In the 2023 July/August issue, we spoke with Nicole Hagemeyer, the general manager of fitness and membership at JCC Indianapolis, about member retention.
Can you share about the member retention strategy at JCC Indianapolis?
We’ve learned if you engage a member in three activities you will double the retention rate, so we start before they even join. First, we lead them on a tour of our facility to showcase all the great offerings and offer a free, one-week trial membership. If they join at the end of the tour or membership trial, we have them complete an interest card and give them our membership folder that contains all upcoming program offerings and information. The interest card allows us to tailor their welcome letter to be more specific to the programs and offerings they are interested in. Then, we invite them to join us for a free fitness center orientation with a personal trainer and a free trial to Group X classes to further help them find their interests and feel welcome. Our biggest success, however, is the people who serve in our various departments. Their welcoming attitudes, friendly smiles and dedication to what they do is what brings our members back.
What retention challenges has the JCC experienced?
We currently have an overall retention rate of 83% but that didn’t come without changes. We’ve been working to increase our young adult and family membership categories over the past year by taking a deep look at our program offerings and ensuring we have something for everyone. We’ve slowly been bringing back youth sports and other group programs that were paused due to COVID-19. When staffing proved to be difficult, we pivoted and began running these programs with third-party providers. We offer the space and handle registration, and the third-party providers manage the staffing and programming. Of course, we ensure our new providers line up with our goals, vision and values before bringing their offerings to the J. I’m happy to share the added program offerings have brought in additional revenue and members and allow us to focus more on member experience.
How do you coach staff on conversations around membership?
Our membership desk associates are the first and last impression we make on our members with each visit. We spend a lot of time onboarding new staff and having them shadow seasoned staff. They also receive a manual for reference and to guide them through the day-to-day policies and procedures. Much of their role is situational so we do our best to set them up for success. Unfortunately, one part of the role at the membership desk is fielding complaints. People often listen to respond rather than listen to understand. Listening to reply isn’t really paying attention to what someone is saying — it’s listening while already thinking of your reply. While staff can’t fix every problem, their ability to listen often defuses the situation as most people simply just want to be heard.