Should you try to win back gym members who cancel? Sometimes the answer is yes. Other times no. Working out how to handle cancellations takes careful consideration. And there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Find out where to start and what to think about. 

No matter the size or shape of your fitness business, if you offer memberships, you will have some members who choose to cancel. It’s important to understand why members leave and fix what you can. So, future members don’t leave for the same reasons. 

While you may be able to win back some gym members who’ve cancelled, not everyone will want to come back. A strategic approach to handling cancellations is essential. 

We’re here to help you work out what’s best for your business and members.

Take a targeted approach 

Our recent attrition research* (published in the Winning The War On Attrition report) took a deep dive into the main reasons why members quit the gym. In many cases, members don’t really tell you why they are leaving at all. And 40% fail to cancel directly with clubs. These members are cancelling silently. 

A graph to show the top reasons why gym members cancel.

So, the first step must be reducing the number of members who cancel silently. That way you’ll be able to resolve common issues that cause members to leave. And identify those at-risk of cancelling so you can re-engage and win back these members

There are some actions you can take to follow up with members who’ve cancelled. The trick is to do this strategically. 

Focus on segments where you can achieve positive results. These types of cancellations tend to be most actionable

  • Cleanliness 
  • Lack of use 
  • No interest or motivation to workout 
  • Not met expectations 
  • Cost & financial reasons 

Trying to win back gym members who’ve cancelled 

In some cases, you may be able to win back gym members who’ve cancelled by asking a few carefully worded questions and providing an incentive to return. 

Yet, in most cases, you’ll simply want to learn more from those leaving. So, you can take your learnings and stop more members leaving for the same reasons in the future. 

Strategic follow ups for leavers 

The best approach to following up with those who cancel, and leave, will differ based on: 

  • Number of members who cancel 
  • Reasons why members leave 
  • How feedback is managed 
  • The technology you use 
  • Your team – capacity and skillsets 

Start small and scale your follow up efforts based on the results you see. 

“Look at the different leave reasons your members give you and decide to focus on a few specific areas. 

Make your primary goal to find out more about leavers, to learn from them, so you can reduce leavers next month. The secondary aim is to see if you can recover them. 

Outline two or three recovery options that your staff can offer to save a member depending on their reason.  

Track success of each option. Then adapt and fine-tune to save more leave requests in the future.” 

Guy Griffiths, GGFit 

Here are some ideas for follow ups that could work for your business based on common cancellation reasons: 

Cancellation reason: Not met expectations 

Here your objective should be understanding why expectations haven’t been met so you fix addressable feedback to stop future members leaving for the same reasons. 

What to do:  

  • Create a simple survey to send to members who cancelled as their expectations were not met. Send this out via email & SMS (use your gym management software
  • Consider an incentive to complete (e.g., entry into a prize draw to win a gift card) 
  • Ask for permission to call with more questions (include an opt-in question in your survey 
  • Review the answers, then follow up with any questions (where you have permission to call)

Top tip

If your cancellation reasons give you more insight into why expectations haven’t been met, you could target specific reasons first with tailored surveys. This is helpful if you have many members cancelling for this reason.

With this information in hand, address the issues raised. Show what you’ve done publicly using your social channels, email updates etc. 

Cancellation reason: Lack of use, interest, or motivation 

Some members will leave telling you that they didn’t get enough use out of their membership investment. Or that they lost interest or motivation to visit.  

Here, your follow up objective should be to find out if there’s anything else you could’ve done to support them

What to do: 

  • Identify if there are any segments you can prioritise targeting. For example, is a specific demographic group most likely to stop using their membership soon after joining. Or maybe you can identify a specific reason (for example if members say they got ‘no enjoyment’ from visiting) 
  • Once you’ve identified a specific segment of this group to follow up with, ask them if there’s anything else you could have done to support them. How you get in touch will depend on the demographics and size of the group 

Sometimes, you may be able to tempt the member back in with a PT session or class on you. Take learnings from the feedback you get and apply them to new and existing members. 

Cancellation reason: Cost / financial reasons 

On average 3.6% of former gym members cancelled due to cost and financial reasons. With the high cost of living, this rose to 4.4% in 2022 and early-2023. And some of the memberships that were cancelled due to a payment failure, are likely to have been down to cost and financial difficulties.  

Checkout this article for more insights: Impact of cost of living on gym memberships. 

Cost and finances can be an incredibly sensitive topic. So, a careful approach is essential. Focus on being supportive above everything else. Look to see if there’s any help you can provide to those concerned with cost to encourage them back now or in the future. 

What to do: 

In most cases, you’ll want to choose a smaller subset of cancelled members in this group to target:

  • Look at the insights available in your gym CRM to see past visit patterns 
  • If a member has visited on a frequent basis (even if that’s 2-4 times a month) they’re more likely to come back in the future 
  • Also review specific cancellation reasons (if you have these). For example, if you can see cancellations due to loss of earnings, in this case with regular visitors you could offer support 

Contact the group you are targeting. A phone call may be easiest in some cases. Make this a conversation checking in on them not a sales call. Depending on the specific circumstances, ask questions around value for money rather than affordability  

In some cases, you could offer a freeze period. Or suggest a lower rate or casual option. You’re looking to show support and encourage these cancelled members back gently when the time is right. 

Cut cancellations 

Trying to win back gym members who’ve cancelled is hard work. The key is to stop them leaving in the first place.  

The Winning The War On Attrition report is full of insights and expert tips to help you retain more members.  

Get your free copy

The wrap up… 

Take a strategic approach to handling cancellations by identifying where you can have the biggest impact. Often you need to focus on learning more from those leaving, rather than attempting to win back gym members who’ve cancelled. 

Your follow up approach needs to be adapted based on the number of members cancelling, exact leaving reasons, the tech you use, and your team. You will need a selection of follow up processes to suit different scenarios. Start small and scale your efforts. 

Get more insights to help you stop members leaving. Claim your free copy of the Winning The War On Attrition report. 

* About the research:  

The attrition insights featured in this article and the Winning The War On Attrition report are based on Xplor data from 714,674 gym, health club and leisure members paying by Direct Debit in the UK & Ireland. 

As well as current members, it includes data on members who held a membership that’s been cancelled between January 2017 and April 2023. 

The data was collected in May 2023. 

Article by Xplor Gym

First published: 23 October 2023

Last updated: 02 February 2024