The best ways to deal with customer complaints

gym owner deals with customer complaints

The best ways to deal with customer complaints

If you run a fitness or leisure centre, you’ll probably be all too familiar with how uncomfortable it can feel to deal with a disgruntled customer. The truth is, no matter how passionate and hardworking your staff, or how excellent your classes or facilities are, customer complaints are an inevitable part of running a business.

At Centaman, we offer a range of tools to help enhance your customer service and complaints process, including the NPS surveying tool, which will help convert unhappy customers into happy ones.

Here are our best tips for dealing with unhappy customers at your gym or leisure centre. By following these steps, you can turn a negative situation into an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction and retention.

Listen intently and empathise

When a customer approaches you with an issue, give them your undivided attention and listen carefully without interrupting. Remember they are not attacking you personally; they are simply upset and would like their problem to be fixed.

Ask polite questions to show you care, and to help you understand the customer’s complaint better. The more information you can glean from your customer now, the more likely you’ll be able to propose a solution that satisfies them emotionally.

If you like, you can even go a step further and reveal a personal anecdote involving a similar experience of your own. This will help the customer feel at ease.

Thank them and apologise

Always thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention. Sincerely apologise for the way the situation has made your customer feel. Resist the desire to give excuses or justifications. Simply apologise without blame.

When an upset customer senses that you are sincerely apologising for the way they have been made to feel, this can go a long way towards defusing the situation.

Reach agreement on the best solution

Now’s the time to find out how the customer would like the issue to be resolved. First, ask them ‘What would be an acceptable resolution to you?’ Often they’ll surprise you by asking for less than what you expected – especially when they can see your apology and intention is sincere.

When discussing ways to tackle the issue with the client, give them multiple options if possible. Talk it out and agree on a solution together. Ask clarifying questions like ‘Does that make sense?’, and once they have explained, summarise their point to show you understand what they are talking about.

If they say something you vehemently disagree with, it’s okay to question them on that point, but do so politely and non-confrontationally. Once an achievable solution has been proposed, confirm it and let the customer know how you plan to make it happen.

Solve the problem

Act on the solution as a high priority. Solve the problem, or find someone who can solve it – quickly.

Research shows that customers prefer if the person they are speaking with can instantly solve their problem. When complaints are moved up the chain of command, they become frustrated. In this case, it’s best to demonstrate initiative and resolve the problem immediately if you can, or explain why someone else will need to resolve it. Either way, aim to provide a satisfying response as soon as possible.

It’s also important to remember that some people will never be satisfied regardless of what you do. Always put in your best effort to make them happy, but never beat yourself up about it if you fail to do so.

Follow up

After the issue has been resolved, follow up to ensure the customer is completely satisfied, especially in cases where you had to enlist the help of others to provide the solution.

At this point, it may be useful to offer members a survey. Studies show the most effective way to increase member retention is to listen to and engage with your members. At Centaman, we offer Insight NPS as a tool to uncover insights about your members’ experiences, and convert detractors into promoters or brand advocates for your business.


Finally, reflect on yourself and your leisure or fitness centre. How can this situation be prevented from recurring? Do you need to make any personal changes or make adjustments to the running of the business?

If you follow these steps and treat your customers well, you might even earn a loyal new advocate for your business.