In one of my columns last year I said, "Many of us survey our members to some extent, and that's a good thing. The more direct feedback we get from members, the more we can meet and exceed their needs. What if I told you that doing the same thing with your staff is equally important — if not more so?"
That article went on to share some great ways to survey your staff. This column will address, at long last, the opening statement above — best practices to assess member expectations with the ultimate goal of exceeding them. I can think of no better time to take the temperature of your membership, as we continue to rebuild our businesses in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Promoters, passives, detractors
There are many ways to gather information from members, but one of the most prevalent is known as the "Ultimate Question" or Net Promoter Score. NPS is an effective method for assessing member loyalty. It is a simple, one-question survey that asks, "On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our business to a friend or colleague?"
People responding with a 9 or 10 are considered promoters. These members love you, remain loyal and refer others to your business. Those responding with a 7 or 8 are known as passives. They like you, but they are not in love with you. These members are vulnerable to competition. Finally, responses rated from 0 through 6 are considered detractors. To put it bluntly, those at the very bottom of the scale would rather be getting a root canal than spend time at your facility.
The scoring is calculated by taking out all passives and then subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. The lowest possible score is negative 100 and the highest is 100.
In addition to the single question presented in the NPS survey, there is an optional field for further comments. Because of the survey's simplicity, typically many respondents are willing to add comments. Who doesn't have an extra 60 seconds? The data becomes more valuable with the extra information.
Do more with data
Data and information are great, but they are only helpful when utilized. If you don't plan to listen to or use feedback from members, don't do surveys. There is nothing more off-putting than the scenario in which a member takes the time to give an opinion, only to be ignored. If you gather information, and I highly recommend you do, act on it. Here are four actions you can take with NPS to provide a high ROI:
1. Utilize the score as a goal
One aspect I like about NPS is that it gives you a total score. A score is tangible and it's measurable. The score goes up, which indicates improvement, or it goes down, reflecting an erosion of the member experience and a lessening of loyalty. Sharing the score with staff is as a great way to motivate your team.
At one of our clubs, we had an NPS of 77, and we started a campaign called "Go to 80." We rallied the team around that numerical goal, implemented strategies and challenges to get there and, lo and behold, we did. Telling your team to improve member experience is one thing, but when you tie that to a tangible, measurable number, you can actually make it happen.
2. Praise and coach your staff
As mentioned, there is a space for comments in the NPS survey. Most often, members provide info about staff, programs or the facility itself. When positive comments come through about staff members, make sure they are shared with those staff members.
We had a particularly good bootcamp instructor, and members often mentioned him in their comments. We always shared the feedback with the instructor, which made him happy and engaged. We would also take a screenshot of the comment and share it in our internal communications. This recognized and celebrated the instructor in front of peers, and served as an example to others of what outstanding performance looks like. When comments are negative, use them to coach team members to improve. This should be done on an individual basis rather than publicly.
3. Store and use aggregate data for decision-making
Keep track of your score long term. This is a great way to study trends over time. Also, keep track of the comments. By keeping track of comments, you can see patterns and commonalities that can be extremely helpful.
On one occasion, we were debating the timing for replacing our treadmills. This was an important decision due to the big capital expenditure needed, so we really had to plan strategically. Then we began to see a trend in our NPS — a decrease in our normally high score. Lower scores were coupled with an increasing number of comments along the lines of "I love the club, but treadmills seem to be out of order a lot." As we tracked the data, the decreasing score coupled with negative comments led us to make an educated decision to invest in new treadmills.
4. Engage with members based on responses
NPS offers a great way to engage members on a personal level. While some initial responses may be automated, it is very effective to follow up personally. This intentional follow-up lets members know that their voices have been heard, allows you to get more details, and gives you the chance to explain things.
We tailored our responses based on the type of respondent. Promoters were thanked and appreciated. In addition, we sent them a link to review us on Facebook or Yelp. Even the biggest fans may not think to do that, so we made it easy. Passives were thanked, but were also asked what we could do to get a better score the next time. This let them know that we were committed to making them happier. Finally, detractors got thanked for their brutal honesty. We then asked them to tell us more about the one issue that was diminishing their experience.
The goal and result of responding to members in this way was to move detractors to passives, passives to promoters, and to maintain promoters as promoters.
There is so much value in implementing and executing an NPS survey. Many great companies in the fitness industry offer this service. There are also apps and websites that will do it at no cost. The bottom line, NPS not only provides valuable information about how to meet member needs, it also gives members a voice and lets them know you care.
This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Asking members the ‘Ultimate Question’." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.