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Reducing Client Cancellations for Your Fitness Business

Reducing client cancellations--Woman running

What causes client cancellations?

Client cancellations are usually the result of bad habits. Habits are automatic responses to triggering events. When clients are coming straight from work to exercise, for example, they are having to fight the urge to go home and decompress on the couch, like their body is used to doing. As a personal trainer, when you’re working with people who have busy lives, it can be particularly difficult to squash those bad habits. Until new habits are formed, this kind of client will be much more likely to cancel their training sessions. Generally, given their lack of free time, busy people are going to pick one of three windows of time for exercise:

  • Before work
  • Lunch
  • After work

Carefully choosing the right time of day to exercise is important. There are both physiological and psychological factors to be considered. Ultimately though, the best time to exercise is whenever you can. For some people, that ends up being after work. As a personal trainer, it’s important for you to keep in mind the factors that contribute to client cancellations so you can help even the busiest people put in the work to break their bad habits.

Energy, Exercise Intensity, Gym Proximity

Reduce Client Cancellations By Controlling Variables

Energy – In the nutrition world, calories and energy are synonymous. However, we know sleep, mental exhaustion, insulin spikes, nutritional habits, vitamins, and other variables play a role. You will have to make sure your clients are close to optimal energy by the end of the day. Many take supplements such as “pre-workouts”, to negate the fatigue from a full day of work. However, if you’re a personal trainer, you are not in the business of recommending supplements.  You can recommend when they eat (without what). Everyone’s body is different, but through trial and error you can guide them to the right foods and the right times to eat them so that you’re getting a client who is exhausted, full, or both!

Exercise Intensity – With all that said on energy, sometimes the gas tank is simply empty. Maybe they’ve had a tough day at work trying to cram and meet deadlines. They have a mind and body now both completely exhausted. This is where they actually need the exercise to decompress, and get some endorphins flowing. However, most people will find excuses to get on the couch and Netflix binge. You need to pre-plan by having the following workout types:

  • Light
  • Moderate
  • Intense

Choose the type of workout according to their energy level. Again, everyone’s body is different. Your goals will also lend toward specific workouts (i.e. Weight Loss, Marathon Training, Muscle Building, etc). Regardless, understand what exercise mediums your clients enjoy the most, and what may be more difficult. This way you can revert to a type that corresponds to their energy level on that given day. For example, 45 minutes on the elliptical “climb” program, may be light for your client. Conversely, 30 minutes of a Kettlebell training may be very difficult. 

Gym Proximity – When working with clients who meet me after work, I find out where they work, and what time they get off. You can set the appointment for the exact time it takes to get to the fitness center from their office. Why?  In my 10+ years of Personal Training, I’ve noticed a recurring theme. Stopping home increases your likelihood of not working out 2x fold. They will always find something at the house that needs to be done. They will open the fridge and notice they are out of milk. Maybe they remember they’re hosting a dinner Friday and haven’t washed the tablecloth. Instill in them, they must make exercise their priority. Find a way to get them to be prepared to go straight to the fitness facility after work.

Understanding Motivations Helps Reduce Client Cancellations

Long Term Motivation

Understanding motivation is an important factor when first working with clients. Motivation comes in all different forms but understanding it can significantly reduce client cancellations. For the ease of this particular conversation, let’s break them down into 3 major groups:

Vanity –  Many people tackle fitness/nutrition through vanity and have a particular goal of looking a certain way. This may be self-esteem based, or simply trying to get back to size, strength, or shape they once had. Vanity is a great motivator. Do not discourage people from using this as their motivator unless you deem it unhealthy. Even in those cases, be cautious to avoid judgment. Direct them to speak with someone who is suited to handle a potential eating disorder or something of that ilk. A good way to keep this as the motivator, but to combine it with a healthier component is to do measurements. Clients will get fixed on the scale solely. Having more initial baseline reference points will give you a better opportunity to point out the positives.

  • For example, do initial Body Fat % measurements. Hip, waist, mid leg, lower leg, arm, chest/back, and weight. You can point out which points are going in the right direction when you remember to check progress. If you only record their weight you have a 50% chance they are going to be upset. 

Competition – Many former athletes, or naturally competitive people find competitive replacements. Races (i.e. 10K, Marathon, etc) 90 day programs, or friendly bets with family can be the motivational driver behind taking the first step back to a healthier lifestyle. This allows people to visualize their goals. It can also keep them constantly aware of the ramifications of deviating from the healthy patterns. The competitive drive pushes them toward healthier choices. This includes hiring you. If you have clients who use competition as their motivator be prepared to design workouts that are goal oriented. Also have monthly or annual markers to reach. 

Health – Others take a more total body health based approach. They focus on things such as lowering cholesterol, dropping total body fat percentage, and increasing energy/mood. Anyone who has gone to the doctor after their yearly labs only to be scolded for their numbers, understands this scary rude awakening. Realizing that your overall health is not on par with someone of the same age can be scary. Knowing ones quality of life will be affected can be plenty of motivation to kick start a proper diet and exercise routine. If this is your client’s motivational driver, you may ask their permission to see their labs. Learning how to read basic lab panel (CBC, Metabolic panel, etc) reports is easy, and necessary in my opinion to set yourself apart from the average FIT. Your client will be impressed with your ability to understand their health on all levels. 

Understanding which of these (or combinations) are your clients motivational drivers is essential for not just creating a plan but for developing a bond and keeping them on track.

Short Term Motivation

People are going to have bad days and weeks, and part of your job is to keep them on track with their goals and get their mind in a better place. Mixing up workouts is a great way to do this and a must for your tactical arsenal. Let’s say for instance you are training someone who wants to run a 10k. You’ve been working together for 3 weeks, and the race is 6 weeks away. They are starting to think they won’t be able to do it. What do you do next? Avoid these potential client cancellations by doing the following.

Creating Exercise Plans To Pick From

Having planned 6 different workouts already, you assessed which workouts your client enjoys the most/least, and which ones are needed the most/least is part of your job. Below are the different training days for your client:

  • -Long distance Indoor Running
  •  Long Distance Outdoor Running 
  • -Ab/Strength work
  • -Slow Pace Run
  • -Stretch/Recovery
  • -Sprints/Speed work
Reducing client cancellations--Man running
Understanding you clients short and long term motivations is important. Create workouts based on these.

1. You can set the schedule weeks in advance for some clients if they prefer that structured style. You can also keep them guessing if you feel that is better for their personality. Keeping them on their toes and manipulating the schedule has benefits. Week to week it allows the overthinkers to stay focused on day to day regiments.

2. It also allows you to psycho-analyze their needs, and pick the appropriate workout at just the right time. If they are bored or frustrated with training, you can change that. You make sure to give them the day they enjoy and/or are best at. Maybe they just need to talk something out due to external issues going on outside of training. It’s a great day for a slow run and emphasis or put emphasis on stretching/recovery.

3. Lastly, it allows you to challenge them. They are going to be great at some of these (i.e. Indoor Running) and may struggle with others (Ab/Strength). Keeping them honest, and understanding there is always more work to be done is a great way to stay on task.

Client cancellations are inevitable. You should have a policy about client cancellations in your paperwork. I personally charge for late client cancellations (under 12 hours). If you’re running an online fitness business make sure you also have this handled through your software. TrulyFit’s online fitness software has the ability to set your cancellation policy and pricing.

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