The following was written by Christine Thalwitz, vice president of marketing at ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers, for our Best Practices series.

Knowing the importance of listening to members, how should I solicit feedback to improve customer service?

To have a complete picture of your members’ expectations and perceptions, it’s important to make use of feedback.

1. Customer-initiated Communication

Open-ended, customer-driven systems, such as suggestion boxes, Q&A boards, and “open-door” policies are valuable because they allow members to share their thoughts spontaneously, especially when there’s an acute need to respond to them. Of course, it’s also important to make sure that your team members “own” any complaint they hear.

2. Company-prompted Contact

Focus groups, surveys, and member advisory committees can yield highly focused information that can help you make better strategic decisions. And you can time these interactions to measure particular aspects of various products or services.

3. Unarticulated Feedback

Also pay attention to your members’ body language, which can express volumes. Sometimes, a warm greeting or a simple apology for an inconvenience may be all that’s needed to smooth things over. It’s also valuable to track other ways that members “vote with their feet,” such as program participation and club attendance.

4. Conversations Outside the Club

Of course, social media has made it easier than ever for customers to share their opinions. In addition to creating your own presence online, monitor other channels that your customers frequent. Whenever you encounter complaints, consider it an opportunity to respond positively and publicly.