LO1 of Unit 2 – Understand Customer Service in a Gym Environment (2021)

Understand customer service in a gym environment

Learning outcomes
By the end of this section, you will be able to:

1.1       Compare the products and services of different organisations

1.2       Describe the local demographics of different organisations and how this affects the products and services offered

1.3       Describe customer expectations of different organisations

1.4       Describe a typical customer journey for different organisations

1.5       Describe methods used by different organisations to build support, inclusion and retention

The products and services of different organisations


UK fitness operators include leisure centres, hotels and spas, national gyms chains, private or independent gyms, and health clubs. Operators typically encourage members to pay monthly or annually for membership. Services and facilities vary widely between operators to meet the needs of a particular demographic. Services and facilities include:

  • Gym areas
  • Personal training
  • Studios and group exercise classes
  • Access to wet facilities such as swimming pools, jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms
  • Spa areas
  • Sports halls
  • Tennis and squash courts
  • Family areas
  • Restaurant and bar facilities


Please do your research to find out more about how different operators market their services to their demographic.

UK fitness operators fall into two general categories of ownership:
  1. Private ownership – A private operator is a commercially owned health and fitness site available to the public on an annual, monthly or “pay-as-you-go” membership. Facilities are run on a for-profit basis; meaning, the clubs exist purely to make money whilst providing services to the community. David Lloyd, PureGym, Gym Group, Virgin Active are examples of a private sector fitness provision.
  2. Public sector ownership – Public sector-led facilities are delivered either by local authorities or outsourced by local authorities to trusts, social enterprises, not-for-profits, commercial entities, and charities, which redistribute their profits to benefit the community.

Various factors are driving growth in the health, wellness and fitness sector. Greater flexibility in payment options (no contracts, pay-as-you-go, cancel at any time) has resulted in the appeal of gym memberships by reducing the entry barrier and taking away the financial risk to meeting the time-pressure needs of price-sensitive consumers.

Budget operators, in particular, have been responsible for the majority of growth. In the Uk, Pure Gym and GLL have the most clubs and members of all the private and public operators. Furthermore, in 2018, Pure Gym became the first operator to open 200 clubs.

Operator types

Health and fitness operators fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Budget operator (national gym chain)
  2. Mid-range operators (national gym chain)
  3. High end or premium operators (national gym chain)
  4. Public facilities 
  5. Independent facilities
  6. Specialist or boutique operators

1: Budget operators offer simple, transparent, affordable and flexible pricing models with rolling contracts and a monthly membership price under £30. Budget facilities stay competitive by attracting a high footfall (venue size is typically above 10,000 square feet). They operate with minimum staff and limited services, for example, no reception area and no ‘wet’ facilities (e.g., sauna, steam room and swimming pool). Budget operators often advertise 24-hour access seven days a week, giving their members flexibility when training. They also use technology to keep overheads and staffing numbers low, using swipe card entry systems for entry and app technology for booking services or inquiries.

Budget operators need a high volume of memberships to stay competitive and profitable, so they are located in highly populated, urbanised areas where footfall is high. In the UK, key budget operators include PureGym (The UK’s largest gym chain boasting over 200 facilities nationwide), The Gym Group, Xercise4less, Fit4Less and Simply Fitness. 

2: Mid-range operators: As you might expect, mid-range operators charge a higher membership price and offer a greater range of services, including wet facilities (although not all operators offer swimming pools). Venues range in size and the gym equipment is of good quality which is well maintained. 

3: Premium operators offer their members an extensive range of services such as a large gym area with great design, decor and ambience, the latest gym equipment.

Premium operators offer several or all of the following features:

  • Gym area
  • Wet facilities (jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms)
  • Social areas (in and outside)
  • Restaurant, bar and BBQ facilities
  • Adult or business room
  • Creche Facility
  • Supervised play areas
  • Specially equipped kids’ gym 
  • Sports areas such as a sports hall, boxing ring, tennis and squash courts. 
  • Online training and classes


Premium gyms revolve around the idea of a total lifestyle experience whereby members can train, relax and socialise all in one location. For those reasons, premium operators aim their provision at families who have disposable incomes. 

The cost of memberships is usually upwards of £70 per month, with some operators charging a membership over £200 per month. Also, members usually pay a joining fee (standard £100-£250 but can be as much as £1000) and sign up for an annual contract. Premium operators include David Lloyd, Third Space, The Harbour Club, Equinox and many exclusive hotel spas.

4: Public operators involve the local authority or a charitable social enterprise. A charitable social enterprise is a not-for-profit entity whereby surplus money is invested back into their services to benefit the local community. 

