What Do Gym Members Want?

Lucy Connor
30 November 19
12 min read

When was the last time you had a really great customer experience? 

Mine was a couple of months ago in a coffee shop. The staff were chatty and friendly, we joked about the awful weather, and the girl at the till gave me a 10% discount ‘to make up for the rain.’

It was an authentic conversation and a nice gesture, and it was all over in five minutes. I left feeling happy and valued, and I still feel the same when I remember the experience. I’m now a regular customer, I know the people who work there, and to be honest, I’d feel guilty grabbing a coffee at the Starbucks around the corner (even though it’s cheaper).

The point is, a great customer experience stays with you. It provides long-term satisfaction, and regardless of price, it creates a sense of loyalty: 86% of consumers are willing to pay up to 25% more for a better customer experience. 

The same goes for a negative experience, the kind that leaves you feeling annoyed, upset, or frustrated; it stays with you, but for all the wrong reasons. 

Then there are the average experiences. The ones that leave you neither exceptionally happy or disgruntled – they’re just “fine.” 

Out of these experiences, which ones do we actively seek out again? 

According to research from Zendesk, 75% of people would return to a company with excellent service, and 56% would recommend it to family and friends. On the flip side, Esteban Kolsky found that only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain. The rest will keep quiet and leave.

According to Walker, an experience management services firm, by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. But when it comes to long-term retention in the fitness industry, this has been true for a long time. 

In fitness, the member experience is about more than signing someone up with an incentivizing offer and leaving them to it. If that’s all you’re offering, it’s an average member experience in the long-run. There’s no long-term satisfaction, and nothing is creating a sense of loyalty. 

Why a Great Member Experience is Crucial For Success

The member experience at my current gym is exceptionally average. The physical gym itself is great, but in my four months since joining, there’s nothing about my experience that prompts me to think, “I love my gym.” I’m not raving about it to friends or trying to drag them along with me.

I’ve been signed up and left to my own devices at a gym where there’s no personalization or sense of community. I’m currently trial hopping at some gyms near work, and if I find one I like, I’ll happily swap. Not because I’ve had a “bad” member experience, but because I haven’t had an “exceptional” one either and feel like there’s nothing keeping me here. 

Essentially – I’m a flight risk. This is not the member attitude you want at your studio, because it’s a retention-killer. 

The member experience is about continuously providing customers with exceptional service. It’s establishing relationships and building communities. It’s constantly anticipating, meeting, and exceeding customer needs and providing them with an experience that they feel they won’t get anywhere else. 

To create an exceptional member experience, you need to understand three key things. Skip ahead to:

What Members Want

While keeping up to date with industry trends is crucial for being at the top of your game, like any industry, fitness is influenced by broader consumer habits. So let’s start by looking at three current consumer trends and how they affect what gym members expect today.


We now naturally expect convenience in everything we do. In fact, we rely on it. A recent article in The Atlantic pinpoints the driving force behind this expectation perfectly: 

“Starting about a decade ago, a fleet of well-known start-ups promised to change the way we work, work out, eat, shop, cook, commute, and sleep.”

These lifestyle-adjustment companies have been hugely influential in how we function as a society. Think WeWork, Uber, Deliveroo, HelloFresh, and ClassPass. While the future success for some of these companies is debatable, there’s no question that they’ve played a massive role in fuelling the millennial culture of “we want it all, and we want it now.” 

Demanding? Perhaps. But while in the past Millenials have been blamed for killing everything from cereals to banks, this generation is now credited for bolstering a variety of industries – one of which, is fitness. 


People are craving community now more than ever. According to a study from Latent View, an engaging community is currently one of the top reasons for people going to the gym. Making up 80% of fitness club members, research shows that Millennials and Generation Z are behind the trend. 

Fundamentally, Millennials have woven social aspects within their fitness experiences. Its as much about getting together with like-minded people and having fun, as it is about working out. 

This age group is entering their prime spending years and topping it all off; they’re the most significant generation yet

So Millennials: they want it all, they want it now, and according to American Express they’re willing to spend 21% more than any other generation on great customer care. 

Ultimately, they’ll pay more to feel special and like they’re a part of something bigger: a community.


63% of consumers now expect personalization as a standard of service, so this must be a part of any customer experience. Luckily, 54% are willing to share personal information if it will be used to create a personalized experience.

Each of your members is different, and they’re already sharing tell-tale information with you just by showing up to class: you can see what kind of workouts they like and what time of day suits them best.

Creating an exceptional member experience relies on what you do with this data. You could ignore it and do nothing – or you could use it to make them feel valued and personalize their experience with you. 

