Insight
We’re looking forward to welcoming you back...

As some of the UK’s top gym operators unveil their reopening videos, insight specialists, Paul Roberts and Mike Evans, analyse members’ reactions on social media


We’re looking forward to welcoming you back.” It’s the sign-off line for many of the information videos gyms released in the run-up to reopening.

But how welcoming does the experience look to members and how well are these videos addressing the questions members want answered?

When consumers need questions answered, they turn to social media. They want authentic information fast. The answers they get can come from the brand itself, or from other customers. To support members, Bannatyne has been actively responding to its members via @Bannatynehelp and PureGym has been actively responding using #PureHelp.

In the week before lockdown gyms saw a spike in Twitter activity. Members were asking each other about the hygiene/cleanliness of their local gym, and reporting back when experiences missed their expectations.

The new customer experience
We expect to see a similar Twitter spike as gyms reopen. Until then, the chatter is focusing on hopes, fears and questions.

In our work, we’ve looked beyond the questions about possible opening dates to see what else is on members’ minds.

Not surprisingly, as new reopening videos are released, they come with a chorus of excitement. Members reply that they can’t wait to be back.

For example, PureGym members have been missing everything from spinning classes and steppers through to the atmosphere and feeling good at the end of a workout. One member tweeted “I forgot how much the gym helped me mentally until recently”. Another just said “OMG I literally can’t wait for the day you give us the go ahead!!”

A member of The Gym tweeted that “I need my gym back.” Then explained “My motivation to train at home is slowly disappearing... I went from five days a week at the beginning of lockdown to two days this week”.

One David Lloyd member summed up the feelings of those who love to hate the pain “I neeeeeed to be back at the gym (and I never thought I would hear myself say that)”.

Not all good news
But this isn’t how everyone feels. Even among regular gym members, the videos aren’t convincing everyone. Previous experiences have left them sceptical about how well the plans will work. The new processes have left them wondering if the experience will be worth the money and effort.

To draw out some details, we analysed 10 days of Twitter comments that tagged seven large gym chains: PureGym, The Gym Group, David Lloyd, Bannatyne, DW Fitness First, Xercise4Less and AnytimeFitness.

We’ve summarised the emerging themes and questions under four headings: value for money, community, convenience and peace of mind.

1. Value for money
How do I make changes to my membership?

Gyms moved fast to freeze memberships in March, avoiding a wave of cancellations. The harder part is when and how to unfreeze memberships.

Looking at the average sentiment, David Lloyd Clubs had the highest proportion of negative tweets. Their members have been asking about and debating refunds. The vouchers and passes on offer have been described as being of a higher value than a refund. However not all members see these as better value for money.

Across all gyms, members have been asking about how unfreezing will work. Some members of each chain are getting frustrated by the cancellation processes. They don’t want, or can’t afford to be charged when memberships are unfrozen.

A DW Fitness First member summed up the feelings of members across several gym chains when asking “How do we give notice to cancel when nobody answers the phone or responds to tweets/messages?”

For other members, the need is for a flexible approach to unfreezing. A David Lloyd member commented that there’s been “no mention about the option to remain frozen if you don’t feel a gym is safe yet”.

Pure Gym is handling this issue well, replying to individual social media posts and offering to extend the freeze to all members who don’t yet feel comfortable attending.

2. Community
How will you avoid the previous over-crowding?

Gyms have been going to great lengths to show how they are separating workout areas and adding social distancing to queues. However, some members have been reflecting on how busy their gym was before.

Assuming demand is as high, but capacity is limited, they can’t see how the plans will work in reality.

One asked “You advised customers to visit the gyms at quieter times but as soon as the gyms reopen, there will not be ‘quieter’ times, as it will be a high demand. How will you manage to control this?”

Another asked “Will you be restricting the numbers, as just before lockdown this was limited to 200, which in my opinion is still too many?”

3. Convenience
How will queues and bookings work?

From this, some members have concluded that a booking system would be preferable to queuing up. But this raised further concerns when people reflect on how well class booking systems worked in the past.

One tweeted “At first I thought a booking system would be better, but then I thought of all the times people have booked into classes in the past and haven’t turned up. It would be the same in this situation, people booking and then not turning up.”

The solution, for the likes of PureGym, is that their app shows how busy the gym currently is. However, this message doesn’t seem to have got through to everyone yet.

The prospect of queues has also had people asking if it’s really a one-size fits all approach, or whether there will be a VIP line for members who have a pre-booked PT session or class.

4. Peace of mind
How will you sustain the hygiene standards?

Hygiene is always an emotive topic, as members judge the quality based on expectations and past experiences.