Facilities vary in size, services and access to gym equipment. Public facilities usually have studios for group exercises classes, wet facilities such as a swimming pool, changing areas and public eating areas. The cost of membership ranges from low to mid operator price ranges. Monthly and annual contracts are available, and there is a pay-as-you-go option too. Public facilities include most local authority gyms and charitable social enterprises such as GLL.

5: Independent operators include private gyms and small personal training studios. Smaller, private studios offer their members more focused and attentive training sessions with, as you might expect, an extra level of personalisation which for many individuals is the most effective setting for results with a personal trainer. As most studios are smaller than commercial gyms, there are usually fewer pieces of equipment. The lack of space means that equipment must be portable, such as med balls and dumbbells etc. Personal trainers are generally highly qualified and often have particular focus areas such as weight loss or body transformation services. 

Prices can vary widely from £25 per session to more than £100 per session depending on location, demographics, reputation and services. Most studios include changing and shower areas.

6: Boutique operators (Specialised gyms) have grown in recent years. Boutique gyms usually focus on one specific fitness area and tend to be more exclusive and community-oriented. They are smaller in size, offering members a more personalised workout experience. The member experience involves creating the right atmosphere, such as air quality, lighting, scents, and decor. Boutique gyms specialise in fitness areas such as cycling sessions, HIIT, yoga, barre, martial arts and dance classes mixed with fitness routines, TRX training, strength and functional training. Sessions are delivered as part of a structured timetable with up to 30 people in one session (Space and equipment permitting). Sessions cost between £20 and £40 and must be pre-booked.

Fitness instructors and personal trainers are usually highly qualified, skilled individuals with a wealth of experience in the health and fitness industry. Furthermore, smaller memberships allow trainers to know each member and create workout routines that are client centred. 

The members’ unique experience in an activity they are already interested in, the sense of community due to being surrounded by like-minded people in a friendly and intimate atmosphere, results in loyalty. Boutique operators include CrossFit, Gymbox, UFC Gyms, Soul Cycle, F45 and CORE (London).

The demographics of different organisations and how this affects the products and services offered 

There are roughly 6.7 thousand health and fitness clubs in the United Kingdom, with approximately 9.7 million members. Only Germany has more health and fitness club members in Europe. Of those clubs, close to half are solely fitness clubs, generating a total annual turnover of 1.9 billion British pounds. The majority of fitness clubs generate a turnover of between 100 and 250 thousand British pounds or less. 

Over the past ten years, low-cost memberships have become popular, giving rise to the increased expansion of budget operators. PureGym and The Gym Group is one of the most well-known budget operators and dominates the low-cost operator market. A statistic from 2018 stated that 598 clubs were falling under the budget operator banner. The Gym Group accounted for 158 of those clubs with 724 thousand members, generating 123.9 million British pounds. 

Interesting facts

  • There are around 62 thousand qualified fitness instructors in the sports and fitness sector, of which 16 thousand are employed on a full-time basis. 
  • In England, around 8.9 million people take part in fitness activities for at least 150 minutes per week, of which women are slightly more active than men. 
  • In Wales, roughly 16 percent of people participate in gym or fitness classes monthly, and similar attendance figures in Scotland. 

According to Statistica, the number of private gym members in the United Kingdom (UK) has increased year on year from 4.3 million memberships in 2011 to seven million memberships in 2019. The rise in memberships is due to an increasing number of low-cost budget gyms such as PureGym and The Gym Group. Further information on the fitness industry in the UK can be found in the Dossier: Fitness industry in the United Kingdom. 


Statistics Graph

Budget Gyms, as you might expect, budget operators offer a low-cost membership at the expense of a service provision. The gym floor forms the service centrepiece whereby members can access good quality training equipment. Personal training is also available. 

As mentioned in section 1.1, budget gyms rely on a high volume of memberships and run lean to profit. Technology is used to minimise cost, such as swipe card entry. The low cost makes budget gyms attractive to young people and students, and they are usually located in highly populated or urbanised areas to stay competitive. 

Mid and premium-priced gyms and health clubs’ market their services to a lifestyle orientated demographic and includes the family. 

Wellness is a growing concept that people are interested in and marketed heavily. Wellness can be defined as the regular practice of healthy habits to attain better physical and mental health outcomes in the now and future to control your future self. As part of the wellness message, operators have expanded their services to include dedicated healthcare professionals, life coaches, and nutritionists and are becoming widespread. 

Boutique Gyms: 

According to the Precor, Boutique Boom Report, Boutique gym members spend around £1 billion more than is spent on traditional fitness clubs and multipurpose facilities. The report states that Boutique studio users seek multiple experiences. 77% of boutique participants attend another studio or are also members of a club.

