Why The Best Clubs Perform The Best


The Retention People (TRP) and IHRSA recently released the results of the industry’s largest ever customer loyalty survey, which used the powerful Net Promoter Score® (NPS) and generated more than 100,000 responses across hundreds of clubs.

We now want to take this research a step further and dive into the differences in the feedback provided by members of each of the participating clubs, in order to identify any trends in what makes the best clubs perform so well, and the worst clubs so badly.

Before we continue as a reminder for those new to NPS®, a company’s Net Promoter Score is obtained by asking customers a single question on a 0 to 10 rating scale: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company (or club) to a friend or colleague?” Based on their responses, customers can be categorized into one of three groups: Promoters (9-10 rating), Passives (7-8 rating), and Detractors (0-6 rating). The percentage of Detractors is subtracted from the percentage of Promoters to obtain a Net Promoter Score.

Keep in mind that the top scoring clubs ranged in terms of NPS scores from 76 to 84, which is fantastic and puts them on a par with world leading companies such as Apple and Amazon. While the bottom scoring clubs managed a range of just -18 to -67, which is the worst score ever seen in our industry!

The challenge is that this valuable feedback is not categorized and so finding trends across the hundreds of participating clubs is a daunting task.

Let’s take on that challenge to identify any common trends in the feedback given to top NPS scoring clubs compared to the bottom NPS scoring clubs in our latest survey.

To begin this challenge we:

  • Dug through 1000’s of responses

  • Tagged them with a number of keywords

  • Categorized the feedback from the clubs

Once all of the comments were manually categorized, we produced a series of “Word Clouds”, (see below for more information on word clouds), to enable us to generate a visual representation of the feedback for each group of respondents that we were studying, and to compare those to other groups of feedback.

These clouds give greater prominence to words or themes that your members are speaking about more frequently, therefore highlighting the issues that were of greatest importance to your members. We hope you’ll agree that this led to some fascinating results!

Then… we wanted to find out if the top NPS clubs have something in common that made their business so successful in generating loyal members, and equally we wanted to see if the bottom scoring clubs had common complaints that resulted in their low scores. And this brings us back to the word clouds…

Word clouds analyze the frequency of a particular word or category within a series of text, and we then build an image of the words depending on how often they appear. From there its simple…the larger words were a more popular resounding theme and the smaller ones were not as prominent of a word or phrase.

So any of the words that are displayed much bigger than others, then it highlights that across all of the clubs this factor was common and influential in determining the score.

So were there any trends across the top performing clubs? See for yourself…

Figure 1. Top Performing clubs 


 You can easily see that the most dominant ‘tag’ or the most frequent positive comment used by members to explain their high score was relating to staff. This was by quite a margin, with almost 1 in 4 of the comments from the top scoring NPS clubs relating to ‘fantastic staff’, ‘great service’, ‘friendly team’ etc.

What is even more interesting about this is that some of the top performing NPS clubs were ‘low cost’ operators, with very lean staffing models. Yet despite this, the positive feedback received by these facilities was also heavily influenced by positive experiences with the staff.

‘Facilities’ was the second most common reason for members giving a promoter score of 9 or 10, with around 1 in 7 members citing this, followed by equipment, value for money, classes and convenience.

Are there any common themes within the promoters of the bottom scoring clubs?

Figure 2. Bottom performing clubs 


As we can clearly see from the above, the most commonly cited reason for scoring a 9 or 10 from members of these clubs was their facilities, with almost 1 in 4 people giving this as the reason for their score. Staff was a close second, with 1 in 5 comments from high scoring members citing service and members of the team.

So what can we conclude from this study?

People, People, People! The top performing NPS clubs are scoring highly because of their staff. Even clubs on low service models are able to generate positive comments relating to service by ensuring that the limited numbers of people that they have available are the right people with the right attitudes. The worst performing clubs on the other hand would appear to register such low scores because of their staff and poor service ethics.

The results of this survey would indicate that if you have a great culture, a great recruitment process and therefore a great team, then the main problem you will find is your business may well be too busy and you will have to address a problem of a crowded gym!

This in very much in line with the principles of NPS, as the more promoters of your brand you are able to create in the market place, the more your sales force will also grow exponentially! However if you have a poor service culture (or no culture!), your recruitment process is lacking and therefore ultimately you are left with an underperforming, poorly motivated team, then you will create many detractors and complaints over poor service and maintenance issues.

The overriding conclusion from this study is yet another reinforcement that we are operating in a people industry, and we must not forget how important staff are in defining members’ experiences within our facilities.

Bio’s & About:

Claire Holmes is the General Manager of The Retention People (TRP) North America.  TRP is the leading provider of customer experience management software and solutions to the leisure industry who work to create raving fans of your business!

TRP and Jonas Fitness are a part of the Jonas Group, whose parent company Constellation Software Inc. trades on the Toronto stock exchange as Canada’s second largest software company.