Most feedback is not collected in real-time, leaving members to make generic criticisms that gyms can’t easily address, however, COVID-19 is changing this – members are becoming more conscious of the hygiene they expect, and how that compares to what went before.

Tweets and Instagram posts are focusing on two main areas. How clean they believe their gym will be kept, and how well members will contribute by wiping down.

Perceptions vary greatly, with one Pure Gym member saying: “Your gyms are always filthy.” A Bannatyne member tweeted “Bannatyne gym in Birmingham was cleaner before lockdown with hand sanitiser dispensers and equipment cleaned by members and staff.”

But hygiene responsibilities don’t just rest with staff, a PureGym member said: “You’re lucky if 1 in 20 people clean what they use. Personally I think staff should be super strict and anyone seen using something and not cleaning it should be asked to leave”.

The need to re engage members

Ultimately, social media analysis shows how many members love the gym, with one writing: “Lockdown would’ve been a breeze if gyms were open,” and another saying: “The delay to reopening is desperately sad.

For the first time in my life I think I’m getting a gut.” The upshot of this analysis is that members are divided. Some can’t wait to get back, some are more cautious, and some want to cancel and spend their money elsewhere. One described their gym membership as a ‘luxury they can no longer afford’.

It’s vital that operators engage with members emotionally as well as logically. The “we are ready” videos – aimed at government as well as members – are a good start. But they’ve focused on facts, and how the supply-side of the equation is changing. The experience will be safer, but not necessarily as compelling in the short-term. Based on the comments members are making, gyms need to go further.

The benefits of being in a gym, rather than exercising outside or at home, aren’t obvious to everybody. The buzz that members get from a great class or weights session isn’t obvious when seeing footage of empty gyms and closed off equipment. Among the ‘sleeping’ members who’ve kept paying without attending, this need is even greater. They’re going to notice their DD coming back, and they’re going to question its value.

So now we’ve had the ‘what’s changing’ videos, we need the ‘what’s still the same’ videos. Aimed squarely at existing members, it’s time to showcase the great experiences gyms can still offer.

"The buzz that members get from a great class or weights session isn’t obvious when seeing footage of empty gyms"
Social media storm


"Absolutely gutted to hear gyms won’t be reopening soon – as a recovering alcoholic/addict who suffers from anxiety and depression the gym is an integral part of my recovery and life"

"Will priority be given to those members that have continued to financially support the gym throughout the pandemic, if you revert to online booking for a gym slot?"

"Is the membership going to be cheaper too?"

"Gyms are vital for our mental & physical health. Just look at the distances @puregymofficial & @thegymgroup have gone to to ensure the safety of their staff & members. Oh, and in addition to that, the majority of PTs are self employed and relying on our gyms being open to live. We’re on our knees atm, BUT it’s okay because... pints are okay??"

"I’m guessing that those who continued their membership through the closures will be given preference when access finally returns?"

"It only takes one person with COVID-19 to walk in and undo everything you have done – I know you have said “if you have had symptoms don’t come to the gym”, however, some people don’t show sign of any symptoms yet have it. With all this in mind, I don’t see myself returning to the gym soon"

"So there‘s no guarantee we get into the gym straight away and we may have to queue to get in?? Why wouldn’t you adopt a time booking system so as to not waste peoples’ time?"

"When I finish work at 5pm I want the gym. At this time it will be full and I’ll be waiting in a queue. I need the gym on my time when I need it – that’s why I pay for it. I will be back when it gets back to normal"

"Seriously love this gym too much, can’t wait to see all the lovely staff again"

"I can not wait!!!! Bring on the gains!"

"Can’t wait. I’ve turned into a pudding. Me and my pals were on a roll in the gym Monday to Friday at 4.30am and just getting the love for it again after a good few years out"

"My quads have halved in size!"

"Due to my mental health I won’t be able to return any time soon. I struggle with queueing due to paranoia and anxiety. I have to get in, do what I do and leave. I will need to extend the pause or cancel for the time being"

"Can’t wait to be back, not easy to keep on track when u r surrounded by all the comfort food!"

"Can’t wait to get back and work off my lockdown love handles!"


It’s time to showcase the great experiences gyms can still offer

Paul Roberts and Mike Evans run insight company, www.mycustomerlens.com

Social media chatter can give operators vital insights into customer sentiment
Members are questioning whether there will be a VIP booking option
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2020 issue 6

View issue contents

Leisure Management - We’re looking forward to welcoming you back...

Insight

We’re looking forward to welcoming you back...