Millennials drive boutique gym success as they seek more than just a physical workout and want the brand experience to meet their lifestyle values (Club Intel).

Psychographics of boutique gym users 

  • Seek inspiration and adventure 
  • Uniqueness and novelty 
  • Authenticity and transparency 
  • Crave a tribe, not just a Community 
  • Covet a local feel 



Customer expectations of different organisations 

Customer expectation is any set of behaviours or actions individuals anticipate when interacting with a company. They encompass everything the customer expects from a product, service or organisation. 

Customers create expectations in their minds from current and past experiences and learned facts, knowledge and behaviour. 

The customer’s experience culminates every interaction they have with an organisation, product, or service. The customer experience is critical to business growth. Positive customer experiences promote loyalty and customer retention, encouraging brand advocacy. 

Here are some expectations of members from the different types of gyms. You will need to undertake your research based on your chosen gyms. 

What do members expect from gyms? 

Budget gyms members expect: 

  • Affordable and flexible pricing models 
  • Offer monthly rolling contracts as an option. 
  • Access to clean gym facilities and well-maintained equipment and technology 
  • Twenty-four hours a day access to the facility. 
  • Membership and referral discount and offers 

Mid-range gyms members expect: 

  • To pay more for their services on offer, e.g., personal training, physiotherapy, beauty treatments. 
  • Access to better facilities, wet facilities or a higher quality environment. 
  • To sign up to longer-term contracts (e.g., minimum six months or one year) 
  • Access to a large variety of classes and membership offers. 

Premium gyms members expect: 

  • More expensive and membership and exclusivity 
  • Exclusive decor, lighting and ambience 
  • Wet facilities (plunge and swimming pools, steam room, sauna and jacuzzi etc.) 
  • Contract arrangements. 
  • Facilities and service to include the whole family (racket sports, childcare facilities, indoor and outdoor areas and activities) 

Public gyms members expect: 

  • Affordable and flexible membership options. 
  • Quality facilities. 
  • Access to wet facilities, including a pool and other facilities to hire, e.g. sports hall. 

Boutique gyms members expect: 

  • Specialised service, e.g., yoga, martial arts, functional training
  • Premium membership packages
  • Top-notch facilities
  • Exclusivity
  • Part of a community

A typical customer journey for different organisations 

What is the customer journey map?

The ‘customer journey map’ is a visual representation of the customer journey from the moment they have indirect or direct interaction with an organisation’s products or services. The aim is to map out a story based on the customers’ expected experiences with the organisation and its brand across all touchpoints. Touchpoints is jargon for any encounter where customers and businesses interact to provide a product or service. Touchpoints help to define key moments in the customer’s journey which can build or erode their trust. Mapping the customer’s journey or touchpoints should be from the customer’s perspective.

Here are a few examples:

  • I have a need and look up the product, service or organisation online. <- search, site, mobile
  • I selected this company. <- Why? An excellent online demo? Excellent Trustpilot reviews, word of mouth, convenience?
  • I use online chat or another channel to engage.
  • I started the relationship.
  • I have a complaint and look for customer service. <- Where? How? Online? What channel? How am I treated when I contact? How many transfers/interactions does it take to solve my problem?
  • I want to stop being a customer. <- How do I cancel?

Indirect Activity

Indirect activity is the customer viewing the organisation’s social media accounts or navigating around the organisation’s website. There is no direct dialogue between the customer and the organisation. However, organisations must be aware of how to maximise the person’s interest or nudge them to make more formal contact. Brand image and critical messages are essential here.

Whether customers interact via social media, email, live chat or other channels, mapping the customer journey ensures that all touchpoints are planned. 

In a fitness setting, a customer’s journey to becoming a member may look something like the following:

  1. Enquiry: How? (website, mobile, telephone, online chat, walk-in)
  2. Orientation: Booking and facility tour. What information does the customer need to know? (services, facilities, prices) 
  3. Sign-up: The customer selects the membership package that best suits their circumstances and completes the sign-up paperwork. 
  4. Screening: Easily administered screening protocol 
  5. Consultation: Aims? The fitness instructor discusses the customer’s goals and current fitness levels. 
  6. Induction and programming: Member is shown how to safely use a range of gym equipment and give them a go under supervision.
  7. Upsell: Information available on additional services, i.e. personal training 
  8. Follow-up consultation/re-programme: 4-6 weeks later, the customer reviews their progress with the fitness instructor and may have a new programme designed. 
  9. Repeat stage 8: Continue to review customer progress and respond to their needs to maximise customer experience. 

