Is your best instructor the reason your members are leaving?

I get it, your best instructor is like the popular girl/guy at school. They have a fan club and everybody wants to be their friend, their classes are booming, and on face value they have one of the top occupancy scores in the club. However, there is a potential issue that your reporting system will miss; an issue I like to call ‘back row churn.’

To aid you visually, whether this class does or does not have physical rows of members, I want you to imagine three rows of participants in this busy class. The front row are always the same members (the raving fans) they love to be pushed, called out, and RAVE about this instructor everywhere they go. The middle row are much the same, perhaps not as vocal, but love the community vibe and the people they get to hang with every class. The back row are your new members, the 7 day trial-ers, and class pass members giving it a go. 

Now here’s what you won’t be seeing in your reporting. Statistically the class is always full and new members will gravitate to book it, as it seems the most popular and therefore a good representation of what your facility is all about. So this becomes a majority of your new members first (and maybe only impression of your classes).

Over time, this instructor has been left alone, they are popular so going in to give feedback has been missed, or there’s a “its not broken don’t fix it” attitude. When this occurs, the things I have seen most commonly happen over time are: 

 – The instructor takes the set class format into their own hands and “adapts” it to suit them and their preference.

 – The instructor makes the class more advanced to ‘challenge’ their front row, not remembering to regress and keep the class for all levels.

 – The instructor starts to use non inclusive cueing to “motivate”  their members. 

 – The instructor becomes BBF’s with a-lot of their front and middle row, using in-jokes through class, and creating a “clique”.

 – The instructor becomes lazy in asking for injuries, welcoming new members, and breaking down the class structure in their introduction.

Just one these factors are going to contribute to feelings of a lack of safety in your new members. When you add a few you can guarantee that new members who feel intimidated by gyms won’t be finishing their trials, or extending their memberships.

Why feeling safe is important…

When a member walks into a gym/studio/health club they are ultimately looking for one thing: SAFETY.  This may be an unconscious or a completely conscious decision. Biologically speaking we all are ALWAYS scanning our surroundings to ensure our safety. As a new member stepping into a new space when we already feel vulnerable, insecure and nervous, safety is high on our list whether we realise it or not. 

So if a member walks in to an environment where they feel included, supported, aligned, educated and successful; you are on to a winner. If they are not getting any of the above you are already losing. 

In this scenario,  your regulars are raving about their favourite instructor, whilst new members and beginners may feel alienated and unsuccessful (leaving after one or two visits). Yet your reporting shows it to be the best class on your timetable. What you are not seeing is that back row churn. New members in, new members out. Keeping your occupancy high but your retention low.  So what’s the solution? 

Ensure you have a thorough feedback and assessment system that looks at: 

-New member touch points

-Inclusive and educated cueing 

-Class structure + format 

-Instructor expectations


You then need to make feedback delivery a part of your culture, making sure your instructors are happy and willing to give and receive back freely. If you’re unsure where to start with this, we can help. We have designed a clear pathway so you, the studio owner/manager, has a clear step by step process to follow to help increase retention in your facility. 

Interested? Read about our Retention Handbook to find our more.

Written by Emma Masters.

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