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Whether you’re a group exercise instructor, personal trainer, or the owner of an established gym or studio, inevitably you’ll be on the receiving end of a negative review. But must negative reviews always have a negative outcome?

Nearly half (45%) of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews[1]. So, even though leaving a negative review untouched can seem like the easy option, this may make it appear to current and prospective clients that you don’t care about customer service.

Many customers simply wish to be heard when making a complaint, so it is important to acknowledge their issue and offer a sincere apology. Before focusing on a solution to the problem, take some time to gather your thoughts so you don’t make a heat-of-the-moment response; empathise and apologise without placing any of the blame on them. In doing this, you will demonstrate to other clients that your brand cares about providing a good service.

Following on from this, you should also ensure any responses to negative reviews are authentic. Copying and pasting a stock response will make you come across as insincere. In your reply, show that you’ve tried to see things from their perspective, and offer direct contact details that will show you are serious about resolving the issue. As a PT, group X instructor, or owner of a small gym/studio, you are likely to know your customers well and this personal touch can be hugely beneficial in resolving issues as you probably already have some form of rapport with the customer.

All reviews – whether positive, negative, or somewhere in between – offer you valuable feedback on your service. Evaluate it to see which aspects of your business are going well, and where there are areas for improvement. Negative reviews often provide invaluable insight into what you can do to improve your service offering, so make sure to address the issue and mention how you will learn from it. If you do make changes to your service based on someone’s feedback, consider inviting them back free of charge to see whether they feel things have improved. This is a great opportunity to receive truly honest feedback and potentially turn a disgruntled customer into someone who has helped improve your business.

When faced with a negative review, even though the natural response may be to get defensive, this can often lead to being drawn into a tit-for-tat exchange. This can make you come across as petty, with no resolution being worked towards. If someone just wants to keep complaining, reiterate that you are more than happy to resolve the issue and ask the person to make contact with you online. This will show everyone else that you’re being reasonable.

Moreover, try to take the time to reply to all reviews in a positive and professional manner, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the review. This gives you the opportunity to connect with your customers and forge relationships. In the fitness industry, strong relationships are key to making a business work in the long term, whether that’s as a personal trainer keeping a client coming back on a regular basis, or a gym owner retaining members.

Although negative reviews may cause you to feel somewhat dejected, they often present great opportunities to improve your offering. By exploring the reasons why the person made the review and taking steps to resolve the issue/prevent it from happening again, you are actively looking to improve your service, which should benefit your business long term.

About the Author

Ross Kynoch – MINDBODY, Head of Customer Service


  1. ReviewTrackers (2018) Online Reviews Survey; com/reports/online-reviews-survey/