By Wendy Williamson
Good-to-great customer service spurs on a successful personal trainer’s career. Though not all of the success can be attributed to great customer service, a large portion can be attributed the fitness professional’s interpersonal skills.
Over 70 % of Americans (2011) said they were willing to spend more money with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. However, many people believe customer service, regardless of the business, is a “lost art.” Two reasons for this include 1) customers feel poorly treated and 2) failure to problem solve in a timely manner.
What makes up customer service in the personal training world? It is the act of addressing and satisfying the client’s expectations. Whether one-on-one personal training session, or a small group session (2-4 clients), great customer service is achievable by the attentive personal trainer/fitness professional. Interestingly, 80% agree that smaller companies place a greater emphasis on customer service than larger businesses. This is your client’s expectation.
Whatever happened to the simple ideas of customer service such as greeting clients by saying “Good morning. How are you today?” or “What can I do for you?” “Did you have a great weekend?” “Did you feel good after our last appointment?” “Do you have any questions regarding your last session?”
The close interaction is extremely helpful in the fitness industry. Let’s dig deeper to find the skills that truly matter. Patience is clearly important and near the top of the list. When a client is frustrated or confused, patience is key. Clients would rather have a competent, patient, and safe professional than be rushed or experience a not-so-patient fitness professional during the personal training session.
When a fitness professional is actively listening, he/she is focused and in-tune to what the client is saying. Positive body language illustrates the interaction and interest of the client. Often, it is helpful for the fitness professional to try and interpret the client’s comments for clarity and understanding. What a personal trainer may “hear,” unfortunately, may not be what the client is actually saying.
Ironically, 80% of companies believe they deliver “superior” customer service; yet only 8 % of customers think these same companies deliver “superior” customer service. Perhaps, a company’s perception of customer service can be extremely distorted? Keep in mind that an average of 9 people talk about good experiences whereas 16 will talk about about poor experiences. And, of note, 24% of American adults have posted comments or reviews online about the products or services they buy.
Communication needs to be simple and clear between the fitness professional and the client. Being cautious and being sure the client understands what is being said is imperative, especially when getting to know the client. Too often, the personal trainer initially expects too much understanding from the client and that can be dangerous and disappointing for the progression of the client’s goals.
Can the personal trainer lose some professionalism and become too comfortable? Absolutely! There is a fine line between too casual and not maintaining professionalism. The session is about the client, not the personal trainer. Often during the session, the personal trainer communicates too much about his/her personal life, looks at the smart phone or drinks coffee. The session begins to lose focus and the client recognizes the decrease in session-value.
Also of significant importance is imparting knowledge. Respect is only gained when the personal trainer provides knowledge and hears the feedback from the client. Rightly so, it is just as respectful when the personal trainer recognizes their lack of knowledge and refers to another personal trainer or refers to an appropriate medical professional.
When a client seeks a fitness professional, they are hoping to gain some knowledge, understanding and direction regarding their fitness program. As a result, it is helpful that the personal trainer can provide positive interaction, encouragement and enhance the professional relationship. If not, the client may not return for another session or seek additional assistance. In fact, it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. Secondly, it costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.
Likewise, there are times when no matter the interaction between the client and the personal trainer there seems that nothing can make the client happy. It is at this time, patience, encouragement, and listening, are all extremely necessary to keep the client. Although, perhaps unusual, this does happen and initially not all personal trainers can adapt to this type of situation. Hopefully, with experience and time, interpreting the client’s frustration or irritation will be learned.
Finally, another skill necessary for providing customer service is having the ability to “think on your feet” and problem solve during a session. This could involve the service or the science within the session. Regardless, if problem solving is successful, 70% of the time the client will return.
Overall, customer service can be as simple as a phone call to see how the client may be doing, a birthday card, or checking in on a significant event. A personal trainer needs to recognize that they need to continue to provide the best experience for the client. Customer service is vital. Continuing to learn and growing professionally is also vital to the client experience. Magically, the blend of both will continue to stimulate an outstanding career.
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www.helpscout.net. 75 Customer Service Facts, Quotes, and Statistics, May 28, 20102
www.helpscout.net. 15 Customer Service skills that Every Employee Needs, June 20, 2016
Pernice, Mark. (2016) Revolutionizing Customer Service, Harvard Business Review, April 2016.
Leggatt, Helen. (2017) Personal touch for customer service drives retention, loyalty, BizReport: Loyalty Marketing: January 12, 2017.