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What customers really think

What customers really think

What do customers really think?

It can be hard to know what customers really think of the experience we provide in our health clubs and leisure centres, but when you run the customer feedback system for more than 400 sites across the sector, generating over 22,000 comments annually, you start to get a real feel for the overall picture.

At Leisure-net we provide the feedback-Focus system for more than a dozen of the sector’s leading operators and our annual analysis of customer feedback provides some interesting reading.

The system enables us to track the number of comments coming in and from what source, what they are about, whether they are positive, negative or neutral, and, very importantly, how quickly managers respond to and resolve them.

We’ve found that when an operator doesn’t have a high-profile, easy to use comments system, only the negative comments from determined customers get through. But when you introduce an automated, online system you get more comments and a better range of the spectrum, which is more representative of what the customers really think.

Phil Steele, Director of Sport at the Sportspark, University of East Anglia agrees. He said: “Without a formal process, before we introduced a proper feedback system, we just received occasional comments through reception or by email. Then, initially, when we introduced and publicised our online feedback form two years ago, we began to receive a lot more comments, including negative ones, but we now receive the full spectrum of comments, compliments, complaints and suggestions, which means we now understand much better what our customers think.”

Who really cares?

One question we’re often asked is ‘if you actively promote and welcome comments, how many can you typically expect?’ Our analysis of more than 22,700 comments over the last 12 months suggests an average response rate of around 5-10 comments per 10,000 visits, and a split of around 45% negative, 26% neutral and 29% positive – a much more positive split than most operators will have experienced over the years.

Where do they come from?

Industry-wide, feedback is most commonly submitted via email, direct through the operator website and on social media. Most operators still don’t record verbal comments very well, yet these are a valuable source of continuous, ‘drip feed’ feedback.

Whilst the typical comment card is still used, especially by older customers, their use is definitely decreasing, as younger customers are less likely to fill in comment cards or speak to a receptionist, and will simply ‘put something out on social media’ when they get home – or even on the way home!

Common causes?

Overall, the areas of operation generating the most comments are pools, representing 38% of all feedback, followed by fitness classes with 26% and gym areas at 21%. When broken down by the element of the customer experience, customer service produces far and away the most feedback (40%) followed by programming at 23%, cleaning at 15% and pricing at 11%. Positive comments tend to be service related, while, not surprisingly, cleanliness generates the most negative.

Quick response?

Bearing in mind our clients are using an automated, online system that makes it easier to respond faster and track actions against comments, we found that 46% were responded to within 1 day.

However, more than a quarter (27%) took over seven days for a first time response to be made, which is particularly worrying given expectations in terms of speed of response are much higher than they were 10 years ago. Whilst a letter could typically be responded to in 7-10 days, customers now expect a response to an email or social media comment with 24 hours if not sooner. Add to that the fact we know just how much a fast response impacts positively on the whole service recovery period.

Happy campers?

What do we mean by ‘resolution’?  During our training with clients, most accept a resolution is not necessarily about giving the customer everything they want. Sometimes complaints are about long term (and sometimes insurmountable) problems, such as larger car parks or a new swimming pool. So in these cases resolution means reaching a mutual ‘understanding’ of the issue.

Our analysis showed that 78% of customer comments were resolved within 10 days, but 13% took over 21 days, with several actions required.

What should your feedback system look like?

Andy Glover, Customer and Relationship Manager at Places For People Leisure explains it like this:  “Real-time, high quality feedback forms the core of our customer insight. We use it in conjunction with measures such as NPS and Mystery Shops to give us a fuller picture of the experience.

“Day in, day out customer comments and feedback keep our managers and central teams in touch with customers. It offers us recognition for our great sites and team members and, should we receive poor feedback, it’s essential that we respond rapidly.  This, and a willingness to embrace negative feedback to genuinely improve, is pivotal in keeping our customers happy.”

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