|Would you believe that your ability to provide quality customer service to your clients is at least as important as your ability to get them results from their training program? Did you even know that customer service was going to be part of your business model? After all, what does personal training have to with customer service?
The answer: everything. Remember that your clients are people first, and their status as one of your clients comes second. Knowing how to tend to the needs of your customers will literally make the difference between a long and prosperous career in the fitness industry, or a short-lived stint that leaves you wondering what career path you should try next!
In order to assist you in walking down the success path, here are six methods that you can use to "WOW" your clients on a regular basis, keeping them happy, loyal to you, and engaging in long-term prosperous business relationships. In no particular order they are: contact, date and event recognition, listening, flexibility, forward thinking, and over-delivering.
When you get a new personal training client, many people will still second-guess their decision to hire you. After all, a personal trainer can be an expensive asset, and your clients need to believe that they made the right decision. One of the easiest ways for you to ease their mind in the beginning as well as during the course of their training program is by simply staying in contact with them.
Most clients will see you at most 3 times each week, and some clients even less than that. With at least 4 days in each week when your clients don't see you, you are influencing them less than 50% of the time! Many clients hire a personal trainer because they need constant guidance and support, and less than 50% could hardly be considered constant.
An easy solution to this is to send your clients a few emails a week, or mail them an actual snail mail letter once in awhile. Clip an appropriate article from a magazine and make copies of it to mail to your clients, or email them the URL of a great motivational story about weight loss that you found on the Internet. Forward them funny anecdotes about health and fitness, or drop them a postcard congratulating them on their latest progress.
For that matter, pick up the phone! Call Suzie Client on Saturday to let her know that you just got done updating her client record and had reason to again marvel at how great she is doing with her program. You just can't pay for the type of customer feedback you will get from something like that!
Stay in contact with your clients in between training sessions, and the increased attention will remind them on a regular basis that in the beginning you committed to a one on one training program for them, not just to stand there 3 times a week while they exercise.
Date and Event Recognition
Recognizing special dates in your client's lives is another great way to show them that you are thinking about them in between training sessions.
- Send your clients a birthday card, or even a small but thoughtful gift.
- Congratulate them on their wedding anniversary, or even send flowers or a card to their house.
- Ask them how excited they are about the upcoming graduation of their child from high school or college.
- Have a special token of your appreciation sent to their home or office after a set amount of time that they have been training with you - maybe annually or semi-annually.
- Give them a special award every time they lose 5 pounds, or drop a percentage of body fat.
- Attend the race or other fitness event that you have been training them for.
As you can see, the possibilities are limitless. The lesson that you want to take away from this section is that you went above and beyond the call of duty to recognize a date or an event that was important to your client. They won't forget that when it comes time to decide whether or not to keep working with you!
The fact that you should listen to your clients should go without saying. If your title is "Personal Trainer", please take a moment at this time to re-read the first word! Too many trainers fall into the familiar trap of just taking their clients through workouts. Your clients aren't paying you to workout with them. They are paying you to give them dedicated one on one service, and the actual workout is only one part of that.
In addition to the exercise programming, you must again think about the fact that your clients are humans before they are clients. As humans, they have as many outside considerations as you do. If you are only seeing them 3 hours per week, that leaves 165 hours each week when you are not around, and the lifestyle events that happen during that time will spill over into the training sessions.
Your clients will talk about their jobs, their spouses, their relatives and in-laws, their children and their neighbors, their gardener and their mailman, etc. Any good personal trainer realizes that although we have no business actually dispensing professional advice on personal or spiritual matters, we are a 3 time per week sounding board for our clients, and that is just part of the job. Listen to what your clients have to say, help out without leaving your professional boundaries, and let your clients know that you care about what happens to them, not just about what happens during the training session.
Although a trainer's day is usually dictated by a preset schedule, if you paint yourself into a corner with your calendar, you will quickly find that some of your clients can't stick with their program because their schedule is just not that black and white. In today's world of the ever-changing landscape of professional as well as personal lifestyle factors, many people have trouble doing the same thing day after day, and week after week. In order to keep your clients happy and on track with their programs, you must "roll with the punches" and exhibit some flexibility when it comes to scheduling and training issues.
It is a very good idea to have a running cancellation policy for your business, and it is an equally good idea to educate your clients on the need for regularity in their training program. However, being so inflexible that you charge a client $50 every time they get a flat tire, have to work late, or have a family emergency will quickly eliminate any professional bonding that your clients may have previously felt was a part of your working relationship. Enforce your policies, but be realistic about the fact that life is just not as black and white as it may have been 20 years ago.
This is as much of a sales technique as it is a great customer service tool. In a nutshell, it means that you should always be planning for the future when it comes to your clients. Talk to them about how you are going to start running with them once they get their weight down enough for their knees to handle the stress. Explain to them how much fun it will be when you can start taking them through the new training protocol that you put together. Get them excited about how good they are going to look on the beach this summer after several more months of working out with you, or about how their cousin Sally is going to be so envious at Christmas time this year when she sees how much weight your client has lost.
All of these things plant the seed for your clients that you are thinking about their future, and not just taking them through a workout. Let them know that you have great plans for them in the future, and that you can't wait to see their results when they get to a certain point in the program that you have them on. Again, your clients are people, and they want to be made to feel important, needed, and respected.
Over-delivering value to your clients is probably the most important technique out of any that have been listed so far. It is last in our list of customer service secrets so that it is the one that you remember the most!
Over-delivering is just what it sounds like - giving your clients more value for their money than they originally expected to get. In fact, all of the items listed above are great examples of over-delivery. Do you think that when your clients hired you they expected to be getting gifts on their birthday, expected you to be excited about the graduation of their children, or that they could vent to you about their mother-in-law during training sessions? These are all examples of the infinite number of ways that you can over-deliver value to your clients.
In addition to what has already been listed, you can get much more specific with your over-delivery efforts. Each of your clients has a very well defined fitness goal that they are diligently working towards. As a fitness professional, you should be regularly keeping up with the latest news stories about health and fitness, as well as getting Continuing Education Credits.
Put that information directly to use for your clients! How impressed do you think your client would be if their fitness goal is to be a competitive swimmer, and you take a course on training competitive swimmers? What about if you have picked up some clients who are over the age of 55 and you start reading books and clipping articles on Senior Fitness? How about a bonus training session that you give your client when they reach a goal? What about if you have a client who is on the high school wrestling team, and after working with him for 2 months, you offer to do a free class for his entire team? The teenager becomes a hero because his personal trainer gave up some winning tips before the big meet, and you get a boat load of free publicity!
The pattern developing here is clear, and the above examples are only sketches of things that you might consider. Remember that every successful personal trainer runs a business, he or she doesn't just workout with their clients. Get under the hood of your business, tinker around with the wiring, and find ways to "WOW" your clients everyday!
About the author:
Aaron Potts is the author and creator of The Ultimate Complete Personal Training Business Kit, a quick-start kit and business guide for new as well as seasoned fitness professionals. Aaron's experience as a Fitness Professional has included management positions with local and nationally known fitness facilities, as well as in-home and outdoor training with clients from all walks of life. Find out more about Aaron's programs at http://www.completepersonaltrainingbusiness.comor his personal training site at http://www.aaronspersonaltraining.com
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