How to Establish a Service Culture That Drives Retention Building Member Experiences

In this blog post, we'll explore in further detail how your club's service culture can best be established and maintained in order to create the memorable experiences that will drive member retention.

The Service Profit Chain

In an article penned by Harvard professor Leonard Schlesinger titled, "How Does Service Drive the Service Company," he emphasizes that it's the service profit chain which lies at the heart of a business's profit growth. This profitability consists of several "links" which make up a "chain." All of these links are interrelated and connected. They depend upon one another for sustained growth and financial success. He wrote that profits are maintained and pushed forward by a customer's loyalty, which is in turn driven by a customer's satisfaction and happiness. The customer's happiness is connected to extrinsic service-oriented factors, which is driven by satisfied employees who receive their own excellent service within the workplace. These connected links make up the "service profit chain," which makes up the very heart of gym member retention as well as the heart of a health/fitness club's capacity to create memorable experiences for their members. 

Here's a more detailed illustration of the "service profit chain."

Internal Service Quality = Employee Satisfaction, which is linked to Employee Retention, which is linked to Employee Productivity, which makes up the External Customer Service, which = Customer Happiness and Satisfaction, which = Profitability.

Establishing a service culture is absolutely necessary in order to establish great service that creates memorable member experiences. But just what exactly is a service culture? In the book, "Fitness Management," by Stephen J. Tharrett and James A. Peterson, a wonderful definition is presented that goes like this:

"A service culture is a system of customs, habits, and conventions, the values, words, and works attendant to this culture help create and sustain a long-term environment in which the staff are passionate about and are empowered to deliver whatever is required to provide the club's members with a personally relevant and memorable experience."

Whew! What a great definition! It's essential to really grasp this concept because establishing and maintaining an excellent service culture is one of the most important aspects of a health club's modus operandi. 

Steps to Creating an Excellent Service Culture:

  • Establish some really solid core business values around service
  • Put into place a tradition of service values
  • Create action steps that support the values of your gym and the values of the service culture you've created
  • Put into place a program that recognizes and rewards great service by your employees
  • Establish an education program for your employees
  • Make sure all business decisions are based upon your service culture values
  • Document your core values and distribute the document among your employees
  • Provide an effective and clear method of communication between members and staff 
  • Get rid of any perceived "sacrifices" a member must make (this may include lack of convenience, loss of social connection, difficulty in achieving fitness goals - anything you can think of that would rub a member the wrong way regarding his/her club experience)
  • Establish a service recovery system that corrects mistakes as soon as they are made (a disgruntled member can immediately be transformed into a happy one with the right recovery steps)

Maintaining and sustaining a healthy service culture takes time and consistency. It's not easy, but can be done with all the right steps. Focus upon really getting to know your members. You want your club to feel like a family. Make sure your staff has all the right certifications that make them outstanding at their job. Always encourage social interaction among your staff and your members and get members interacting with each other. This supports that social, familial feel that truly creates memorable member experiences. Keep your club's programs dynamic and compelling. Get your members involved so that they have a say in programs and activities. Create a "we" environment in the club. This means we're all equal and we're all looking out for each other, making sure we all feel equally seen and heard. We want everyone to feel as if having their needs met is welcomed, as opposed to being burdensome. This environment needs to support everyone's mental and physical wellbeing. We want customers AND employees to feel good about expressing their needs and getting them met. Lastly, always make certain the gym is clean and aesthetically appealing. Cleanliness and convenience are key. If the club feels like a second home to your staff and members, they will treat it like one, and in turn, your club's service culture will be greatly enhanced. It will then naturally create memorable gym experiences that will drive member retention successfully.

Join us next week to explore the world of programming for our health and fitness clubs!


  1. Fitness Management by: Stephen J. Tharrett and James A. Peterson
  2. "How Does Service Drive the Service Company?" by: Leonard Schlesinger