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Kill Them With Kindness: How to Respond to Negative Feedback

negative feedback

No matter how hard we try, we can’t please everyone. Every facility has gotten at least one negative comment at some point, online or in person. Knowing how to properly respond to negative feedback is crucial, as doing so can improve the perception of your club almost as much as a cascade of positive reviews.

According to Seliece Caldwell Womble, the director of public relations and marketing for The Houstonian Club, promptness and openness are of the utmost importance when faced with negative feedback. “Online reviews — positive or negative — should be responded to within 24 hours if possible, and include honest but brief answers about the issue presented,” she explained.

In almost every case, negative feedback can be turned into a positive outcome with a combination of genuine interest in what an individual has to say, patience during the exchange, and an open mind in finding a resolution. This applies to online conversations and in-person interactions.

“It is good to let people know you are always working to make your club better, and are glad to have the feedback on where you might improve,” said Womble.

If you’re responding to a negative online review, your verbiage is important. Your words should communicate a willingness to listen and an apologetic attitude.

In person, your demeanor and body language are just as important as your words. “I believe listening empathically to the member’s feedback and concerns is the best approach,” explained Cher Harris, the general manager of The Houstonian Club. “If a member feels like you’re really listening without the intention to reply, the conversation will go much more smoothly.”

As a manager or operator, you can only be in so many places at once — you likely can’t field every complaint. Therefore, it’s imperative to train your staff to respond promptly and appropriately to feedback.

“We teach and train our staff on how to listen empathically and seek to understand the member’s perspective before responding,” said Harris. “We also encourage them to close the loop with a member — if they don’t have the answer to the member’s concern or question, they find out and follow up with the member.”

Creating a culture of understanding and communication, as it pertains to negative feedback, is one of the best ways to help your club grow. And equipping your staff to appropriately respond to any negative comments, online or in-person, is the first step to creating that culture.

“Negative, constructive feedback from members helps us improve our facilities, staff and operations,” encouraged Harris. “If you see negative feedback as an opportunity to make improvements, your staff and you will always be prepared.”

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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