Five Steps to Conquering Client Cancellations


By Nicki Anderson
September 10, 2006

Nicki Anderson, NASM, is an IDEA Master Trainer and president of Reality Fitness Inc. in Illinois. She is the author of Reality Fitness; Inspiration for Your Health and Well-Being. In addition to business consulting and speaking, Anderson is the health and fitness columnist for the Chicago Suburban Newspapers and the family fitness columnist for eDiets. You can contact Anderson at nicki@realityfitness.com or visit http://www.realityfitness.com



Educating clients about the long-term benefits of exercise is one of the important tasks of personal trainers. As we take the Baby Boomer generation into the next century, we need to figure out how to get them moving and stick with a regular exercise regimen. One of the top frustrations for personal trainers and the most significant dollar losses for facilities is chronic cancellations.

What can trainers provide for their clients that other facilities have missed? As managers, how can we help trainers keep their clients consistent and keep cancellations at a minimum? Here are five ways to conquer cancellations.

1. Good trainer match. For personal training managers, it’s crucial to match up trainers and clients who make sense. The quickest way to lose a client is to put a trainer that has little in common with a potential client. For example, if you have a trainer who is amazing with athletes, perhaps putting him with an inactive 45-year-old man might not be the best match. Further, if you’ve got a trainer that is great with seniors, it’s probably not a good idea to put him or her with a teenager or young adult. It isn’t that they aren’t capable, but it’s nice for a trainer to have a common denominator with his or her client. Keeping similar interests when matching trainers will create the best long-term relationships. Hiring a diverse group of trainers prepares you to meet the needs and personalities of incoming clients.

2. Solid program design. When bringing in new trainers, having a set protocol for designing programs is a must. If trainers are creating all of their own programs, it increases the risk of inappropriate programming that some trainers may use for their clients. We have often heard that some trainers train clients the way they like to be trained. Given that most potential clients are simply looking to become more fit, this type of training could turn a client away immediately and maybe result in an injury. For many clients, being pushed too hard will surely result in fear of returning to the club. On the other hand, a seasoned athlete who feels his training is sub par is unlikely to rush back. So make sure you have a protocol in place when preparing your trainers for training clients.

3. Intermittent reinforcement. After so many completed appointments, a trainer may reward loyalty and consistency with coupons or a gift certificate. Dr. Lisa Pinton, a Chicago psychologist, defines intermittent reinforcement as reinforcing a desired behavior with an expected reward at a random time. According to this definition, personal training clients may come consistently because they know at some unknown point that they will be rewarded for their behavior.

4. An educated trainer means an educated client. It is your responsibility to keep your education as current as possible. No industry in the world is more fickle than ours. With ever-changing information, it’s up to us to commit ourselves to keeping our client and ourselves well informed. If your client knows that you are on top of trends and vital facts, you become an excellent resource for your client. Why not start up or seek out a personal training network? It’s a great way to share program ideas and learn what other trainers are doing. Not to mention, it’s a good source of support for this growing field.

5. Ask for testimonials and referrals. If your clients are happy, why not have them tell others? Sharing a testimonial with your staff and members is a great way to promote the value of your staff, but is also a great way to make your member feel as though he or she contributed something of value. When they are able to provide something positive and get positive reinforcement back (i.e. publication of testimony or mention in a newsletter), it makes a client feel valued. A valued client/member is a satisfied member, which adds up to a decrease in cancellations and perhaps an increase in referrals.

Following the five suggestions above will help not only to conquer cancellations but also keep your trainers busy and your clients happy. And we all know a happy member is our best source of referrals.