12.4% of the UK population is currently a member of a gym or fitness club. That's almost 6000 gyms and over 2.5 million members. With such a wide variety why should you not settle for exactly the type of facility you want?
There is such a variety of clubs, with a huge variation in facilities, styles, standards and member expectations.
1) Call and book an appointment to see a club before you go.
This is important as it gives you the first impression of a clubs standards and professionalism. Don't be put off by a strong sales person on the other end of the phone. A good membership advisor shows the company invests in their staff and understand the importance of new members. You have to ask the question that if there is no investment in those staff looking to drive the business forward what sort of training do the rest of the team have who will be entrusted to look after and keep you happy.
This is also your first opportunity to get an insight into the personality of the club. A friendly call where the focus is on you is important. The advisor should be asking what your reasons for joining are, what your goals are and why. If they show genuine interest then they are worth a visit, if not we suggest you put the club further down the list.
Don't be surprised though to find a few clubs who get this wrong, especially the smaller clubs who staffs has to multi task with reception, gym, cleaning and membership duties. There should be no excuse for a big club though!
2) The tour of the club is your opportunity to gather as much information as possible about your potential new venue.This should not be a 5 minute run round, take your time, ask questions (we'll come onto to these in a minute), look for faults. If you decide to join there is a good chance you will be spending up to 10 hours a week here, it needs to be right.
What to look out for:
a) The meet and greet - are you greeted with a smile? if you booked an appointment do they greet you by name "good afternoon Mr Charlesworth, sally is expecting you", do they take you details. You should be willing to fill these forms in. Does the membership advisor look smart, have a friendly greet and good handshake?
b) Are you asked to complete a form with your goals and aims? If you are be wary as this is a lazy approach. The membership advisor should be asking you those questions, one to try and build some rapport with you but secondly to try and understand your reason for joining and what facilities you are interested in. You should be sat down for this chat so you feel relaxed, and it should take 15-20 minutes. This allows the advisor to do exactly that, advise you on how they believe the club can help you achieve your goals. If they don't know what you want how do they know the club is suitable?
c) On the tour you need to look out for:
- Cleanliness issues: Check showers for mould, floors should be clean with no brown staining, rust should not be visible, if you can see under treadmills and cardio kit for dust, check the pool, Jacuzzi, steam rooms for yellow staining (this is body fat and is easily cleaned) . When you start looking it is very easy to see whether a club is clean or not. This is an indicator of staff morale and the care for detail of the management team. Cleanliness is 2nd biggest reason members leave a club yet it is still not seen a high enough a focus by many clubs.
To this day I am still amazed by how many managers allow their clubs to lose members simply by ignoring this. This includes the big expensive clubs so don't be fooled by price.
- Maintenance: Is all the equipment working? There will always be occasions when pieces of equipment break down, however if 3-4 pieces are broken then you have to consider their ability to maintain the equipment or what funds are available for maintenance contracts.
- Does the advisor introduce you to other members of staff on the tour? This is a great way of putting you at ease but also showing they are comfortable with people and enjoy their jobs. A socially outgoing team is important to delivering great service, even if you prefer to be left alone it is important to know the staff enjoy serving you.
- We suggest asking to see all the facilities and not just those that you are interested in. Your circumstances or interests may develop over time and so knowing what is available is important.
d) Discussing joining or closing the sales as they know it
You should always be sat in a comfortable place to discuss price and not stood up in reception. This allows you to feel you can ask more questions. Never feel like you are being pushed into joining, the advisor should by now have built rapport and you should feel comfortable discussing money with them.
Things to note:
- Let them first present the price as if there are any offers they should say
- Very few clubs now charge a joining fee as competition is far too great. Some however do still charge what is called an administration fee and quite often this is not wavered
- Almost all clubs offer a joint membership rate if there are 2 of you joining. This can save as much as £150 a year between you. Consider getting a friend to join with you. Whilst almost all clubs will say it’s for partners, most will stretch the rule for the sale.
- If you can wait until the last week of the month to join this is always the best time to join as clubs all have membership targets and it is often where the last minute offers come into play, dropping joining fees etc.
- Unless you really like the club don’t be afraid to say no. A well trained advisor will try and find out why and see if they can overcome the challenge. Be honest with them as they may just have the solution you are looking for
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a free trial first. Most national chains will offer a free 1 day up to a free week’s trial. So ask and you could get a try before you buy. If they don’t ask if you can pay the guest fee to try it for a day, many will allow this and it will give you the insight you need.
E) If you decide to join then make sure you get all the important information explained to you before you sign.Whilst the office of fair trading ruling last year ensured clubs and obliged to make sure all new members are aware of their obligation.
Look out for:
- Length of contract. In today’s world, unless they are offering big discounts to do so there is no need to sign 12 months contracts. Some clubs offer great savings to do so and that then become a decision you need to make. If they don't we advise to stay well clear of annual contracts.
- What is the cancellation policy? Some are 3 months, others 30 days so it’s important to know. Don’t just cancel your membership as many now will hand the debt to a collection agency
- What are your benefits, will they give you some free guest passes, do you get a free gym induction and programme. A full service club such as David Lloyds, Marriott, Bannatynes should offer this service free. It’s unlikely the £9.99 gyms will provide this.
- If it’s a national chain can you use the other clubs as a member? Marriott allows this, David Lloyds does but it depends on your membership category.
- Can you freeze you membership for work or illness?
After considering all of this it will be time to make a decision to join somewhere. .Ultimately after you have taken the time to look around the choice will be a personal one. You need to feel that you will be comfortable, that you will get the level of support you need for your experience and that you will enjoy turning up even when your motivation is low.
We always suggest looking around and visiting at least 3 clubs to get some comparison. Don’t join a club on price, in that we do not mean don't join the cheapest; there are some great budget clubs out there if you just want facilities. What we are saying is join a club that offers you the facilities and value for money.
If you join and it turns out to be wrong a wrong one, then leave and join somewhere else. The choice out there is vast and so why be stuck somewhere you don't want to be.