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9 Common Gym Complaints and How to Deal With Them


Gyms are customer-facing businesses, and sometimes people complain. As with any business that focuses so heavily on customer service, you can do everything possible, and gym complaints still arise. A good and solid reputation takes time to build and can be quickly compromised with a searing complaint. 

By dealing with complaints correctly and knowing how to handle upset customers, you can manage the situation. This allows you to rectify the problem before it becomes an even bigger issue. So what is the best way to handle complaints and address them efficiently?

Complaint Management for Gym Owners 

Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” 

Your business’s reputation is a hugely important and valuable asset. Although you can’t put a precise monetary figure on it, your reputation is what attracts and retains loyal members. Authority, credibility, trust, and loyalty are hard to build and obtain. It’s by no means easy to get these things. Fitness businesses work for years to achieve a glowing reputation, and something as simple as human error can jeopardize your hard work. 

While you can do everything possible to reduce complaints before they happen, sometimes they can sneak up on you. You need to handle complaints quickly and calmly. It’s essential that your members feel heard, understood, and appreciated. It’s very easy for the complaining process to become heated, but you need to focus on calming the situation. By taking steps to reduce complaints and fixing any issues that arise quickly, you can manage complaints and improve your overall service at the same time. 

Monitor All Forums of Complaints 

In a world of Trust Pilot, Facebook, and Google reviews, complaints can come through in various ways, and you must monitor all of them. They could come through in-person, email, social media, and online reviews. It’s far too easy for a complaint to slip through the net and become a bigger issue than it needs to be. 

Part of monitoring complaint forums involves encouraging the customer to move into a private conversation swiftly. When you spot a complaint, reply quickly and offer the name, email, and phone number of the person who will deal with their complaint. 

Handling gym complaints and reputation management go hand in hand. When you solve issues quickly, you can stop them before they spiral out of control. Depending on the situation, there are different ways to handle complaints. 

In some cases, you may even want to apologize and own up to a mistake before you start getting complaints. Adidas did this when they sent out an email congratulating the survivors of the Boston Marathon in 2013. The company took ownership and made several statements, including one on Twitter where they said, “We are incredibly sorry…We deeply apologize for our mistake.”

How to Handle Gym Member Complaints 

When running a health club or fitness center, it’s usually only a matter of time before you have to handle a complaint. If you manage the situation well, you could end up retaining a lifetime loyal member alongside several referrals. By managing disgruntled members and taking full control of the situation, you can turn an upset customer into a loyal one. 

1. Empathize and Understand 

Depending on how the complaint comes through, you will probably handle it slightly differently. But one thing remains the same, and that’s the need to empathize and understand your customer. Stay calm and don’t let anger or emotion get out of control. That won’t help the situation. Keeping calm will help you with a response both online and offline. 

2. Take Ownership and Find a Solution 

If it’s your mistake, take ownership. If you completely disagree with the point, try to find out where they are coming from politely. Avoid being confrontational as this may anger them even further. Agree where possible and make sure that a team member deals with the problem personally. The complaints experience should be just as high-quality as the other services you offer. Start discussing ways to solve the issues and find a solution. 

3. Stay Calm and Solve the Problem 

Offer a clear plan on how you intend to solve the problem. Continue to stay calm and personable. Your facial expression and body language should also match your calm tone and conversation. Remain approachable but show that you’re really listening to the customer. By now, you should have a clear idea of how you can solve the problem. If not, it’s worth asking the customer what you can do to make it right.

4. Record the Complaint 

You should have a system in place to record complaints. With a complaints system, you shouldn’t lose track of any upset members and will know when to follow up with each person. Even after solving a problem and rectifying the situation, it’s a good idea to check up with your customer via email, phone call, or social media messaging to ensure the issue is fixed. There should be a clear complaints procedure for members. Your complaints procedure allows you to swiftly deal with complaints, investigate them thoroughly and fairly, and provide an effective solution. 

9 Gym Complaints and How to Deal With Them 

No matter how successful or fantastic your fitness business is, no one is immune from customer complaints. There are several reasons why members may complain. Some will be expected following an incident, and others will catch you completely by surprise. Here are nine of the most common gym complaints and how to deal with them. 

1. Poor Gym Hygiene Conditions 

Poor gym hygiene conditions are a massive red flag for members. Hygiene was already a big deal in a pre-coronavirus world; now strict hygiene procedures are a necessity. It’s not just the cleanliness that can attract complaints, but the general fitness environment. If it’s too hot, too cold, or too dark, this could result in issues. 

When it comes to hygiene, the best way to deal with it is to be proactive. With strict hygiene guidelines across all states, all equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between uses. If you hear that the temperature is too extreme, solve the problem by setting a pleasant room temperature. Members should be able to perform their workouts comfortably. 

