22 Jul 2024 HCM Handbook
 

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Health Club Management Handbook - Raising the Bar

Research

Raising the Bar


How is public sector leisure doing compared to last year and what improvements can be made? Mike Hill, director at Active Insight reports on the findings of the 2023 Customer Experience Survey

Group exercise is gaining in popularity with the best NPS scores Photo: shutterstock/LightField Studios
Social connection is a big driver for people coming to health clubs Photo: shutterstock/MicheleUrsi

From June to October 2023, Active Insight collected data from more than 35,000 respondents across 49 operators, spanning 619 sites in 184 local authorities. The 2023 Customer Experience Survey is the largest survey of its kind and offers a window into the preferences and behaviours of customers engaging with public leisure facilities, offering invaluable insights for the year ahead, helping to raise standards and demonstrate the value leisure provides.

The survey insights provide a strategic roadmap for the sector, ensuring it remains agile, competitive and poised for long-term success. During this tricky economic period, data-informed decision-making is all the more important.

Here are the top seven insights from the 2023 survey…

1. Strong APPETITE to be physically active
Data collated from Active Insight Consumer Insight Panel has consistently shown that 8.5 in 10 people have a desire to be more physically active. It is essential that operators adapt their marketing message away from price-related campaigns to messages that demonstrate the value of physical activity, in order to help bridge the gap between desire and action.

2. CONTINUED Desire for social connection
A need for social connection is believed to be behind the 3 per cent increase in fitness and group exercise participation. Also, Net Promoter Scores for group activities consistently score higher than for individual ones. This presents a significant opportunity for leisure centres to capitalise on the joy of shared activities.

3. The cost of living impact
Forty per cent of respondents said the cost-of-living increase had had a significant, or some negative impact, on their ability to be active and 31 per cent said it had had significant, or some negative impact, on their use of sports, leisure and health/fitness facilities. This is further supported by respondents placing more importance on value for money – which increased from 82 per cent to 98 per cent.

More than ever the pressure is on to provide great service and results at the right price.

4. Millennials have the hardest standards to meet
The 25 to 34 age group saw the biggest decline in satisfaction of club visits: 69 per cent reported being satisfied, compared to 93 per cent among the 85 plus age group. Acknowledging millennials’ emphasis on experiences and technology-driven solutions, our research suggests a compelling case for fitness facilities to integrate innovative technologies and personalised training plans.

5. Exercise outside the gym
Variety is the name of the game, with an increasing number of customers complementing what they do in gyms with other activities. Forty two per cent of members engaged in sport and exercise outside of leisure centres, demonstrating opportunities for fitness centres to extend their reach beyond facilities.

6. Net Promoter Scores at an all time low
Our research indicates that the sector average for NPS has fallen into the low 20s, which is the lowest I have seen it in 15 years of measuring this metric. This is particularly being driven by males and the younger age groups, and the sorts of service issues referenced include cleanliness, reduced staffing levels and COVID procedures still being enforced.

Cleanliness satisfaction levels reached industry highs during and immediately post-lockdown, however they have now fallen back to pre-pandemic standards. Cleanliness is the service element that has the biggest gap between how important it is and how well it is delivered.

7. From transactional to meaningful
While there continue to be recruitment challenges, there’s been a noticeable shift in the number of operators seeking development for their teams. It is vital all team members understand the role they play in supporting their customers to create new active habits. Delivering positive experiences that lead to return visits will ensure relationships are formed and we typically see higher NPS scores when social connections are made.

• Mike Hill is a director of Active Insight and lead director for surveying elements of Moving Communities


Originally published in hcm Handbook 2024 edition

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