How to Give Members What They Want

Tapping into these consumer trends will enhance your member experience. You’ll be creating a community that your members want to be a part of – and you’ll be conveniently reminding them about it with the way you engage them. 

Be Convenient

We’re now spending 2 hours and 51 minutes a day on our phones, so it’s clear that the key to convenience is in the palm of our hands.

Your customers are checking emails, scrolling through social media, and contemplating which class they might book this week. Whether its an upcoming event, special promotion, or customer success story; you need to actively put your studio in front of your customers, where it’s most convenient for them to see you:

Build a Community 

Community is about bringing people together. But the key to fostering an engaged community at a gym extends beyond fitness goals alone – it’s about creating something more. 

F45 Training is the world’s fastest-growing fitness franchise and it’s a brand that’s built on community. People want to be a part of it. And not just because F45 classes are an insanely good workout. The brand shows off its community on social media, with content that promotes both its members and trainers. It engages people and invites them to join in.

  • Engage people in and outside of your studio. 80% of accounts on Instagram follow a business, for your members – your studio should be one of them. Check out this post for some inspiration and tips on how to build a community on Instagram. 
  • Host and promote fun events that extend beyond fitness. Think a post-workout supper club, or 1Rebel’s ‘Prosecco Friday’ where the studio invites members to sweat it out in class and follow it up with some socializing. 

Building a community at your studio is about more than catering to a consumer trend. It’s creating loyalty and a reason for members to keep coming back. 

Use Personalization

Use. Your. Customer. Data. It’s right there in front of you, and it’s your go-to insight for personalizing your communications and giving members what they want:

  • Analyze information like class/club attendance, goals, and fitness interests.
  • Identify what your customers want from their experience and segment the information to target them with helpful, personalized content. 

Take a group of customers who’ve just finished your 6 pm spin class. How can you go the extra mile to make these members feel valued? Schedule a targeted email to that group for soon after the class finishes. 

Great work this evening! 

Give these 5 stretches a go to speed up recovery and prepare your legs for their next session. 

Take personalization to the next level by preempting members needs: 

This kind of communication will make those members feel important. It’s convenient (straight to their inbox) personalized and helpful. 

How to Measure Member Experience

Almost 70% of customers leave a company because they feel neglected. So, whether you’re a class-based studio, or provide equipment that members can help themselves to: don’t just sign them up and leave them to it.

I’m not suggesting that you go around tapping members on the shoulder mid-workout to ask if there are enough towels in the changing rooms. But there are non-intrusive ways you can let them know that you care about their experience – and want them to get the most out of it. 

Ask For Feedback

You want your members to love your gym – that’s what keeps them loyal. So tell them. Let them know it’s important to you that they love their workout/class/your facilities. If you’re actively asking how you can improve, you’re telling them that their member experience matters to you. Collect feedback with a quick post-class survey. 

You killed it today. Tell us how you’d rate your workout. 

How would you rate the class?

* * * * * 

How would you rate your instructor?

* * * * * 

We want you to love coming in for a workout. Can we make any changes? 


Thanks for your feedback. See you soon! 

Monitor the feedback and analyze your overall member satisfaction. If there are any constructive comments on how you can improve, act on it, and tell your customers that you’ve listened to them.

Collect NPS

One of the most straightforward metrics used in customer experience programs is an NPS (net promoter score). Ask your customers one question: 

On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?

The scores are then used to group respondents:

  • Promoters. These members will score between 9-10. They’ll speak about your studio positively and drive growth.
  • Passives. Passives will score between 7-8. These members are generally satisfied, but they’re unenthusiastic and vulnerable to competitive offerings.
  • Detractors. Scoring between 0-6, detractors are unhappy members who are likely to cancel their membership and actively spread negative word of mouth about your studio. 

Your studio’s overall NPS score can range from -100 to +100, and the higher – the better. You’ll want to establish your own benchmarks for what a good score looks like for you, but calculating your score is simple: subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. So if 20% of your members are detractors and 70% are promoters, your score is +50. 

Opt for an open comments box for members to explain the reasons for their score – so you know where you’re doing things well and going wrong. 


A member’s experience impacts whether they love being a member of your studio: they can’t imagine being anywhere else and actively promote you to their friends and family. Without the experience, they’re indifferent and just “there for now.” They could cancel their membership at any point, and they’re unfazed whether or not they work out at your gym or the one over the road. 

You don’t have a fitness business without members, so if you want to succeed and grow – their experience is everything. Even if you sell single classes at your studio – you don’t want customers to make a one-time purchase. You’re selling a continuous service, and you want them to come back for more.

So make their experience exceptional. And do it continuously.