Retention Secrets From the World’s Best Gym Owners

On a white background, a manila folder full of documents with a "top secret" label.

About a month ago, I said you could improve gym retention for just $20 a week by hiring a person to do a few simple tasks.

When we presented the idea on social media, people wanted to know more about “client success managers/CSMs”—a lot more. So I’ll give you additional details here.

A few people also asked a great question when they saw the article: “Don’t you need to spend more than $20 a week to improve retention?”

The answer is yes—retention isn’t just a one-hour-a-week job.

But you could literally start working on retention by paying someone $15 or $20 to send “how are you doing?” text messages to absent members for 60 minutes once a week. I guarantee your retention would improve.  

That was the point of this article—start very small, track results and invest more when you see results.

So how do top gym owners go further with CSMs?

Read on.

A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."

I polled the members of our private group for gym owners to give you some real info from ground level. Below, you’ll see how the best gym owners in the world are using CSMs to drive up their retention.

Use this info to create a CSM role that works for your business.

CSM Hours Per Week

Our survey received 73 responses, with eight owners stating they don’t have a CSM (yet).

Hours Per WeekPercentage of Respondents
Full time (serving several locations)2

Key Stats:

  • 59 percent of respondents employ a CSM for 1-7 hours a week.
  • 79 percent of respondents employ a CSM for 1-10 hours a week.

CSM Hourly Wage

This survey received 47 responses, and respondents were asked to answer in U.S. funds.

Hourly CSM WagePercentage of Respondents
Less than $102

Key Stat: 90 percent of respondents pay between $15 and $20 per hour for CSM work.

The Most Essential CSM Tasks

I asked gym owners who employ CSMs to list the two most important tasks associated with the role.

The group’s collected answers can give you with a huge head start on a roles and tasks document. The duties below are loosely ordered by their place in a client’s journey, not by their value. Our clients indicated that all of these tasks measurably improve retention.

For example, one gym owner reported that her CSM prevents 50-60 percent of cancellations by doing goal reviews with clients who intend to leave the gym.

Key CSM Tasks

  • Contacting all leads, replying to messages and booking free consultations.
  • Sending postcards after free consultations.
  • Managing a documented onboarding process for new members.
  • Establishing themself as a client’s go-to person for all needs and questions.
  • Scheduling Goal Review Sessions.
  • Performing regular Goal Review Sessions.
  • Using Goal Review Sessions to save memberships after receiving cancelation requests.
  • Filling out Affinity Marketing cheat sheets for new members.
  • Collecting client bright spots from coaches for inclusion in “love letters” to clients.
  • Sending personalized recognition of special days and achievements outside the gym (cards, gifts).
  • Sending personalized recognition of fitness milestones (cards, gifts).
  • Acknowledging outside-the-gym struggles and offering support and encouragement.
  • Making members feel special in person outside class sessions.
  • Creating and running member and staff events.
  • Running attendance reports and contacting absent members.
  • Calling departed members who did not fill out an exit survey.
  • Contacting departed members as part of a precise reactivation plan.

Putting It Together

Based on our research, the Two-Brain gym owners who responded to our surveys usually:

  • Employ a CSM for about 1-7 hours a week.
  • Pay a CSM $15-$20 an hour.

Using middle-of-the road numbers from top gym owners, you could come up with something like this:

  • Hire a CSM for 4 hours a week at $17.50 an hour.
  • Weekly cost: $70.
  • Monthly cost: $303.10 ($70 x 4.33 weeks per month).

From there, you can allocate hours and money to the role. When you have your numbers, you can then select tasks from the list above.

If I could only assign three tasks to a CSM, I’d pick these ones:

  • Scheduling Goal Review Sessions. This has a direct positive effect on retention and average revenue per member.
  • Sending personalized recognition of fitness milestones and life events (cards, gifts). Members who have strong relationships to your business are less likely to leave.
  • Running attendance reports and contacting absent members. If they aren’t training, they’re on the verge of leaving—but a CSM can re-engage clients and prevent cancelations.

To get the greatest return on your investment in a CSM, use a mentor who can tell you exactly which tasks will help your business most right now. Two-Brain clients also have access to a host of resources that help them get a CSM up to speed fast.

And if you’re now convinced that a CSM is a great investment but you don’t know where to find the money to hire one, a mentor can tell you exactly how to generate the cash you need. To find out more, book a call here.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.