Squeaky Wheels: When Should You Ignore Clients?

A closeup of a man placing a yellow earplug into his ear.

The client isn’t always right.

In the first post in this series, I told you which clients are likely to give you good advice.

Today, I’m going to tell you whose advice to avoid.


The Loud Minority


Even when things are amazing, it’s very easy to focus on the “problem areas.”

Our brains are wired to detect flaws. But we often get “false positives”: feedback cues that seem to knock all the good stuff off the table. We fixate on negative feedback even when it doesn’t represent the average client. And when someone says they don’t like a class time on our client surveys, we want to smash the whole puzzle and start from scratch! Right?

Even worse, sometimes your staff will report that “some of the members” had problems with “some of the services” or “some of the class times.” This feedback is always hard to pin down: Which members? What exactly did they say? These “problems” are aggravating and unsolvable.

This is what I tell my team: A small minority of people will always complain about everything.

For example, they’ll complain because you don’t include a weightlifting class in “unlimited” memberships, you charge for nutrition advice, you “‘don’t have enough classes” or you’re just “too expensive.”

While we listen to everyone, we act according to our vision for the gym and don’t let the “loud minority” sway us because we understand that they don’t see the big picture. We do.

When I hear “everyone is complaining” or “everyone thinks X,” I know that “everyone” is not everyone. It’s just the loud minority. The members of the loud minority, while welcome at Catalyst, aren’t our perfect clients. If we wavered on our position for every little complaint, we would have no direction. We’d have 100 different programs at 100 different prices and 100 concessions for each one.

We don’t do that. We deliver an amazing service and experience. Those who appreciate that will stay, and members of the loud minority will leave eventually. It’s a simple filter.

Our mission at Catalyst is to meaningfully extend the lives of 7,000 people in Sault Ste. Marie. That means over 60,000 people in our city will not be a perfect fit, and that very few people will be a perfect fit forever. We will be polite, caring and tactful, but we will not sacrifice the standard to satisfy the very few.


Focus on Your Best Clients


What I have learned is that following the minority is a disservice to the majority. Just as it’s important to train your strengths in the gym, it’s important to focus on your happy clients most of the time.

Perfect is the enemy of good. It’s impossible to please everyone, and some won’t like like everything you do. That’s fine. Your best clients will thank you for your consistency—and for giving them what they love—if you work hard to serve them.

As the gym owner, you must always be tactful. You must always be polite. You must be open to suggestion and criticism.

But you don’t always have to take action.

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