It can be a challenge to make sure all of your clients arrive for sessions consistently—and on time. Inevitably in your career, you will deal with clients who frequently reschedule, show up late or don’t show at all.
Many trainers I know are quick to point the finger at disobedient clients and blame transgressions on clients’ lack of motivation.
At some point, however, you need to take a step back and accept that you might be partly to blame in these scenarios—especially if several of your clients display similar behaviors. If this is something you experience in your business, it’s time to assess what you can do to prevent it from happening in the future.
The first step to improving client adherence is to evaluate why it happens. In most cases—barring true emergencies, of course—the simple answer is that your clients don’t perceive their sessions with you to be as important as their other commitments. This means it’s up to you to create enough value in your services that your clients make their time with you a priority.
In this article I share three systems that will supercharge your value and ensure that your clients put their appointments with you first.
Offer a Coaching Report
Request feedback from your clients at the end of each workout, so that you can understand how to keep them engaged. Based on what you learn, you can offer a coaching report that details what to work on and how that will affect what you have planned for the coming weeks. This is a bit like a teaser trailer for the next episode of your favorite show. A sneak peek into the future keeps clients interested in coming back for more.
Here are a few questions you can ask clients to elicit useful feedback:
- “How did you feel during today’s workout?”
- “Which exercises did you feel the most or enjoy the most?”
- “Which exercises were the most difficult, and did you enjoy them?”
- “Were there any exercises that you disliked or that made you feel uncomfortable?”
It’s up to you to ask these types of questions, because some clients won’t be forthcoming with their thoughts about your programs. And if your sessions make clients feel uncomfortable, or if you ask clients to complete exercises they dislike or they don’t understand, they may become discouraged and cancel on you more often. Requesting regular feedback can help you facilitate sessions that mesh with client sensibilities and circumvent cancellations.
Your report and “conclusion” to each session should include details like these:
- Compliment your clients on something they did well.
- Point out something they need to work on.
- Give them some sort of homework.
- Remind them of their goal/vision.
- Give them a teaser of what you have planned for the future.
Here’s an example:
“Great workout today. You really surprised me on the walking lunges—those were amazing. How did they feel? I’m really excited that we’ve come this far. With all of this hard work, though, you’ve got to get in the gym those extra 2 days per week to bring all of this together. One day between now and our next session, get to the gym and complete these three arm exercises that I know you enjoy, along with 20 minutes of intervals. Can you make that happen? I really think if you can do that consistently you will begin to see progress soon, and get the body you want before summer is here. Also, after today’s session I have some really great ideas for a new lower-body/core workout that I think you’ll like. Let’s plan on doing that in our next session this Thursday! Are you excited? I am! See you then.”
Build a Strong Foundation
Newer clients are usually the most “fragile.” They may feel nervous or self-conscious, and they may have significant challenges to overcome before they’re comfortable with training. It’s important to foster a community of people and a culture of support that will put newbies at ease and motivate them to put in the work to reach their goals. It is also important for you to be prepared with personalized messages, especially for your newer clients. The more you reach out, the more likely your clients are to show up to your sessions and see results.
The following are two ways to make a deeper connection:
Build Your Community
Create a community among your clients with ideas like these:
- Set up a website/blog that features helpful information and insights.
- Create a Facebook group, and upload success stories and informational videos. Encourage clients to ask questions and interact with one another.
- Send weekly emails.
- Host a special event, like a weekly or monthly group boot camp or a morning run with your clients.
Prioritize Direct Communication
Use social media, text messages, emails or phone calls to communicate with clients. First, be sure to learn which method each client is most comfortable with. Some aren’t fond of talking on the phone, while others dislike email or text messaging. The goal with direct communication is to build relationships to the point where you know your clients are comfortable coming to you with questions. It is also useful for fostering motivation outside of your training sessions.
Consider these sample messages:
- “Great job today! See you next week!”
- “Let me know how your workout goes tomorrow.”
- “Don’t forget to send me your food log tomorrow!”
- “Thanks for the effort today. You got this! Stay focused, and let me know what you need help with. I’m here for you.”
These small touches will take you barely a minute to prepare and send, yet they’ll mean a lot to people. Also, individual connections like these have the potential to change your business for the better: When you pay attention to the details and go the extra mile, people notice! Your clients will develop a new level of respect for you because of the amount of effort you put into helping them succeed.
Focus on Vision
Use every interaction you have with your clients to help them get closer to achieving all of their goals. One way to do this is to consistently reinforce their vision and stoke their intention to get there. Setting or revisiting goals and developing a plan of action for achieving them are necessities for newer clients, but it’s also good to review goals with clients who have been training with you for a while. Everyone needs encouragement to keep putting in the effort to make progress.
Every few weeks—or at least every few months—take clients through an evaluation to redefine their vision and help them keep a strong desire to fulfill it front and center. It is as important for you to know what drives your clients as it is for them.
To define a vision that is connected with that focus, ask questions like these:
- “What is the number-one thing you want to accomplish?”
- “Why is it a priority right now in your life?”
- “When you do accomplish this goal, how will life be different?”
- “If you don’t reach your goal, how will life be different?”
- “What things are keeping you from achieving this goal? How are you going to overcome them?”
- “How does accomplishing your goal add to your sense of fulfillment?”
- “List all the reasons why now is the perfect time to work for all you’ve ever wanted out of life.”
Support this list of questions with a program, and use assessments to show progress. These can be movement assessments, performance assessments, circumference measurements, etc. Choose the ones that your clients will understand and will be comfortable measuring. Do this periodically to keep your clients on track toward reaching their goals.
To sum it all up, take it personally when clients do not show. But don’t put all of the blame on them. Understand that your clients aren’t sure how to create healthy, proactive habits, which is probably one reason they hired you! By implementing systems that emphasize communication, community and vision, you will significantly increase the value of your services—and that is something your clients won’t want to miss!