Guest post written by Jon Eyre with Podium.
When a potential member for your fitness studio looks you up via a search engine, they not only get a link to your website, but also a long list of your online reviews – and possibly the reviews of your competitors. This can be a good or bad thing depending on how much time you spend to build and maintain your online reputation.
Building up a strong presence on multiple online review sites isn’t hard, but it does take effort. Below we highlight 6 best practices that are proven to help fitness studios and gyms increase their number of online reviews and overall star rating.
1. Determine the Right Timing of the Invitation
The exact timing as to when you invite someone to review your fitness business matters. We recommend finding a time when the customer is still at your studio and the experience is top of mind.
Some of our customers who operate gyms set up automatic triggers associated with their gym management software. So after a member visits the gym a certain number of times, they are automatically sent an invite to leave a review. This is one strategy to implement.
Other gym and studio owners feel like the invitation should be more personal. So, they have an instructor or trainer send the invite at the end of a class or training session. This is strategy #2. It might take some trial and error to determine which strategy is best for your fitness studio (or do both!), but when you do figure it out, make sure you are consistent with the timing.
2. Eliminate Barriers
Next, you should make sure the process to leave a review is as easy as possible. Even if your members love your fitness studio, they aren’t going to leave a review if the process is hard. Spell it how for them, let them know exactly what needs to be done to submit the review. Don’t leave any room for them to guess, because it won’t get done.
Create a review process that is frictionless and can be completed in about 1 minute.
This is accomplished by implementing an online review management tool that enables your staff to send members directly to the review sites that matter most to your business and removes steps that previously inhibited your members from leaving reviews. The longer it takes to leave a review, the lower your conversion rates will be.
3. Target the Right Review Sites
It’s important to have a balanced presence across a number of review sites. Typically this means targeting the big ones like Google and Facebook because most consumers are familiar with and use them already.
Additionally, having reviews on those sites will positively impact where your fitness studio ranks in local search. Here’s an example of what pops up when someone searches for “fitness studio near me” – and the reviews that automatically show up:
But don’t stop there. You should identify other sites that consumers in your community use and trust like Yelp, Consumer Affairs, YP.com, etc.
4. Set the Expectation For the Review
Another important step that many businesses overlook is setting the expectation for the review invite. The key here is to train your employees on how to ask. We suggest you let your members know:
- When they will receive the invite
- How they will receive it (text or email)
- Why it’s important for them to respond
Here’s an example of how this might play out if you have the invitation triggered automatically based on the number of visits.
After the member checks in, the system notifies the front desk about the invitation. At this time they should say something like …
“It looks like you’ve been a member for a couple of weeks now. We value the feedback of our members and were hoping you would leave us a review. You should be receiving a text message shortly with an invitation. The process is short and painless. It would really help us out if you gave us a rating and review.”
5. Invite Via Text Message
According to Pew Research, 72% of adults in the US own a smartphone and they are on them constantly. Because of this, text messages are fast becoming the preferred communication channel over email.
Don’t believe me? Research has found that text messages have an open rate of 99% and customers open 90% of those within 3 minutes. This is significantly higher than email, so if you want your members to see your online review invites try sending them via text.
We cover the importance of texting for your fitness business in an episode of The GSD Show here:
6. Engage with Reviews
Finally, one of the most important things you can do to build and improve your online reputation is to engage with your reviews. Businesses should respond to both negative and positive reviews ASAP. The best way to manage your engagement is to have a tool in place that consolidates your entire online review presence into a single dashboard. Consolidating your presence saves your staff time, freeing them up to focus on serving your members.
For negative reviews, use the following steps to ensure problems are resolved as quickly as possible:
- Apologize: A simple, “I’m sorry,” can go a long way towards rebuilding your relationship with an upset member.
- Stay calm: It’s important to not let emotions get in the way. We suggest having the response come from a manager or someone who has distance from the situation.
- Offer a proactive solution: If you don’t offer the customer a solution to their problem, your apology might ring hollow.
- Take the conversation offline: Once you’ve offered a solution, provide them with a phone number or email address to reach out to you directly.