Home Personal Training Business Foundations How To Set Firm Policies With Your Clients

How To Set Firm Policies With Your Clients

“There are no victories at bargain prices”
– Dwight Eisenhower

Personal Trainer customer service.  In a time where customer service breaks or makes businesses all over the world – Personal Trainer customer service is what makes your Personal Training business ‘different’ from anyone else.  It’s something your competition can’t replicate or copy…because there’s only one of ‘you’…

Customer service is down.  It ain’t what it used to be.

Communication skills are also in the slumps – everywhere you go…nearly everyone you meet is suffering from it.

I recently helped out a manager of a company in converting more leads into long term clients and I gave him a small assignment… “Hey Joe, when you see your prospect tonight, why don’t you call me and let us know of your discoveries and insights…”

“John, I’ll just email you…it’s easier…or I’ll text you”

Lucky I’m not a huge facebook user…otherwise he would’ve contacted me through there.


You know what’s even more funny… he couldn’t get in contact with his new lead… so he texted her!

How demoralising is that!

Worse yet, she texted him back saying she’s sorry she missed his call…and they organised a meeting through text!

A professional organisation doesn’t do that.  A senior manager…or any manager or even any person who deals with customers should only call.  It shows strength, courage and authority.  It puts you in control.

Anyway, they had their meeting… and before their second one, she texted him saying she couldn’t make it.  Through damn text!

What would’ve happened if she had to call…? Well, from my experience, cancellations drop by 85%!

Starting as a Personal Trainer, I was lost.  I didn’t have any policies.  No structure and clients pretty much dictated their time with me.  They only came in when they ‘felt’ like it and had the pleasure of cancelling through text whenever they pleased.

Some weeks I made money, and others I did not.

The solution: Set your policies from the start so clients don’t stuff you around.

Make them know that the only way to ever cancel a session is with a 24 or 48 hour notice – and only with a call.  SMS or emails are not allowed.

And if they break that rule, you’re gonna be charging them for the session.  As soon as I did that – things started changing.

Cancellations dropped.  Clients took my time seriously and when they couldn’t make it… I was still getting paid.

Bottom Line:  Don’t be a pansy when it comes to your policies.  Show your clients who’s in charge… and when it comes to cancellations and meet-ups, eliminate all text messaging and emailing.

Emailing is great for sending and receiving information…but, for cancellations and meet-ups, it’s out.

Technology has a numbing effect on human connection.

The ipad.

Yes.  It’s a great device… but it shouldn’t be used as a replacement for human interaction.

Personal Trainers love using it with their clients.

You know that feeling where you’re in a fun conversation with someone …and their phone rings.  It’s as if someone slammed the breaks and you weren’t wearing a seatbelt…

You’ve probably seen PT’s do this whilst training their clients.  They pull out their phones and start talking.  And the look on their clients face ain’t good.  Humans have a tendency not to say anything…not to upset anyone.

So all these mistakes go on…trainers not knowing how dreadful their mistakes are… and then wonder why clients find excuses for leaving.

The ipad use for trainers.

It’s used for program recording, stopwatch, timer, and so on.

But one thing it doesn’t do… is providing better customer experiences and service.

It doesn’t help you communicate better… I mean, it doesn’t do anything other than provide excitement for the trainer and that’s about it…

Every time I see trainers using it, it seems like they’re more interested when it’s time to key in information than anything else.

The same thing going on inside your clients mind when the phone rings… similar feelings arise when the ipad is used.

Unprepared.  Unprofessional and “you can’t be bothered investing in proper equipment for your business, so you use your gadgets instead”

Use a proper Stop Watch… not the one on your phone.

Use a clip board in front of your clients… not an ipad

Start looking like a fitness professional… and not like something you do in your spare time.

I mean, watching a trainer using a different piece of equipment for each activity shows how much emotion she’s invested in her profession – in caring for her clients.  She went out and bought equipment for her clients only and didn’t just install a few apps and that’s it.

The ‘troubled’ – high client turnover trainers I see who could never be stuffed providing better client experiences – try changing their ‘ways’ by investing in ipads to show the world… “Hey please like me more, I’m using an ipad now…would you please train with me…?”

Using an ipad is a simple pleasure to a complex problem… 

“Simple pleasures are always the last refuge of the complex”  
– Oscar Wilde    

Complexity revolves around human interaction, connection and communication.  Ipads simply can’t fix that…in fact, it adds to the complexity.

Customer service is down.  It’s not what it used to be.  Because of the so called economic recession ‘scare’ – people are less inclined in giving.  The degree of natural greed has risen and hence, shocking customer service.  The “Why should I have to give you more of myself”  attitude is amongst us.

Sales people acting ‘nice’ when they know they’re gonna be getting cash from you – then ditching you once the transaction is done.

Personal Trainers only helping paying clients – and ignoring everyone else on the gym floor.

Giving crappy programs to members because “they haven’t paid me anything”

There’s this gym goer I frequently talk to.  He’s preparing to go on stage (bodybuilding) in summer.  His iron-pumping knowledge is amazing.  And he goes out of his way in helping other members (gym goers).  Because he’s got so much knowledge, he can afford in giving a lot.

