YMCA gets help keeping patrons happy, returning

NASHUA – It’s one thing for a club to attract members, but the harder part often is keeping them once they join.

To that end, the YMCA of Greater Nashua got a boost from a Massachusetts consulting company.

The YMCA won 80 hours of free consultation from a North Shore company called Octopus Solutions. The company provided the service over three months and issued a final report last week, said Mike LaChance, executive director of the YMCA of Greater Nashua.

One of the biggest benefits was what the organization learned “on the membership development side,” LaChance said.

The information will be helpful both now and as the organization prepares to open a new facility, he said.

Southern New Hampshire Medical Center will buy the current YMCA facility on Prospect Street in a deal expected to close this month. The hospital plans to convert the facility into medical offices.

Meanwhile, the YMCA, the city of Nashua and Pratt Homes are working out a three-way land swap that would allow the YMCA to build a new facility near Stellos Stadium and Exit 5 off the F.E. Everett Turnpike.

The hospital will buy the Prospect Street facility for $4.5 million. The proceeds will be applied toward the projected cost of $10.1 million for the new YMCA. After an anticipated $3 million from a capital campaign is added, the remaining $2.6 million would be borrowed through bonds.

The new facility will be about 41,000 square feet, smaller than the 55,000-square-foot Prospect Street building.

However, the new YMCA will make a more efficient use of space and will be open to offer more programs, LaChance said.

One thing that the consultants stressed is the importance of keeping members happy, including families, which constitute a key part of the membership, LaChance said.

That means more services for families, he said.

Another thing the consultants mentioned was the importance of first impressions.

“When you go to the same place every day, you see things a certain way,” LaChance said.

But the consultants stressed what the experience is for members the first time they enter the facility and brought that perspective to the organization’s staff, he said.

“We’re looking at staffing changes in the organization to better meet their needs,” LaChance said.

Staff members will also be trained to provide better customer services, he said.

The national organization tells chapters that over a 13-month period, they’ll typically lose a quarter of their members due to uncontrollable factors, such as members moving or developing health issues that prevent them from exercising.

A good retention rate is 60 percent, and a very good one is 70 percent, according to the national YMCA organization.

The YMCA of Greater Nashua has a retention rate of about 70 percent, LaChance said, but the chapter still hopes to improve on that.

“Even if you’re doing good, you can always do better,” LaChance said. “Even 1 or 2 percent can have an impact.”

LaChance found the consultants’ work to be helpful.

“They were very knowledgeable and provided some great insights,” he said.