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2. Staffing Issues 

Your members come to you to work out but also to socialize a little and blow off some steam. Let’s say one of your members walks through the door, and your front desk staff ignores them or comes across as rude. Or perhaps, a fitness instructor isn’t following your rigorous safety standards when teaching a new member how to use the equipment. This could result in an injury or serious health consequences. 

The first stage of handling these kinds of complaints starts with how you train your staff. Employees should feel well-informed, motivated, and inspired to deliver excellent customer service. They should have all the tools they need to perform their job well. If this is the case and you’re still receiving complaints, then it’s time to address a certain member of staff and take action. Apologize for the behavior, deal with the issue, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

3. Lack of Attention 

If a member came to you a few months ago with a problem and still hasn’t received a solution or any confirmation, this can cause even more of a problem. A lack of attention and feeling like you’re not being heard can anger an already upset customer. Being ignored and not given the attention they deserve leads to negative reviews, bad referrals, and a poor reputation. 

When a customer complains, keep track of the information so that you can follow up and solve the issue. If they feel like their problem doesn’t matter and you’re not dealing with it, why would they stick around? In the long-term, an upset customer could push away several leads by informing them of how poorly you handled a complaint. 

4. Ineffective Communication 

Effective and smooth communication is essential for a successful fitness business. Your members need to feel informed, motivated, and inspired to move and work out. Nowadays, there are several lines of communication like Facebook, Instagram, email, WhatsApp, and phone. It’s easy to lose track of who you’re interacting with and on which platform. For example, a customer tells you to cancel their membership, but it’s not filed properly, and you continue to take monthly payments. Ineffective communication can result in doubling up appointments, missing bookings, not updating memberships, credit card payments, and more. All this leads to frustrated members. 

Your communication should be streamlined. Member management software helps to keep track of conversations, instructions, and payments. You should have steps in place to deliver effective communication. If something slips through and there is an error, rectify the problem. Use every mistake as a lesson so that you can update your communication strategy and make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

5. Broken or Faulty Equipment 

Broken or faulty equipment, as well as equipment that’s been left out, can frustrate members. Your customers pay for a service. When you don’t meet that expectation, they start to question why they are paying for a gym membership in the first place. It becomes a problem when members are repeatedly dealing with the same issue. 

It’s no secret that equipment can break from time to time. But you can do something to keep the complaints surrounding equipment to a minimum. Don’t delay fixing any equipment. This could result in both injuries and frustrated members. Make sure your staff put away all equipment and encourage members to put equipment back after use during your onboarding program

6. Overcrowded Gym 

In the normal non-pandemic days of the past, it was frustrating for members to find that they have to wait for equipment or there are too many people around to workout properly. Now, overcrowding poses another risk as it’s more difficult to socially distant when the gym is too crowded. 

By spreading out your peak hours and notifying members of all your capacity guidelines, they have the right information to avoid crowding. Your gym or health spa may be open at a reduced capacity or hoping to reopen in the near future. Either way, try to entice members in at non-peak times as well as encourage them to use your digital fitness platform from home. 

7. Last-Minute Cancellations 

Last-minute cancellations for classes and one on one personal training sessions are frustrating. That’s not to say that on occasion, you don’t have a valid reason for canceling bookings. But the way you handle cancellations will help you set the right tone. 

When canceling any classes, be sure to give as much warning as possible and explain why the class or session is canceled. People are understanding, and they know that accidents and unforeseen events happen. If you keep canceling bookings without providing any information or warning, you will end up with a lot of complaints. 

8. No Results 

If members do not see results, they could complain. This one is tricky as it might not always be your fault as to why a member doesn’t see results. It could be that they are not consistently working out, or maybe they aren’t eating the right foods. Whatever the reason is, it’s your job to help members achieve their goals. 

Think about how you motivate members and approach fitness. Perhaps you can offer nutrition coaching and sessions with a personal trainer to members who need additional guidance. If your cardio workouts aim to improve fitness and lose weight and a member sees neither of those, ask yourself why. The next step is to develop a personalized workout plan to get them motivated and back working towards their goals. 

9. Empty Promises 

Finally, don’t ever promise anything you can’t deliver just to get a new member. This can be very frustrating. If a new member signs up because you offer a nutrition plan, a six-week workout schedule, and access to your digital fitness plan, you need to deliver on those. 

Empty promises produce valid complaints from customers. It’s fair to say that you didn’t deliver on a promise. That can result in a negative reputation and mistrust. Instead, only promise services you will deliver on. If one of your members has slipped by, then you can reflect on your promises and make sure that you provide them quickly. Apologize and do what you can to be true to your promises. 

In Summary 

To improve member retention, you need happy customers. You create loyal members by providing a great service in a clean and exciting environment. By taking steps to tackle complaints before they arise, you can meet customer expectations. Despite doing all that you can, complaints will pop up. The best thing you can do is stay calm, understand, and listen to your customer complaints. Find a solution that works for them and deal with complaints before they have a chance to spiral out of control. 

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