How to Keep Your Cool When Handing Online Reviews for Your Fitness Business

Cultivating a base of solid four and five star reviews for your business can be a seriously difficult task. You’ve spent months chasing up clients, emailing people for feedback, and doing whatever it takes to make sure that your business’s qualities are reflected in those reviews that pop up every time someone punches your name into Google or Facebook.

It’s all worth it though. Market research shows that people view online reviews as being a credible source of information for deciding whether or not to deal with a business. Those precious reviews can be the difference between making a sale, and seeing customers walk out the door.

Then it happens. Before dinner one night, (kangaroo steak and broccoli with a raspberry glaze, if you were wondering) you decide to check your reviews.

And there it is.

A one star review.

“This can’t be happening!” You think to yourself. “I’ve done everything right – my staff are incredible and the gym is spotless. Even our barbells are organic!”

Sadly, complaints are an unavoidable fact of doing business. No matter how much effort you put in, rightly or wrongly, some customer is eventually going to leave disappointed. The real test of your skills as a business owner isn’t avoiding bad reviews (although that can’t hurt), but rather how you respond to this feedback.

In order to make sure your response is always the right one, here are a series of tips to make sure that your damage control is the best in the biz.


Ask yourself – is the complaint worth responding to?

“Just ignore them”, is often the best response when dealing with negative reviews. Rather than dragging yourself into a time consuming and stressful online debate with someone, decide what you want to achieve by responding. A lot of the time, customer complaints can be essentially impossible to respond to, particularly when the complaint pertains to things outside of your control. The goal of any complaint response should be resolution. ‘Winning’ an argument can often times do more harm then good, particularly in the context of a reviews section which is visible for the entire world to see.

With these factors in mind, we can generalise a basic rule for responding to negative reviews: Only respond to online reviews if you can achieve a meaningful resolution to the complaint. In all other cases, the best response is no response at all.


Take a minute and relax

This isn’t the end of the world. While it might feel like the complaint is totally unjustified (and poorly spelt!) it’s important to remember the person behind the keyboard. How would you respond to a physical client who came to you with this complaint or feedback? Finish your dinner, the book you’re reading, or send those emails that you’ve been meaning to send all day. The review isn’t going anywhere (for better or worse) so avoid jumping into things while emotions are high.


Creating a resolution

If you’ve decided that the complaint you’re dealing with fits these criteria, the next step is to start constructing a well thought-out response. Remember, the important thing to consider here is how your response is going to actually resolve the issue – so take the time to think about what courses of action you can take. Your response should consist of three main elements. A greeting, an apology, and an offer for some sort of resolution.

Importantly, try and move the discussion out of the public eye as soon as possible. Offer to phone, email or meet with the complainant in person.


Write some drafts

The first thing to do is copy the text of the review into your favourite text editor, or print it out and get some paper handy. The text editor in your browser or smartphone can format your response poorly, and may not have spell checking and other features. Also, there is the possibility that you’ll accidentally hit send! Taking the time to prepare and draft your response will pay off in the long run. If you feel like your final draft is of a very high quality, then considering formatting it as a template for future complaint responses.

While you’re drafting your response, consider the audience that you’re writing for. In addition to the reviewer, your response will be visible to anybody who reads the negative review in question.

Keep it simple

No matter the final form that your response takes, the best response is short, sweet and polite. Avoid being snarky, or trying to ‘win’ the argument – focus instead on offering something valuable both to the complainant and any future readers.

A lot of the time, the best response is simply an apology, followed by a quick offer to get in touch in person. Make the tone friendly and helpful, and demonstrate the customer first values that your gym holds. Ultimately, this will provide future readers with evidence that your gym cares about responding to these complaints.


Forget about the review

Whether you decide to respond or not, you need to start forgetting about the review from the moment you see it. If you choose to respond, focusing too much on the review, by asking for its removal or editing, can make the customer feel like you’re uninterested in a true resolution. If you choose not to respond, there is no reason to keep thinking about a review. Simply do what you can to prevent future complaints, and keep moving forward.


What next?

Learning industry best practices and developing strong customer relations are the cornerstone of any gym business. In order to get the most out of your gym ownership journey, have a talk to the experts at fitstop! Enquire now at


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