Club Industry is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Behave Your Way to Great Reviews Photo by juststock/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Behave Your Way to Great Reviews

You can’t “manage” who posts reviews of your health club on online review sites to collect only good reviews. Instead, your business has to earn them.

Last night, we had dinner at a new restaurant in our hometown of Wenatchee, Washington. The décor was outstanding, as was the meal and the service. The design of the menu and the eclectic items on the menu were nice touches. The water and cocktail glasses were not run-of-the-mill either. The restaurant offered great attention to detail including how the waiter took our order and his desire to “manage” the items coming out of the kitchen to accommodate the pace we desired for dinner.    

As one of the owners walked by, I got her attention and said, “I noticed a few things I wanted to tell you about.” I went on to tell her that we noticed the attention to detail, the outstanding service and the sense of humor from the waiter, as well as the great food. We thanked her for a job well done.

I think she expected me to have a complaint.

This morning, I made it a point to go to Yelp and give the restaurant a five-star review and to write about the experience. No one asked me to do that. But I made a commitment to myself to always be a great customer.

The rules I think about for being a great customer are:

  1. Tell the business owner what they are doing right and what you liked.
  2. Give criticism privately and do it as though you are a mentor or coach. (Coaching is correcting without creating resentment.)
  3. If I am going to do an online review, it will be five stars, and it will be earned.
  4. If I can’t give five stars, I don’t do a review. Instead, I give the business internal feedback. (See rule two above.)
  5. When asked for feedback, I always provide it, and I am candid. Most frequently, there are a lot of positive things to say and a few small areas to improve.

Being a great customer yourself helps you as a club operator identify what makes experiences exceptional and less than exceptional. It allows you to be hyper-aware of customer experiences that have an impact, and it teaches you how to critique an experience without doing violence to someone’s business. It will train your eye for your own operations. 

There are certainly times that a business deserves to be lit up on a social review site. It almost always amounts to an egregious disregard for the customer experience or the member experience. In the world of fitness, this means poor cleaning practices, policies around the membership and cancellation that are not member-centric, indifferent staff, a lack of discipline around maintaining equipment and over-crowding. Those are the usual suspects for bad reviews.

I have been fortunate to be ensconced in the world of technology and how club operators optimize the right technology to constantly improve the member experience—a practice we refer to as operational member experience management. I also have been ensconced as a club operator for almost 40 years where we deploy the practices we preach around improving the member experience.

During the last 10 years, the importance of review sites has elevated a great deal. Our own two clubs maintain 4.6 on Google with lots of reviews and 5.0 on Yelp with just a handful of reviews. (We lost a lot of reviews on Yelp when we rebranded a few years ago.)

In the last few years, we have seen many club operators, both large and small operations, trying to manage their online reviews by “gating” members (inviting only those that have had a great experience to post a review). I will cover this in detail in another article, but suffice it to say that this violates the terms and conditions of all review sites. Google updated its terms in April 2018 to be explicit about this. Be aware that if you are currently gating, not only are there no tangible benefits, but you are putting your review site at risk.

The starting point for getting great reviews is to deliver on your brand promises consistently and to constantly use the voice of your customer to understand how you are operating through their eyes. Then you have the real data you need to constantly tweak and improve the member experience. In other words: behave your way into great reviews.

P.S. The restaurant in Wenatchee is called Atlas Fare. One of many great restaurants here.