gym owner

Gym Owner Debate: Should You Survey Your Members Or Not?

As a gym owner, where do you stand on surveying members? Today, we're looking at five tips for a successful survey and alternative ways to gather feedback!

Emily Beers
May 10, 2023
Gym Owner Debate: Should You Survey Your Members Or Not?
As a gym owner, where do you stand on surveying members? Today, we're looking at five tips for a successful survey and alternative ways to gather feedback!

This month on the PushPress blog, it’s the great gym owner debate! We’re having some fun discussing topics where fitness business owners traditionally vary in viewpoints. We invite you to check out each days’ topic, then join the conversation in the PushPress Facebook community!

Seasoned gym owners will tell you there’s a very fine line between being open to member feedback and opening the floodgates.

The willingness to listen to customers is a necessary characteristic for any business owner. But if you go too far, you can end up feeling controlled by the loud minority. It’s the double-edged sword gym owners face when deciding whether to survey members about a variety of topics.

A gym owner can capture feedback through surveys or meetings
Gym owners can capture member feedback through meetings. Photo credit: Healthy Steps Nutrition.

For example, have you ever decided to ask your members about potential schedule changes? You include several viable time frames and you’re excited to provide more convenient options for your community.

But you’ve unintentionally opened the floodgates. Even though 11:00am wasn’t even on the list, a small - but vocal - crew insisted that it would be the best time to add. Despite having only one coach available at that time, you add the class. It ends up being poorly attended and, six months down the road, you ruffle feathers when you cancel it.

It’s enough to make a gym owner never want to conduct a survey again. But is that the solution?

Today, we’re looking at both sides of the debate. You can choose to avoid capturing customer feedback, or you can take the right steps to do it successfully. Here are the options:

If You Choose To Survey, Do It Right.

For those looking to survey members, some gym owners say twice-per-year works well. They publish a survey online and ask for general feedback. Topics include things that are working and things that can be improved.

They say that doing so is a great way to expose trends and reveal blindspots that you might not see as a gym owner.

For example, if a dozen people express interest in a nutrition coaching program, it might be worth exploring. But if one member out of 150 requests a Sunday evening class, you can probably toss the idea.

In this sense, surveying members can be a great way to receive productive, useful feedback. It might lead to decisions that will help both the clients and the business. The key is to avoid letting yourself get swayed or bullied by the loud minority.

Five Tips For A Successful Survey:

1. Determine The Real Intention Of The Survey.

In the same way you’d draft a mission statement for your business, it might be wise to create a mission for your survey before you even begin. This will guide you in sticking to the intention and not getting off track.

Ask yourself why you’re creating the survey and what are you hoping to achieve from it? Then, throughout the process of creating the survey, refer to the mission to ensure you’re achieving the intention.

Determine the intention of surveying gym members
Determine the intention of surveying gym members to get the best feedback.

2. Ask The Right Questions And Word Them Carefully.

If you want specific, helpful and actionable responses, it’s crucial that you ask the right questions.

For example, if you’re considering adding a new class time to the schedule, be intentional with your wording. Asking, “Would you attend a 9:00am class?” might give you affirmation from anyone who might attend a 9:00am class ever. On the other hand, try, “If we added a 9:00am class, would you consistently attend at least three times per week?”

You can only help your members when you have all the information.

3. Certain Topics Will Open The Can Of Worms More Than Others.

While class times and coach feedback are often safe survey topics, there are others that a gym owner may want to tread lightly toward. Equipment and gym programming are two prevalent examples.

Oftentimes, people don’t give a second thought to equipment when they’re in your gym. But asking about an equipment wish list suddenly yields expensive answers that you might not have been prepared for. Worms, pegboards and other expensive equipment that’s not practical for the class setting will inevitably come up.

The same is true of programming. With so many different skills and areas of strength to work towards, asking for programming feedback can be a recipe for disaster.

One way for a gym owner to gather feedback about areas that are important to members without opening a can of worms is a general feedback section. Include a space at the end of the survey with a general question like, “Is there anything on your mind that wasn’t covered in this survey?”

This is where members can provide equipment requests or programming feedback. Ultimately, this prevents them from giving input about things they aren’t truly concerned about. The general feedback will bring topics to the surface that they actually care about.

4. Be Careful What You Promise.

One of the most important elements to creating a member survey is to indicate that you are gathering feedback but not making promises. By clearly stating your intention for the survey, you’re proactively preventing negative feedback.

Think about this: If a gym owner didn’t ask for members’ feedback in the first place, no one is offended if their advice isn’t taken. But once the input has been requested, the door is open for members to be upset when they don’t get what they requested.

With this in mind, be clear that you are gathering everyone’s thoughts and opinions, but that not all ideas will be implemented.

Survey gym members about important topics
Choose important topics to survey gym members about, versus asking for the sake of asking.

5. Less Is More.

Keep the survey short and sweet. Don’t add questions for the sake of adding questions. If you really only need feedback on two things, then make a two-question survey.

If it’s too lengthy, people will either zone out or bail halfway through. Your goal is to create specific, well-worded questions that yield answers which will allow you to take action.

Other Ways For A Gym Owner To Gather Feedback.

Surveys aren’t the only way to gather useful information from your members about various gym topics. In fact, exploring other options can help prevent a misrepresentation of results from the same loud minority of members.

Consider these two, in-person alternatives to an online member survey.

Alternate Ideas To Collect Feedback:

1. One-On-One Meetings.

Each quarter, sit down with a handful of clients and genuinely ask for their feedback. Ask them what they’re enjoying about the gym. What do they think you can you improve?

An in-person meeting creates a controlled, comfortable environment. This allows you to have a dialogue and ask follow-up questions, gaining more clarity about the topics you’ve chosen.

Gym owners who choose meetings over surveys say this is a way more effective way to gather feedback. They say the input is more productive and representative of more of your gym community.

Pro Tip: Want to schedule one-on-one meetings or goal-setting sessions with your gym members? PushPress Grow automation can help. Book a demo with our team today to find out more!

2. Town Hall Meetings.

Similarly, an annual, community-wide Town Hall Meeting is a great opportunity to ask for in-person feedback. The anonymity of an online survey gives people more courage to say things they might not normally bring up in a group setting.

Discuss important topics with members in a town hall setting
Discuss important topics with gym members in a town hall setting.

If you choose the town hall route, be prepared to field difficult questions without becoming defensive. Remember that your members believe in your business and generally have good intentions. Listen with empathy, inquire inquisitively and let them know that their concerns are heard.

Then, as the gym owner, you get to decide which things to implement and which to leave in your member feedback notes.

In Summary: Surveys Can Either Hurt Or Help A Gym Owner.

Listening to gym members’ feedback is an important part of running your fitness business. Collecting this input can come in the form of surveys or in-person meetings. However, there’s an important distinction between listening and feeling obligated to fulfill each member’s wishlist.

When it comes time to gather feedback, be intentional about what you’re trying to achieve. Communicate clearly and with specificity. Do your best to determine if the input is a representation of the whole community or just the loud minority. And at the end of the day, make the choices that you feel are right for your business.

Emily Beers

Emily Beers is a health, fitness and nutrition writer. She has also been coaching fitness at MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C. since 2009.

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