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Published in Sports Management 2019 issue 1

Finding opportunities in cancellations
Emma Thomas

Over the last few years, we’ve worked hard to increase customer satisfaction across our facilities; with our offers, our timetables and scheduling. But one area we weren’t focused on, was what happened should they wish to cancel. A membership cancellation is complicated, but shouldn’t be perceived as a negative; it should be more of an ‘au revoir’ than a goodbye.

How we could ensure the process was streamlined and efficient when we have many types of memberships across a number of sites? And how could the process facilitate a conversation between us and the customer? What information could we glean from a departing member? And could we change their mind?

We’ve been fortunate to work collaboratively with Leisure-net to co-create an online cancellation portal, recovery-Focus, that customers must complete if they’re requesting to leave. The system allows us to track cancellation applications to ensure they’re managed professionally and within a set time, ensuring members feel valued and ultimately helping us retain customers.

"We’ve gained valuable customer insights from our online cancellation portal"

Once received, our team contacts the customer to discuss their reasons for wanting to leave and, if appropriate, offers a special pre-agreed deal from an online ‘toolbox’ to encourage them to stay. This could be anything from a personal training session or an offer to freeze their fitness membership for six months. Or, for children’s swimming lessons, the next month of lessons for a penny.

Requests to cancel come in many guises, be that injury, the completion of fitness goals, financial reasons or lack of motivation. Our simple online cancellation request and follow up conversation allows these to be assessed and alternative solutions to be explored. Should a customer still wish to cancel, we confirm this and the recovery-Focus tool automatically notifies DFC to cancel the membership and from what date.

The system has only been operational a few months, so its early days, but we’ve already managed some great win-backs and gained valuable customer insights. The data acquired is helping us influence the selling process, review our programming and the learning and development of our team. To me it feels like it’s the missing jigsaw piece to our customers’ membership journey.

Emma Thomas, head of development, Trafford Leisure

Members requesting to leave may be offered special deals to encourage them to stay PHOTO: Credit © shutterstock/Iakov Filimonov
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