Date: July 15, 2015
Author: Golf Australia

5 steps to follow-up on resigned members

At this time of year many clubs will be watching closely as the money flows in for a new subscription year.  Subscriptions are the lifeblood of any club.

We know however, that not all members will renew.  The 2014 Golf Participation Report (released in May 2015) suggests that the national attrition rate for clubs is 12.5%.   For an average sized club of 250 members, 12.5% equates to 31 members who won’t renew.  However, the report also says that the smaller the club the larger the attrition rate.  For clubs under 250 members, the majority, the national average is 20.5%!

So with potential income literally flying out the door, managers, membership secretaries and chairs of the membership committees will be putting into practice the well accepted theory of “it’s far easier to keep a customer (member) than to find a new customer (member)”.  They will be getting on the phone and talking to the resigning members and find out what is their reason for doing so and asking if they would like to reconsider.  Right?  Well not really.

You see, in analysis of over 150 clubs completing the Club Health Check tool, 33% said they rarely or never find out why their members are leaving, 39% said they sometimes find out and only 28% said they always find out.  This seems like an opportunity wasted.

"33% said they rarely or never find out why their members are leaving, 39% said they sometimes find out"

Here’s a simple process that takes a few hours and can generate thousands of dollars.

1. Ring them up and express how you’re sorry to hear they’re leaving

An exit survey in the mail is one thing, but members appreciate a personal call.   Resigning can often be a really difficult decision, particularly if they’ve been a member for a long time.  A call allows the resigning member to know you care and the club values them.  Suggest to them that you would love to have called them before they considered resigning.

2. Find out exactly why they’re leaving and see if they’d reconsider

You may have found out something from their resignation letter (if provided) but a phone call has the potential to reveal much more.  Find out why they’re deciding to leave.  Be prepared to hear some bad news and so good news.  If it’s bad news, you have a chance to hear their thoughts and if needs be clarify a matter.  Don’t feel like you need to convince them of anything though. 

Resigning doesn’t need to be final.   You may well be able to ask whether they could stay another year.  You may get a chance to mention the programs you have on offer, provide a special offer for them or ask whether one of your other categories of membership would be suitable to them. They may not have been aware.

Another important aspect of their resignation to explore is their social connectedness.  Members are more loyal to their friends within the club than to the club itself.  Find out how much they have used the club and how connected they have been with other members.  It may reinforce your strategy around keeping members from becoming disengaged by providing opportunities for all members to regularly participate socially in club events.

"Members are more loyal to their friends within the club than to the club itself."

3. Ask how the club can improve

Ask them: "What’s the ONE thing they can suggest as to what you could do to improve your club and your membership offer?"  You might find information that you can use to save members who may be thinking of leaving in the future.

4. Ask to keep in touch

If they still intend to leave ask if they’d like to be kept on a mailing list to receive club newsletters.  You already have a relationship with them so why let it go?  Who knows, in a year things may have changed in their life or that of their family members and friends.  Your club may have a new offering that may meet their needs or someone they know.

5. Treat them with respect

Regardless of the outcome, the personal call and interest in the member is a nice way for the member to remember the club.  If the member is resigning, make sure they receive a resignation acceptance letter with something that’s personal about their time at the club: years of membership, wins in events, family associations, time on committee, functions held or attended.

In summary:

Don’t assume you know why people are leaving and don’t assume it’s final.  Getting on the phone and speaking with resigning members may be the most profitable phone calls you will make the entire year.  Keep the relationship alive as who knows what may come of it in the future.