As some of the UK’s top gym operators unveil their reopening videos, insight specialists, Paul Roberts and Mike Evans, analyse members’ reactions on social media

How well are gyms addressing the questions members want answered? bbernard/shutterstock
Social media chatter can give operators vital insights into customer sentiment
Members are questioning whether there will be a VIP booking option

We’re looking forward to welcoming you back.” It’s the sign-off line for many of the information videos gyms released in the run-up to reopening.

But how welcoming does the experience look to members and how well are these videos addressing the questions members want answered?

When consumers need questions answered, they turn to social media. They want authentic information fast. The answers they get can come from the brand itself, or from other customers. To support members, Bannatyne has been actively responding to its members via @Bannatynehelp and PureGym has been actively responding using #PureHelp.

In the week before lockdown gyms saw a spike in Twitter activity. Members were asking each other about the hygiene/cleanliness of their local gym, and reporting back when experiences missed their expectations.

The new customer experience
We expect to see a similar Twitter spike as gyms reopen. Until then, the chatter is focusing on hopes, fears and questions.

In our work, we’ve looked beyond the questions about possible opening dates to see what else is on members’ minds.

Not surprisingly, as new reopening videos are released, they come with a chorus of excitement. Members reply that they can’t wait to be back.

For example, PureGym members have been missing everything from spinning classes and steppers through to the atmosphere and feeling good at the end of a workout. One member tweeted “I forgot how much the gym helped me mentally until recently”. Another just said “OMG I literally can’t wait for the day you give us the go ahead!!”

A member of The Gym tweeted that “I need my gym back.” Then explained “My motivation to train at home is slowly disappearing... I went from five days a week at the beginning of lockdown to two days this week”.

One David Lloyd member summed up the feelings of those who love to hate the pain “I neeeeeed to be back at the gym (and I never thought I would hear myself say that)”.

Not all good news
But this isn’t how everyone feels. Even among regular gym members, the videos aren’t convincing everyone. Previous experiences have left them sceptical about how well the plans will work. The new processes have left them wondering if the experience will be worth the money and effort.

To draw out some details, we analysed 10 days of Twitter comments that tagged seven large gym chains: PureGym, The Gym Group, David Lloyd, Bannatyne, DW Fitness First, Xercise4Less and AnytimeFitness.

We’ve summarised the emerging themes and questions under four headings: value for money, community, convenience and peace of mind.

1. Value for money
How do I make changes to my membership?

Gyms moved fast to freeze memberships in March, avoiding a wave of cancellations. The harder part is when and how to unfreeze memberships.

Looking at the average sentiment, David Lloyd Clubs had the highest proportion of negative tweets. Their members have been asking about and debating refunds. The vouchers and passes on offer have been described as being of a higher value than a refund. However not all members see these as better value for money.

Across all gyms, members have been asking about how unfreezing will work. Some members of each chain are getting frustrated by the cancellation processes. They don’t want, or can’t afford to be charged when memberships are unfrozen.

A DW Fitness First member summed up the feelings of members across several gym chains when asking “How do we give notice to cancel when nobody answers the phone or responds to tweets/messages?”

For other members, the need is for a flexible approach to unfreezing. A David Lloyd member commented that there’s been “no mention about the option to remain frozen if you don’t feel a gym is safe yet”.

Pure Gym is handling this issue well, replying to individual social media posts and offering to extend the freeze to all members who don’t yet feel comfortable attending.

2. Community
How will you avoid the previous over-crowding?

Gyms have been going to great lengths to show how they are separating workout areas and adding social distancing to queues. However, some members have been reflecting on how busy their gym was before.

Assuming demand is as high, but capacity is limited, they can’t see how the plans will work in reality.

One asked “You advised customers to visit the gyms at quieter times but as soon as the gyms reopen, there will not be ‘quieter’ times, as it will be a high demand. How will you manage to control this?”

Another asked “Will you be restricting the numbers, as just before lockdown this was limited to 200, which in my opinion is still too many?”

3. Convenience
How will queues and bookings work?

From this, some members have concluded that a booking system would be preferable to queuing up. But this raised further concerns when people reflect on how well class booking systems worked in the past.

One tweeted “At first I thought a booking system would be better, but then I thought of all the times people have booked into classes in the past and haven’t turned up. It would be the same in this situation, people booking and then not turning up.”

The solution, for the likes of PureGym, is that their app shows how busy the gym currently is. However, this message doesn’t seem to have got through to everyone yet.

The prospect of queues has also had people asking if it’s really a one-size fits all approach, or whether there will be a VIP line for members who have a pre-booked PT session or class.

