Winback! How To Recapture Lost Customers For Your Health Club, Wellness Center Or Yoga Studio

What’s the usual advice for reactivating past customers?

Send ’em a special offer with a discount, right?

Yet this strategy produces underwhelming results for most health and wellness businesses.

Why? Well, here’s why health and wellness businesses lose customers:

About 70% leave because they never felt connected to your business

About 15% leave because your products and services missed the mark

About 10% leave because they got a better price or better terms and conditions elsewhere

(The remaining 5% died or moved away.)

Now you see the problem with a special offer: it only attracts the 10% who weren’t happy with your prices. And these aren’t even the customers you should invest in reactivating. They’ll leave again, as soon as they find a better offer.

Instead, invest in winning back the customers who really WANT your business to succeed for them.

Winback is an everyday task – not an occasional initiative when your revenues are falling short.

Below, we explain the two principles of successful customer reactivation programs and give you a list of targeted reactivation tactics:

Principle #1: Customer feedback is an everyday priority

Getting structured, formal customer feedback should be a scheduled daily priority for your management team.

Why? You’ll develop a customized profile for your business of why your customers leave. Then, you can create purposeful customer retention and winback action plans based on that profile.

Email surveys are cheap and efficient, but they’re not always as effective as a live conversation. So pick up the phone and actually talk one-on-one with a sample of customers, too.

And don’t overlook simple tools like suggestion boxes and comment cards.

Combine all the data from different sources. Analyze it to find patterns. You’ll use these patterns to choose appropriate winback tactics.

(A common mistake: surveying only former customers, instead of getting ongoing feedback from current customers.

This is like ignoring your high fever, chills, cough and shortness of breath until you’re finally hospitalized with pneumonia. Retention is cheaper and easier than reactivation, so do your business a favor and get feedback from your existing clients and members early and often.)

Principle #2: Winback is not one-size-fits-all

Customer reactivation is not a one-size-fits-all project.

First, customers leave for different reasons:

Choose reactivation techniques that target those specific reasons. We’ve got a list below of sample reactivation techniques for each of the most common reasons customers leave health clubs, wellness centers, yoga studios and conventional, complementary and alternative healthcare practices.

Tip: If you use email feedback surveys, you can easily send a highly targeted reactivation communication specifically to those people who said in the survey that they weren’t happy with your group fitness programs, or felt your staff wasn’t very friendly.

Second, choose different reactivation tactics based on recency:

For example, Life Time Fitness sent winback discount offers to people who hadn’t been members for over two years. When that much time has passed, a “what’s new here” email and invitation to a free and useful seminar (not a sales pitch) is probably a better place to start.

On the other hand, you want to know right away why a regular customer isn’t stopping by anymore. Are they mad? Are their feelings hurt? Lost their job? Has their schedule changed? You can potentially address some of these reasons immediately, especially if they start to reveal a pattern that’s true for numerous customers.

TARGETED WINBACK TACTICS

1) Didn’t feel a sense of connection with your business

Your goal here is to create a sense of community and a feeling that each customer is recognized as an individual, not just a punch card or barcode.

To encourage a sense of connection:

  • Send an email newsletter, not just hard-sell email marketing promotions
  • Include customer questions, answered by other customers<
  • Tell customer stories – not just “good news” fluff, but real-life examples of how people overcome challenges or seize opportunities
  • Share customer and client pictures on your website
  • Send a press release about your “customer of the month”
  • Invite customers to online or in-person events that they’ll find valuable
  • Host events that encourage customer-to-customer connections, not just customer-to-staff connections
  • Celebrate achievement – client milestones, maintaining progress, annual customer anniversary
  • Create marketing promotions that encourage current customers to reach out to former customers
  • And of course, continually soliciting formal and informal feedback from customers – and taking action on it – is an excellent way to make your customers feel like they’re truly valued by your business.

2) Felt that your staff and/or business didn’t care about them

Three issues bubble up in this category:

First, hiring mistakes:

You’re hiring cheap unskilled labor that, in fact, really doesn’t care about your customers. Turnover is high. The fix here is to realize that you’re not saving money by hiring employees who drive away your customers.

Second, failure to train on key service skills:

Many health and wellness professionals have excellent technical skills and poor client and customer service skills.

They know how many calories clients should eat, or where the supraspinatus is located – but they stare, arms folded, into the distance while clients lie on the floor struggling through their final set of crunches.

Or they treat client time as unimportant, running late or constantly rescheduling appointments.

The key here is to identify the client and customer service skills which are most important in your business and either hire for those skills or plan to invest time and money in helping your employees acquire those skills.

Some health clubs have even created a customer charter or bill of rights that emphasizes the importance of client service.

Ask members and clients for input on what they want to see in staff members. If they have ongoing relationships with staff members, it’s also appropriate to invite clients to provide input into staff performance reviews. That’s especially valuable in a corporate wellness setting.

Third, failure to run the business like a business:

Last-minute class cancellations, sudden unannounced changes in business hours, a spontaneous decision to close early because it’s sunny or open late because of a doctor’s appointment, a store manager who chats on her cell while customers wait to pay…these are all very efficient ways to tick off customers.

3) Felt that your programs and services fell short

The most common issues in this category:

Quality

Your health club’s equipment is frequently out of service. Your facility is tired, dirty and/or disorganized. Gum is stuck in the cupholders. The toilets are frequently stopped-up. Your billing is inaccurate or late.

Examples of how to respond:

  • Acknowledge problems and announce actions to fix problems – for example, hiring a “green” cleaning service or a facility refurbishment
  • Invite customers to join a customer panel and provide feedback on desirable staff qualities
  • Invite clients of individual staff members to provide input into the performance review process

Variety

Your yoga studio only offers advanced yoga classes, you only offer basic yoga classes, you only offer one kind of yoga. Your wellness center has only treadmills and ellipticals. You have only selectorized equipment. You have only barbells. Your group fitness class lineup never changes.

Examples of how to respond:

  • Send an email or postcard communicating “what’s new here” to your current and former customers
  • Use an online survey to ask customers for suggestions about new programs and modifications to existing services
  • Invite former customers to an open house to sample new programs or equipment

Gaps

Your wellness center only offers women’s weight loss programs. You don’t have a corporate wellness program. Your corporate wellness program doesn’t have a solution for remote offices. You don’t have dietitians, only physical therapists. You only have dietitians. You offer sports performance but no rehab or injury prevention programs.

Examples of how to respond:

  • Let customers know if you don’t plan to fill these gaps
  • Invite corporate customers to a webinar to learn more about new programs
  • Refer customers to a strategic partner that can offer these programs or services