Training Tips

Personal Trainers: How to Deal with a Bad Review

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Personal Trainers: How to Deal with a Bad Review

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No fitness professional can please everyone they train. There will always be that one person, that one unhappy customer, who is dissatisfied with your service. The problem is, now that the internet is so accessible, it’s easy for that person to go online and write about their negative experience. While it may be tempting to ignore them, this could actually do more harm than good.

Why You Want to Deal with a Negative Online Review

Responding to all online reviews—both positive and negative—is about reputation management. It shows a potential customer that you are a fitness professional. It also tells them that you care about what your clients have to say, even if it isn’t what you’d like to hear.

When you take the time to respond to a bad online review, it also reveals a bit about you as a trainer. If you fly off the handle and tell the reviewer how horrible they are, future customers may fear that you’ll do the same to them in a fitness session. Conversely, if you respond with respect and professionalism, they know that they can expect this instead. Current clients will feel more comfortable giving you feedback, and feedback is essential to growing your fitness business.

Additionally, put on your personal trainer hat for a moment. One thing that we continuously teach clients is that reaching fitness goals involves overcoming adversity. It involves turning a negative into a positive so you achieve future growth. You’ll gain more credibility as a trainer if you show clients that you live by this advice as well. If you can take a negative comment and turn it into a positive for your business, it says that you practice what you preach.

Admittedly, this is sometimes easier said than done. Particularly if you’ve put every ounce of energy you have into creating a top-quality fitness business. When someone attacks it with a negative review, your first response may be to fight back. That’s completely understandable. But there are a few other things you should do instead.

Take a Deep Breath

As the ISSA teaches in its Transformation Specialist certification course, when you are in a negative emotional state (called a “hot state”), your responses are more impulsive. If you’ve ever had a fight with a loved one and said something you later regretted, you’ve already experienced this firsthand. To keep from doing this to your upset customer and potentially hurting your online reputation, stop for a moment. Take a deep breath and calm yourself down.

Make a conscious decision to remain the professional you are. Remember that how you deal with the bad review can either help or hurt your fitness business. Once you've calmed down, you’re ready to take the next step.

Respond to the Bad Review…As Soon As You Calmly Can 

The key to turning negative customer reviews around and using them to promote your business is to respond as quickly as you can. The longer an angry customer sits and festers, the more vocal they can become.

If possible, respond to the bad review within 24 hours. This tells anyone reading your reviews that you are on top of your business. When you see a problem, you will address it immediately. You’re not the type of business owner who sticks your head in the sand.

Your website likely already notifies you of any new reviews. So too does Facebook. However, there are a number of other review sites that collect comments about your customer service. This requires that you sign up to these platforms so you are notified any time a client posts an online review. Google and Yelp are two of the most well-known.

To be notified when a Google review is posted, you must first claim your Google My Business profile. Once you do, you will get an email every time an online review is posted. You can do the same thing with Yelp. Just look up your business and, if it already exists on this site, claim it. If it doesn’t, you will have to create a new listing. 

Ask Yourself Whether the Review Has Any Legitimacy 

Before writing up your response, consider whether the customer complaint has any truth to it. Even if you see things differently, can you understand why they may feel like they do?

If the negative feedback is legitimate, you may consider changing the way you do business. This helps reduce the likelihood of getting the same type of review in the future. It also shows that you’re willing to make changes in an effort to better please your clientele.

If you can’t see the reviewer’s side at all, that’s okay. Not all reviews contain constructive criticism. That said, you can still write a positive response. 

Write a Response with Good Customer Service in Mind

When crafting your response, aim to provide the best customer service experience possible. As a personal trainer, you can expect to work with challenging clients from time to time. Don’t let one bad experience take you down.

This begins with thanking the reviewer for their input. Let them know that you value them as a customer, regardless of whether the review was good or bad. 

Next, make the customer feel heard. Even if you don’t agree with their perception of your service, at least they know that their complaint didn’t get ignored. One example is by saying, “I’m sorry to hear that you were dissatisfied with my service.” This acknowledges their complaint without admitting any type of fault.

Finally, encourage them to contact you directly to further discuss their issue. Let them know that customer satisfaction is important to you. If they don’t call, that’s on them. There’s nothing more you can do. If they do call, you have an opportunity to provide a more positive experience, turning them into a happy customer once again.

Reread Your Response to the Negative Review Before Posting

Before posting your review response, look it over to make sure it reads as you want. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it address the original complaint?
  • Have you responded in a way that makes the reviewer feel heard?
  • Is the response positive?
  • Is the response professional?
  • If you were a potential client reading your response, would you still want to do business with you?

Your response should not be posted until you can answer yes to each of these questions. It’s also helpful to have another set of eyes look over your response. Ask a colleague, employee, or another business owner to read what you wrote. How would they feel if they were the customer? If they would feel satisfied, you’re ready to hit send.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Personal Trainers: How to Deal with a Bad Review, Follow-up Reply

Write a Follow-Up to the Poor Review

Ideally, your customer will contact you, the issue will be corrected, and you will proceed to develop a long-lasting trainer-client relationship. Better yet, they will go back to the review site and amend their complaint to show that you resolved their issue.

If they don’t, without sharing too much information, let other potential customers know the outcome. This may be as simple as saying, “As of this date, the customer has failed to reach out to me as requested” or “I spoke with the customer and hope that we have resolved the situation.” 

The whole point of writing a follow-up is to reinforce your commitment to high-quality customer service. It says that you’re willing to go above and beyond to ensure that each online review is addressed—good, bad, or indifferent.

How to Deal with a Bad Review that Isn’t True

Unfortunately, some competitors pay people to write a fake review. They do this to build up their own business. And although you know the review is fake, no one else does. How do you respond then?

Your first action should be to report the fake negative review. Let the review site know that the comment is inaccurate and ask them to take it down. 

If they leave the fake review on your business’s profile, follow the same steps as when responding to an actual review. Thank them for their input, let them know that you take all feedback seriously, and ask them to contact you directly. This is an opportunity to let your professionalism shine through.

The Best Way to Overcome a Bad Performance Review

In reality, one negative review isn’t likely to hurt your fitness business. This is especially true if your online reputation is overall good. If a large majority of your reviews are positive, the one negative won’t carry much weight. So, one of the best ways to overcome a negative reviewer is to ask your satisfied clients to review you online too.

Make the process super simple by sending them an email with a link to the review site. Encourage them to post about their positive experience by sharing their reviews on your social media pages. Give them time in the spotlight as a way to say thanks. 

How can you be sure that they’ll post a positive review and not negative ones? Unfortunately, you have no control over this. But you can increase the odds that the words will be kind by asking them to contact you before posting a review if they are dissatisfied with your service in any way. This allows you to protect your business’s reputation, as well as to deal with any issues while they are small.

As long as you can get your clients the results they desire, they’re typically more than happy to write a good review. If you struggle in this area, the ISSA offers Transformation Specialist certification. This course teaches multiple commitment strategies designed to help your clients create lasting results. Results that speak for themselves about the amazing trainer you are.


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