Dealing with negative customer feedback (the right way)

Dealing with negative customer feedback

Dealing with negative customer feedback is an important aspect of building any thriving business. As a business owner, you’ll know that receiving customer feedback can be both exhilarating and nerve racking at times.

After all, it’s your business and you have poured so much of yourself into it. It can be difficult to not take negative feedback about your business personally.

But remember to keep calm and separate your amazing-self from the wonderful fitness business you are building. Listen carefully and objectively to your customer feedback and look for ways to turn it into a positive experience for them.

Here are 7 tips on how to manage negative customer feedback for the good of your fitness studio.

1. Offer an apology

Those 3 words “I am sorry” have the power to repair harm, mend relationships, soothe wounds and heal broken hearts. It is an important way of showing respect and empathy for the wronged customer. It is also a way of acknowledging an act that, if otherwise left unnoticed, might compromise the customers’ relationship with your business.

So before trying to fix the situation, or understand what went wrong, offer an apology. By offering an apology you are acknowledging to your customer that they had a negative experience which shows them that you are listening and have empathy towards their negative experience.

2. Ask questions

Once you have established a bond of empathy between you (your business) and the customer, ask them about their negative experience. Try to establish a set of facts relating to the negative customer feedback including people, place and date / time.

Ask questions like:

  • What happened?
  • Who was there?
  • When did it happen?

Agreeing on a set of facts is important to help understand what went wrong and how it can be fixed.

3. Ask for “advice”

Asking for “advice” from your customer, as opposed to “feedback”, might appear like an insignificant matter, but the choice of words can yield a big difference in results.

Consider this, that everyone has feedback to give because it is easy to offer and therefore comes cheaply. By “cheap” I mean that feedback is generally given without much thought. For example, here are some examples of cheap feedback:

  • “The service was awful.”
  • “Customer support is terrible.”

As you see, feedback doesn’t give much insight into what really went wrong, or how it might be fixed.

Now compare to asking for “advice”. When I am asked for advice I am immediately drawn to think more deeply about my experience. Instead of dumping all my feelings and thoughts as feedback, I now have an opportunity to shape something new with my advice.

By asking customers for advice, you are saying to them that you see them as experts on the matter and value their thoughts. Instead of cheap feedback, words and thoughts are more carefully crafted. Asking for advice will yield better customer input than asking for feedback.

4. Listen (really)

As a business owner, one of the most powerful assets you have is the ability to listen to your customers. Sure sure, listening is easy and sounds so simple right? But just consider being in a situation where your person is being attacked, all of a sudden it can become a lot more challenging to stay quiet and listen.

Listening to customer feedback can be likened to a waterfall. The words flow over the cliffs edge from your customers mouth and you can choose to be standing directly under the fall of water, or on the safety of the rocks to the side.

While standing under the fall of the water might seem like the obvious place to be, it can beat down hard on your head. Rather position yourself to the side and try to be patient, listen and show empathy towards your customer.

Allowing your customers the chance to be heard is important to them. If you need to, take some time after listening to them and respond to their feedback later on.

5. Offer something

In certain circumstances it might be wise to offer a complimentary visit, session or gift to recompense the customer for any inconvenience caused. In some cases, simply asking the customer how they can be compensated can be enough for them to feel restored.

Offering a gift is a small price to pay to re-build a customers trust and keep them as a long-term client. The cost of finding new clients far outweighs the cost of keeping existing ones. Also, a customer who leaves for good with a negative experience will only harm your business in terms of negative word of mouth referrals.

6. Make a change

After establishing the facts, asking for the customers advice, see if there is a change you can make to prevent the issue from happening again. It is possible that if one customer had a bad experience, that others might also.

Making changes shows that you do listen and are willing to go to lengths to keep your customers happy. Successful business owners will tell you that it’s important to be able to make changes quickly and continually adapt.

7. Communicate

Communicate to your customer every step of the way. This means following up with them after you’ve made a change to say that you’ve listened to their advice, plus made a change which you hope will improve their experience next time.

When someone makes a change based on our advice it can be humbling (that someone should go to the effort for us) and empowering (that we are helping to create a better experience for others).

Since your customer was the catalyst for the change, it’s worth thanking them privately for passing on their experience and the advice which helped improve your service for everyone.


Learning how to manage negative customer feedback can go a long way to helping you build a thriving fitness community.

While it is impossible to please 100% of the people 100% of the time, if you can turn a negative experience into a positive outcome, it will help you win many more clients for life!

Bookamat studio software helps fitness, yoga and Pilates studios everywhere building thriving businesses. Our software is easy-to-use and saves you time so you can focus on the important things like your client relationships.

For further reading you might also be interested in our Contactless Client Check-In!

Benjamin has been writing for Bookamat since 2016. He is a passionate about helping fitness studio owners grow their businesses.
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