What Does Being Sensitive Have to do With Running a Gym?

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In a recent post on the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) blog, fitness consultant Michael R. Mantell discussed “the 4 S’s” of membership retention. To keep members — and keep them happy — you have to pay attention to four things that begin with the letter S: Social, Success, Sensitive, and Science. Three of these are pretty intuitive: For the “Social” element, you have to have a friendly, well-trained staff; for “Success,” you have to find ways to motivate your members toward meeting their own goals; for “Science,” you have to pay attention to new advances in technology and how the rest of the fitness world is putting them to use. But what’s this about “Sensitive”? What does being sensitive have to do with running a gym and keeping membership retention high?

Here’s what Mantell writes: “Today’s thriving clubs are busy cultivating relationships with medical and other health professionals, creating critical services to help people live healthier and otherwise better lives—fit, happy, and exceptional. Does your club make it easy for the overweight and obese individual to feel comfortable?”
It’s that question that made me realize that it’s true: As a service provider in the business of helping people find their fittest selves, a gym, health club, or fitness center does have to be sensitive. You can replace the “overweight and obese” part of the question with any descriptor, really: Does your club make it easy for the elderly individual to feel comfortable? Does your club make it easy for the disabled individual to feel comfortable? Does your club make it easy for the foreign individual to feel comfortable? Whatever the particular condition of the individuals in question, it’s worth considering what your club is doing to make everyone who walks through the door feel welcome. Do you offer services that meet your members’ needs? Does your staff speak the languages they speak? Are you cultivating relationships with medical professionals and others who might enhance your offerings? What can do you do to ensure that you’re being sensitive to their needs?

Retention is, of course, a tricky business. But at the same time it’s straightforward. Would you want to stick around in a place where no one is sensitive to your individual needs and issues? Probably not. Your members don’t want to, either. It’s a good piece of advice: Think about who your members are; ask them what they need; try to provide it. If you do, you’ll find they stay members for a long, long time.

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