Welcome to the fifth in the series on Client Retention – A Psychological Perspective provided by psychologist, Kate Swann. Kate is a co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Training Overweight and Obese Clients (available free for FITREC professionals). Kate has also developed the Psychology of Exercise Adherence Level 1 Certificate for Exercise Professionals.
Do either of the following scenarios sound familiar?
(a) Your client is cutting sessions short, you notice them looking at the clock more often and they don’t seem to be turning up as often as previously.
(b) Your client is openly complaining about how hard it was to get to the session this morning, or how hard it was to get out of bed.
You’ve heard it all before and you’ll recognise the concern that kicks in when you read the warning signs…
Is your client about to drop out?
What can you do to keep them connected to their exercise plan and to their work with you?
We believe forewarned is forearmed. Of course, you can stick your head in the sand and hope it’s all going to be okay, or you can take a deep breath and tackle the situation head on.
Here are seven ways you can discuss your concerns about commitment with your clients when you sense their motivation is waning.
- Tackle your client straight away with a direct enquiry such as, “I’ve got the feeling you’re struggling with motivation at the moment.” If your client isn’t struggling, you won’t be putting the thought into their heads, and they’ll be quick to reassure you. They’ll also be pleased that you’re keeping an eye on them and checking in – people love to feel that they’re important. If they are lacking in motivation, asking them straight out gives you the opportunity to workshop solutions with them.
- Make a time with your client to review their program. Sometimes people need a change or new challenges to reconnect them to their commitment to exercise.
- Check in with the client on their goals. Have they reached their goals and now need to reset them? Have they lost sight of their original goals and need to reconnect with them? Formalise the goals by writing them down with the client and keeping them in your client file.
- Help your client set incentives. When they reach a goal, how are they going to reward themselves? All milestones need to be celebrated and acknowledged. They can buy themselves a small gift, mark the occasion with a coffee with a friend, or you can stamp their hand with an elephant! Make sure you keep an eye on how they’re going and remember to congratulate them.
- Ask your client why they wanted to get fit in the first place. Did they want to lose weight? Were they looking for toning and strength? Was there a specific event they were training for? When they remember why it was important to them to invest the time, energy, and money into their health, you’ll easily be able to reconnect them to their original reasons for exercising. Even if these reasons are no longer valid, they valued their investment before, and reconnecting will help them value it again.
- Make sure your client feels comfortable in the environment. Have you introduced them to the other PTs and other people working out? Do you smile and say hi and ask them how they’re going each time they walk in? Even if you’re gossiping with a colleague or working with another client? Make sure your client isn’t feeling intimidated by all the beautiful people and the gym environment.
- Praise your client generously. Even when it’s hard to find something to praise them about. In fact, especially when it’s difficult. You don’t need to compliment your client on lifting heavier weights, you can notice that they’re looking good, or have a new pair of shoes, or have cut their hair. A simple comment like, “Hi Bev, good to see you. You’re looking well today,” can make a huge difference to a client’s motivation to attend. Even if Bev isn’t feeling so good, it will spark a few comments and she’ll feel happy to be noticed.
And remember, always trust your instincts. If your gut says a client’s wavering on their commitment to their exercise program, don’t let your head talk you out of facing the situation. Make time to have a chat with the client, and help them get back on track.