One time a PT saw this and came up to him… “hey man, what are you doing…?  Information like that shouldn’t be for free.  Why the hell are you telling him all your secrets…?”

His response…

“Man, they’re just the basics.  No secrets here”

To the unknowledgeable PT, they were secrets.  To the knowledgeable bodybuilder, they were just the fundamentals.

Don’t get me wrong.  Clients must pay for your expert knowledge.  And the more understandings you have, the more rewards should come your way.


How is anyone gonna know how much knowledge you have if you don’t demonstrate it.  If you’re unwilling to give a little demo of yourself, then, in most people’s eyes, you’re a risk.

And people don’t like taking plunging stabs in the dark.

And to those trainers who are afraid in demonstrating their ‘secrets’ – well… they never had much knowledge to give in the first place.

Yes.  There would be members taking your free knowledge and try all sorts of tricks in sapping as much information from you as possible.  That happens.  But generally, you can detect that and call them on their ‘attempts’ – then out of guilt they’ll stop.

Some will then pay you, some won’t.  Who cares.  Helping 20 members and scoring 8 clients is a better than helping none and scoring 0.

Don’t forget, clients come to you because they feel comfortable.  In a way feel connected to you.  And let me tell ya, it’s got nothing to do with the exercises.  Maybe 5% of clients come to you to learn different exercises…but they’ll stay with you based on how you make them feel.

According to Peppers & Rogers Group, 2009 Customer Experience Maturity Monitor –

81% of companies with strong capabilities in delivering excellent customer experiences are outperforming their competition.

Take a look around and see how others are operating…and do the opposite.

Under promise and over deliver.  Demonstrate your knowledge and don’t be afraid in giving away high quality information.  Set your policies so your clients don’t stuff you around. Increase human interaction by eliminating cancellations through the comfort of SMS and Email.

Don’t be lazy.  Invest in the appropriate equipment for your business… and start being a fitness professional.

Dedicated In Accelerating Your PT Success Every Step Of The Way…
John Toumpakke

P.S. The ipad is a great tool.  But it can never replace the ‘personal touch’ humans are constantly craving… especially in this immobilising, pain-rich nasty customer service world we’re all living in

P.P.S In saying that, you may use the Ipad in video recording your clients exercises and showing them where they can improve… or presenting how they initially performed and then show some improved footage a few weeks down the track demonstrating progress

P.P.P.S. There are uses for it…but using it for ‘everything’ cheapens your profession

P.P.P.P.S Love to hear your side of the issue of Personal Trainer customer service.  Post your insights and views through the comments below 🙂


  1. Absolutely True! Watching trainers using their ipad or iphone for EVERYTHING turns me off. And it DOES cheapen them out. It’s rare seeing trainers using a proper stop watch, clipboard and an actual pen. I don’t know what it is…but they seem more professional. Would you have an answer as to why John?
    – Mariam

    • Hi Mariam,

      Yeah I know, most people get the same feeling…but they’re just a little afraid in saying anything and end up ‘taking it on the chin’

      I believe those trainers seem more professional because they have taken out the time to invest in separate products designed for their business. And customers see that and respect it also.

      Conducting business using your recreational gadgets doesn’t pack the same punch as doing business with items designed specifically for your work.

      Thanks for your comment Mariam,

  2. Astute and informed use of technology is a real positive in any industry. Any use that is not of benefit to a client is probably a waste of time and money. I am old enough to remember when mobile phones took off and most users looked silly walking down the street with the gadget at their ear. Most of them looked like posers. Now it is completely normal to see this happen.

    In time new technologies will seemlessly meld into the everyday activities of us all. Taking a phone call (land line) is no worse than improper use of ipads and texting. Even being sidetracked by other people when engaging with a client can be rude and unprofessional. So it should be a question of improper behaviour of any kind being questioned.

    Thanks for opening a really interesting and relevent discussion. John M

    • Absolutely right John!,

      It’s becoming normal in seeing people using technology… and you’re spot on that in time new technologies will seamlessly meld into the everyday activities of us all.

      What seems to be becoming ‘normal’ is a desensitisation of real professionalism. I believe when talking with someone, that person or group of people should have your FULL attention with no distractions.

      It’s because so many people have experienced that ‘broken’ connection with people answering their phones and responding to SMS’s in the middle of a conversation…it seems now people have that ‘yuck’ unconscious feeling to any electronic gadget in use while conducting business.

      Just a few weeks ago this friend of mine refused to buy this house and give the commissions to the real estate agent because in the middle of their presentation the agent answered his call, turned his back and talked for 10 mins and didn’t apologise for the interruption.

      Just that small act cost him $15,000 in commissions. It’s that powerful!

      You’re right. ANY improper behaviour is rude and unprofessional. It’s not just with phones and ipads.

      Thanks for your in depth comment John M!

  3. In this day of everyone following the lead, your personal trainer customer service really stands out when you show you take out the time to care about your customers and buy a camera and not use the silly apple phone software – which everyone is using.

  4. I know John, just using a camera to take photos is enough to be different and stand out, you might be looked at funny, but looking more professional is the name of the game 🙂

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