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The Fitness Zone

Dealing with Difficult Clients
June 29, 2014

Let's face it, our clients are fantastic, but there may a time when they will test your mental sanity. Aiden Kramer, Course Coach at the Australian Institute of Fitness VIC/TAS, gives advice on how you should deal with the situation.

We, as Personal Trainers, get to help change lives for the better and see transformations occur on physical and mental planes. Our clients' are never perfect however and at times, you may be faced with a difficult client. Here are my top three tips for staying professional while dealing with difficult clients.

1. It's ok to say no. It's only a pipe dream that the customer is always right. Unfortunately, as a business owner you have to take responsibility for the decisions that you make; they must benefit the business. That's not to say your eyes have been replaced by dollar signs, but simply put you must make the correct decision that will allow you to help others and achieve desired results no matter how uninformed some clients may be.

It is called Opportunity Cost. This simple rule states you must figure out your own worth in dollars per hour. Is this client costing you more in time per hour than is reasonable? If so, let them know that their concerns and request is understood and acknowledged and explain why it is not possible to do what they ask. It is much better for you to be honest and do what is best for the business than to try and please everyone.

2. Value discrepancy. This is a nasty business that I see occurring every day. A client starts missing sessions and seems uninterested in attending. They say they are no longer interested in training with you. Perhaps time/money/family commitments are taking precedent? While in some cases these may all be entirely truthful, it comes down this this your client no longer sees value in your service because what you deem to be important, they do not.

As a trainer, our job is to listen. Not talk. We must take into account what a client says, and does not say; 75% of communication is body language, so pay attention to it. Ask them to tell you specifically what they want, when you paraphrase pay attention to how they react: is it positive? Dismissive? This points you in the direction of what exactly they want out of your services.

3. Personality differences. One of my best clients was previously one of my worst. He was highly compulsive to the point where explaining an exercise to the depth he wanted was taking 65% of our session time. I started to not only dread each sessions but regret taking this client on in the first place.

After consulting with a mentor, I realised that the core difference was my approach to his training versus what he valued to be important knowledge and measurable results. This eureka moment led me to changing my behaviour within the session and adapting to a C type personality trait. The end result was this client and I getting along much better and him taking on an extra session per week.

Difficult clients are just that: difficult. This doesn't mean they are impossible. As the client transforms, so to must us as Personal Trainers. Adapting and communicating become key aspects of success when dealing with these issues.

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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