departing, the club and their mind is focused on their workout – and of course an email provides an easily accessible form of communication that can be referenced at a later date.

When it came to motivating absent members, only four per cent of respondents said that receiving a phone call from their club would affect whether or not they attended – which is somewhat at odds with the long-held belief that we should be calling members who don’t attend. In fact, 42 per cent said that they found phone calls annoying.

Although members did not exhibit much enthusiasm for being contacted directly via social media (only 4.2 per cent ‘liked’ this…), three quarters of them use this medium. Unsurprisingly, Facebook wins hands down as the most popular of these sites, with 76.1per cent having an account.

With this high rate of Facebook usage, it is imperative that your club use it too. The key word here is use: over 50 per cent of these tech-savvy members were unaware if their club had a Facebook Page. You have to do more that just start a Page – you need to tell members about it, and then engage with them via it. Having a static Page with old posts and little of interest to members and potential members makes your club look bad and is probably worse than not having a Page. Regular status updates, interesting information, photos and interaction with ‘Likers’ will add value to your club and help foster a sense of community.

While the findings from the ANZFIS provide a useful and interesting ‘big picture’ of our industry and member base, always remember that your club and membership is unique. The next logical step, therefore, may be to create your own club survey (www.surveymonkey.com is a useful and inexpensive tool for doing this) to gain an even more specific insight into what your own members want.

For more details on the ANZFIS visit www.Facebook/fitnesssurvey and to view and download a visual representation of the survey findings, click the Infograph image below.


Simon HallSimon Hall
Simon is the marketing manager at direct debit service provider Ezypay. He has over 20 years fitness industry experience in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Simon has worked at all levels of club operations and management and spent seven years as the general manager for fitness at the YMCA. He also sat, as Chairman, on the Fitness New Zealand board.