4. Peace of mind
How will you sustain the hygiene standards?

Hygiene is always an emotive topic, as members judge the quality based on expectations and past experiences.

Most feedback is not collected in real-time, leaving members to make generic criticisms that gyms can’t easily address, however, COVID-19 is changing this – members are becoming more conscious of the hygiene they expect, and how that compares to what went before.

Tweets and Instagram posts are focusing on two main areas. How clean they believe their gym will be kept, and how well members will contribute by wiping down.

Perceptions vary greatly, with one Pure Gym member saying: “Your gyms are always filthy.” A Bannatyne member tweeted “Bannatyne gym in Birmingham was cleaner before lockdown with hand sanitiser dispensers and equipment cleaned by members and staff.”

But hygiene responsibilities don’t just rest with staff, a PureGym member said: “You’re lucky if 1 in 20 people clean what they use. Personally I think staff should be super strict and anyone seen using something and not cleaning it should be asked to leave”.

The need to re engage members

Ultimately, social media analysis shows how many members love the gym, with one writing: “Lockdown would’ve been a breeze if gyms were open,” and another saying: “The delay to reopening is desperately sad.

For the first time in my life I think I’m getting a gut.” The upshot of this analysis is that members are divided. Some can’t wait to get back, some are more cautious, and some want to cancel and spend their money elsewhere. One described their gym membership as a ‘luxury they can no longer afford’.

It’s vital that operators engage with members emotionally as well as logically. The “we are ready” videos – aimed at government as well as members – are a good start. But they’ve focused on facts, and how the supply-side of the equation is changing. The experience will be safer, but not necessarily as compelling in the short-term. Based on the comments members are making, gyms need to go further.

The benefits of being in a gym, rather than exercising outside or at home, aren’t obvious to everybody. The buzz that members get from a great class or weights session isn’t obvious when seeing footage of empty gyms and closed off equipment. Among the ‘sleeping’ members who’ve kept paying without attending, this need is even greater. They’re going to notice their DD coming back, and they’re going to question its value.

So now we’ve had the ‘what’s changing’ videos, we need the ‘what’s still the same’ videos. Aimed squarely at existing members, it’s time to showcase the great experiences gyms can still offer.

"The buzz that members get from a great class or weights session isn’t obvious when seeing footage of empty gyms"
Social media storm


"Absolutely gutted to hear gyms won’t be reopening soon – as a recovering alcoholic/addict who suffers from anxiety and depression the gym is an integral part of my recovery and life"

"Will priority be given to those members that have continued to financially support the gym throughout the pandemic, if you revert to online booking for a gym slot?"

"Is the membership going to be cheaper too?"

"Gyms are vital for our mental & physical health. Just look at the distances @puregymofficial & @thegymgroup have gone to to ensure the safety of their staff & members. Oh, and in addition to that, the majority of PTs are self employed and relying on our gyms being open to live. We’re on our knees atm, BUT it’s okay because... pints are okay??"

"I’m guessing that those who continued their membership through the closures will be given preference when access finally returns?"

"It only takes one person with COVID-19 to walk in and undo everything you have done – I know you have said “if you have had symptoms don’t come to the gym”, however, some people don’t show sign of any symptoms yet have it. With all this in mind, I don’t see myself returning to the gym soon"

"So there‘s no guarantee we get into the gym straight away and we may have to queue to get in?? Why wouldn’t you adopt a time booking system so as to not waste peoples’ time?"

"When I finish work at 5pm I want the gym. At this time it will be full and I’ll be waiting in a queue. I need the gym on my time when I need it – that’s why I pay for it. I will be back when it gets back to normal"

"Seriously love this gym too much, can’t wait to see all the lovely staff again"

"I can not wait!!!! Bring on the gains!"

"Can’t wait. I’ve turned into a pudding. Me and my pals were on a roll in the gym Monday to Friday at 4.30am and just getting the love for it again after a good few years out"

"My quads have halved in size!"

"Due to my mental health I won’t be able to return any time soon. I struggle with queueing due to paranoia and anxiety. I have to get in, do what I do and leave. I will need to extend the pause or cancel for the time being"

"Can’t wait to be back, not easy to keep on track when u r surrounded by all the comfort food!"

"Can’t wait to get back and work off my lockdown love handles!"


It’s time to showcase the great experiences gyms can still offer

Paul Roberts and Mike Evans run insight company, www.mycustomerlens.com


Originally published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 6

Published by The Leisure Media Company Ltd Portmill House, Portmill Lane, Hitchin, Herts SG5 1DJ. Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd