Why Constructive Feedback From Clients is Essential
Gathering constructive feedback from personal training clients could make or break you.
How often have you seen customer feedback surveys at restaurants or hotels—industries where customer opinions can have a dramatic impact on a business’s income? This is no different with fitness businesses.
If you have ever prospected new clients, you know just how much time and effort goes into recruitment. When you lose clients, all of that hard work stops paying off. So not only is it important to learn how to obtain new clients, but it’s also essential that you find ways to retain your clients.
Positive Feedback, Negative Feedback, and Effective Feedback
Before we dive into the specifics of collecting customer feedback, it’s important to identify the type of feedback you’re looking for.
Like it or not, you are in a customer service industry. Whereas we call them clients, the principles are the same. Ideally, what you’re looking for is constructive criticism in your feedback process.
This is where some people tend to run into trouble. In order for feedback to matter, you have to ensure that you have the humility to receive it. And we’ll warn you about this upfront: not all feedback will be positive.
This tends to be difficult for a lot of people, especially when you’ve put your heart and soul into providing a service that isn’t appreciated. Understand this when it comes to feedback—if your clients aren’t happy, regardless of what’s true from your perspective, they will not stay with you.
Negative feedback is the time to listen, not speak.
Because, at the end of the day, they might just be right about it, just in a way that you hadn’t considered before. Let’s look at an example of this type of client feedback.
When Receiving Feedback Goes Negative
Phillip is a trainer and wants feedback so he sends his clients a survey. Joe, Phillip’s client, fills it out and sends it back. In it, Joe responds that he isn’t satisfied because he hasn’t seen the results he wanted.
Phillip is frustrated when he reads this because Joe hasn’t been sending in food logs, and without Joe’s diet being under control, there are only so many results he’ll get from Phillip’s training.
Initially, Phillip wants to call Joe and explain to him why it’s Joe’s fault that he hasn’t seen results, and that Phillip is actually offering great services that Joe isn’t using to the fullest extent he could.
But, what’s the truth here? Sure, Joe should be sending his food logs to Phillip to ensure that all of the factors that Joe needs accountability for are tracked. On the other hand, there could also be something else going on.
The important part of this is to, first, acknowledge that Joe is unsatisfied with his results. Joe needs to hear that from Phillip. When clients are giving feedback, they want to be heard.
Then, Phillip should start thinking about why Joe isn’t seeing results. The lack of food logs is the obvious answer, but here’s what makes the difference between an “ok” personal trainer and a great one. An “ok” trainer will blame the client. A great trainer will say “how can we tweak the system to make it work for Joe?”
What We Learn From Customer Satisfaction Feedback
The key here is that what Phillip should have heard from Joe was that there’s a need that Phillip’s process wasn’t meeting. The question at this point is, “as a personal trainer, how do I adapt to help meet Joe’s needs and see results for his fitness goal?”
Note that this isn’t a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong. When receiving feedback, remember that perception is reality. And whether or not you think you’re correct and that the client is wrong. When the client tells other people about your services, all those people will hear is the client’s displeasure. That’s word of mouth in the wrong direction.
So, look deeper than the “simple” solutions, and ask yourself why the simple solutions aren’t working.
Formal Feedback on Customer Journey
Alright, so now you know what you’re looking for, now you need an action plan.
For your clients, providing feedback is a lot easier when it’s clear what’s being asked. Let’s look through the various options you have at your disposal.
Send a Survey
The easiest thing to do is send participants a general questionnaire with multiple choice answers. These are more likely to get filled out, but they aren’t going to provide the best answers, only general ideas. These are for larger organizations, so it might not be the best way to go about this.
However, we all know that time is sacred, and this is the quickest way to get this done. So just weigh those options when deciding this.
In execution, it could be as simple as writing the questions and sending them in an email. Or, you could use a free tool like Google Forms to automate this process.
You can also ask questions that don’t have multiple choice answers, but these tend to be answered less often. But, the best quality information you will get will be from the specific examples your clients put into words, not just rating you from one to ten. So just keep that in mind when putting everything together.
SMS (Texting) Performance Review
For this, you will want to think about specific open-ended questions. You will likely only get a few solid responses out of this, but people tend to answer questions via text when they’re sent.
For this, you need to ask very specific questions. Don’t ask them if they like things or not. Avoid binary questions that have yes or no answers. Instead, ask a question like, “how could I do a better job in your workouts?” Or, you could ask, “how could I support you more in your diet?”
Notice that these questions are specific to parts of their training. By asking how you could do better, you aren’t downing on yourself as a trainer, you simply are demonstrating enough humility to know that every professional, even the best of the best, can still improve their performance.
This way, your clients won’t feel like they’re trashing you if there is something they want that you aren’t doing, but you will still get direct feedback and valuable insight from this method.
Have a Conversation After a Session
Instead of trying to run out the door, take five minutes to ask a specific question for immediate feedback, similarly to the text message option.
This practice not only gives you meaningful feedback, but it will also communicate in a very personal way that you care about your clients’ success. This sort of engagement leads to very honest feedback, and they will likely tell their friends about their caring trainer who is always trying to do better, even when they’re already great at what they do.
This is the recipe for loyal clients.
Social Media Can Work, But be Careful
With social media, you really want to make sure you’re careful in wording questions and responding to results. If you post on Facebook asking your clients how you could do better, you have to be ready for a plethora of responses. It’s better if contained within a Facebook group as opposed to just anywhere.
If you haven’t ever solicited feedback from your clients before, you should probably do that before trying a survey or post on social media; just to make sure.
Whether you’re a manager at a gym or and business owner employing other trainers, gathering effective employee feedback is another way to learn how to perform better as a leader and operate a more effective fitness business.
Like collecting feedback about customer satisfaction, you can send out a feedback form or survey. Or, set aside time for employee performance reviews, not just to offer feedback but to receive it as well. Ensuring your employees feel heard helps improve job satisfaction and reduce employee turnover.
What to do With Feedback
Feedback is meaningless if you don’t listen and then make changes based on what you learn. This doesn’t mean you have to fundamentally change everything about your services, but you do want to show that you’re doing more than just asking.
And this is a great opportunity for marketing and word-of-mouth advertising. When you implement something, let your clients know that it’s because of their performance feedback that you changed something.
This shows them that you are serious about making a difference. And when they know you care, they are much more likely to stay with you for the long haul.
If you would like to know more about how to make this process work for you, check out our article on client retention here!
Do you want to offer more to your personal training clients for a fully supported journey to health? Sign up for ISSA's Nutrition Certification to provide a coaching service that helps clients build a healthy life in the gym and at home.
Download this handout for FREE here.
ISSA’s Specialist in Sports Nutrition (SSN) program prepares personal trainers to expand their practices into the specialized area of sports nutrition. Trainers learn how to optimize client performance by combining well-designed training programs with performance nutrition.
Please note: The information provided in this course is for general educational purposes only. The material is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider regarding particular medical conditions and needs. Be sure to check the statutes in your state regarding the nutrition information that non-licensed individuals are able to dispense.