Methods used by different organisations to build support, inclusion and retention 

Customer satisfaction is key to company growth, reputation and competitiveness. According to relationship marketers, customer satisfaction should be viewed as a central determinant of customer retention and loyalty. In one survey, 76% of consumers expected companies to understand their needs and expectations. In the same survey, consumers said it would be easy to take their business elsewhere to find products, services, and experiences that match their expectations. Organisations and businesses must pay close attention to their customer’s expectations as they will go elsewhere. 

Definition of customer expectations 

Customer expectations is any set of behaviours or actions that individuals anticipate when interacting with a company.

Customer expectations 

Customer expectations are a set of behaviours or actions that individuals anticipate when interacting with a company. The customer’s expectations revolved around the quality of a service or product compared to the service’s cost in the past. However, times have changed, with the modern consumer expecting more from services, such as proactiveness, personalisation, personal interactions, connected experiences and community with consistent messaging to underpin core values. Here’s how to meet the customer’s expectations.

1: Avoid treating customers as a number. In one report, 84% of members said how an organisation interacts and speaks to them is crucial to signing up or continuing membership. Organisations must consider their customers or members needs once the sale or membership has been made. Although it takes time, cultivating relationships is worth its weight in gold as it’s more cost-effective to retain members than to keep selling. 

2: Make customers feel included. Organisations should strive to meet the needs of their customers or members and take action to create environments where everyone feels welcome or included and respected for individual differences to achieve their full potential. Services should be based on the inclusivity and diversity of the local demographics.

Inclusivity is often interchangeably used with diversity. However, diversity and inclusion are distinctly different in definition. Inclusivity relates to the policies and procedures an organisation implemented in the workplace. Inclusivity is about whether an organisation’s customers or members feel accepted and comfortable. On the other hand, diversity recognises that everyone is different, and these differences should be respected, allowing people to reach their full potential as part of an all-inclusive culture.

3: Personalise member experience

4: To keep customers or members satisfied, personalise their experience, as it may be the number one strategy to meet customers’ expectations and promote retention. Personalisation is all about treating people as individuals. To adopt a personalised customer approach, consider the following:

A) Develop customer profiles – One of the most critical aspects of delivering a personal service involves understanding who the customers are. Gather information about their needs; it is helpful to know details such as their lifestyle, occupation and interests. Knowing more about your customers allows services to be tailored correctly.  

B) Create a customer-focused vision statement – Organisations must define their customer service principles in a vision statement providing a strategic reference point. The principle should be based on the organisation’s customer profiles. Furthermore, all employees must become aware of the organisation’s guiding values. These values must guide the organisation’s interactions with members.

5: Train employees to be customer-facing – Train employees to deal with customer situations to deal with a customer’s emotions. It’s helpful to follow the CARES service model. 

6: Develop a customer-friendly attitude – organisations with a customer-friendly attitude view their customers as an essential part of their jobs. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and treat customers how you would like to be treated yourself. Answer each phone call or face to face interaction with a greeting. Be aware of your facial expressions and body language and look at complaints as an opportunity to exceed your customer’s expectations.

7: Deal with complaints quickly – To limit the number of unhappy customers, organisations should measure customer satisfaction. Consider the following:

A) Politely ask customers to complete a short survey on aspects of the service offered, i.e. many gyms now have electronic feedback points and encourage their use.

B) Encourage customers to complete feedback cards or know where to go if they want to make a complaint.

C) Hold regular customer forums.

D) Use social media to track and monitor customer satisfaction; customers are now using their mobile phones up to 150 times per day

Meeting customers’ needs is intrinsically linked to satisfaction with the product or service, i.e. gym membership. Occasionally customers may require additional information about a service or topic, especially specialist information such as dietary or health. Treat this as an opportunity to exceed the customer’s expectations. Instructors should be aware of how to source additional information either internally from other departments, for example, information on children’s activities or external information from organisations such as CIMSPA. Offering additional advice demonstrates your commitment to the customer and will position you as the expert.

8: Evaluate your service offering regularly – It’s essential to consistently review customers’ preferences and use feedback from every available source as customer needs change and adapt over time. It is the only way to ensure a personalised experience if offered. 

Customer retention  

Customer retention is the ability to get customers to repeatedly buy, purchase or subscribe to a product or service with the same organisation or company; otherwise, customers switch to the competitor(s). Retention is a metric indicating the quality of a service or product. Retention is essential for an organisation’s growth and success.

Keeping current customers’ content is trying to be more cost-effective than acquire first-time customers. According to the Harvard Business Review, a newly subscribed customer is up to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing customer. In another study by Bain & Company, a five per cent increase in customer retention can increase profits between 25% to 95%. 

The above paragraphs illustrate two compelling reasons to put time and effort into retaining customers. The upshot is to service and look after existing customers.