Do Your Personal Trainers Know "Personal" as Much as They Do "Training"?

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Do the personal trainers who work at your health club, fitness studio or wellness center have all the skills they need to be effective? Of course, they have their credentials; they’re certified and have studied in exercise physiology, kinesiology and nutrition. They know how to create a workout regimen tailored to the client’s fitness level and goals. But to get the most from your trainers, and more importantly to make sure your customers are getting the most from their personal training sessions, your trainers need to be well-trained in top-notch customer service.

Good trainers not only have solid skills in exercise science, but they know how to engage their clients. ALL their clients. Not just the super-fit, super-motivated ones.

I can recall observing a trainer working with an elderly gentleman. He led the man from one piece of equipment to the next. There was little eye contact between them. There was no chit-chat in between sets. They both looked miserable. Across the room was another trainer. She was smiling and actively socializing with her client. Don’t get me wrong, her client was getting a good workout. But clearly they had a better rapport. They were both having a good time AND the training session was on track.

I know, I don’t actually know what was happening between the first pair. I wasn’t privy to the back story or relationship. But the point is still the same: if someone doesn’t “click” with their personal trainer, how many more sessions do you think they’ll book?

Here are 5 things you can do to build rapport with clients

Whether or not you’re a personal training or employ personal trainers, these practices are customer service gold. And even if they don’t come naturally, treat it as a workout and get good at them.

  1. Don’t be shy. Being immediately comfortable with strangers is essential to this job. Even if someone is naturally reserved, they can train themselves to be outgoing and friendly for work. This is one of those careers that demands it.
  2. Get to know your clients. Ask the client about their day, talk about the weather or sports. Ask the client about their interests BESIDES fitness stuff. Get THEM talking and relaxed.
  3. Put them at ease. If the client is new to your gym, older, or out of shape, factor this in to your approach. But be careful here – don’t make assumptions that could be offensive. Definitely inquire about their history with exercise and sports. Ask them how comfortable they are with the equipment at YOUR facility. Find out how long it’s been since they did a certain exercise. And make sure your tone and phrasing gives them plenty of room to admit to being hesitant with their pride intact.
  4. Share your own fitness flubs. A great way to build trust is to be open about your own experiences. You can joke about the time you collided with someone in the group exercise class or confess that even you sometimes eat poorly and miss a workout.
  5. Act like your care. Enthusiasm and interest in the client are essential. Even if the client is frustratingly stubborn. Even if you’re tired. Even if it’s your eighth session of the day. Even if, truthfully, you’re bored. You can’t show it. Not even a little bit. You’re the cheerleader. You have to boost their excitement and engage them. Just for 60 minutes. Just do it. That’s the job.

By the way, if you truly put your heart into #1-4, then you won’t have to fake it for #5. It will be genuine.

~Maureen Burke, The Radial Group