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Negative member feedback is the pits. But it can expose business weaknesses you may need to be aware of. Here’s how you handle it without losing your cool.

Picture this…

You got a skip in your step. 

Because, well, it’s Friday, and you’ve planned a weekend away. You’re trusting your team to look after the business whilst you’re gone. 

It’s a much-needed long overdue rest & recovery getaway. 

Then it arrives 😳

An essay-style email from a member complaining about the service at your facility. 


This stinks because it’s a massive dampener on your day and increases your stress levels 2-fold. 

Lucky for you, it’s via email and not yet public. 

You see, 

It’s about taking a deep breath, assessing the situation and handling it correctly so the member has been heard and you’re not trampled on for no good reason. 

Negative feedback can be a gift

It’s a nasty initial feeling when you read a negative review online, receive an angry email or hear words from a dissatisfied member about your fitness facility. 

Often you may feel personally attacked & defensive because your business is your baby. You built it from the ground up. How dare anybody have anything wrong to say about your blood, sweat & tears. 

But, listening to the negative member feedback is essential because the member is spotting something you haven’t. Something that you can improve on. 

For example, 

Let’s say you receive negative member feedback about classes at your fitness facility starting late & finishing late. This member notes explicitly that they have to leave after class on the hour to get to work on time. This situation may be something you may not have been aware of. So you can talk to your staff to make the changes to ensure classes are starting & finishing on time. 

Dealing with negative member feedback

How to respond to negative feedback

Ok, you’ll always have that one member complaining about everything. The one you take with a pinch of salt & a smile. We’ll get to that a bit later.

But for now, let’s look at how you deal with negative member feedback that feels yucky but can be constructive if handled correctly. 

1. Take a deep breath, listen & empathise

Negative member feedback will shine brightly in many different ways:

➡️ Face-to-face 

➡️ Online reviews

➡️ Emails 

And so on… 

The worst type is online reviews because it’s in the public eye.

So you want to nip this in the bud (and all other negative member feedback you may receive). 

In fact, 

53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative feedback within a week. 

You need to respond, but there’s a fine line between responding when your emotions are running high and avoiding the whole situation altogether. 

Let the initial feelings of anger, anxiety & defensiveness calm down.

What’s next? 

Move into the shoes of the member making the complaint. Empathise with them and think how you’d feel if it was you. What would you want as a response?

If you can give yourself the time to better understand the negative member feedback, you’ll be in tune with the member to provide them with a better response to find a better solution.

Dealing with negative member feedback

2. Collect the facts

You’ve absorbed the negative feedback and analysed the complaint from the member’s shoes. Even though your emotions are probably still running high, it’s time to assess the facts and data around the negative feedback. 

In other words, 

Take this negative feedback and flip it. Make lemonade with lemons.

For example

Let’s go back to the situation where a member has complained about the classes starting and ending late. Start to watch this closely, collecting data on the culture of tardiness at your fitness facility. Then have a team meeting to discuss this issue in more detail to brainstorm solutions to nip it in the bud.

Dealing with negative member feedback

3. Resolve the issue

Regardless of how this negative member feedback landed at your front door, you now have the facts, brainstormed solutions with your team, and are ready to resolve this issue.

Responding with…

✅ Empathy

✅ Facts

✅ Solutions

If this negative member feedback is online and public, your response must be thought through thoroughly. You have taken the time to investigate the matter and apply the changes to better the situation. 

And remember, most of the time, that negative member feedback has helped you resolve an issue you may not have known about before.

In hindsight,

Fast-tracked the advancement of your business.  

Dealing with negative member feedback

4. Keep track & follow up 

The most crucial part is ensuring there are no second complaints about the same issue.

Many of your members will forgive the first time, but if they start to realise there’s been no change, it means they haven’t been heard.

This is how you lose members.

Keep an eye on the matter. If you start to notice classes are running late again, it’s time to have a conversation with your team that’s more serious about looking deeper into why this is occurring.

Dealing with negative member feedback

Dealing with the constant complainer

Of course, 

There’s always one member that just complains about everything & anything. 

It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and your blood boil…


Wow, it toughens you up! 

However, you must protect yourself with boundaries. If these complaints have little depth or substance, back yourself and call them out on it. These kinds of complaints can be damaging if they go public, but at the same time, they don’t carry too much weight if all your members are happy 95% of the time. 

An excellent way to deal with these members is to ask them for their solutions. They’ll feel heard and empowered. But don’t forget to create strict boundaries so they don’t walk over you.

In a nutshell

Nobody wants negative feedback. It does feel horrible, but it’s necessary as it transforms your fitness facilities into a more robust business model. 

Learning & developing through constructive criticism is essential.

You’ll undoubtedly turn business weaknesses into strengths if you have a positive mindset around negative member feedback.

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