Monday, September 21, 2009

How to "Fire" a Client - Part 3

In Part 1 we discussed how we can determine if your client's behavior is affecting your attitude as a working fitness professional. In Part 2, we learned how to actually "let go" of a client in a way that is professional, courteous, and non-demeaning.

Some may say that "firing" clients is the last thing you want to do in tough economic times, and I agree. But severing a relationship with a paying customer is the last resort and only warranted if you, the trainer, absolutely LOATH a particular client or their attitude. Poor attitudes by clients cause a domino effect and not only drag the trainer down; but affect the energy and mood of the entire workday. The culminating effect of the stress can risk the ENTIRE business.

Actually "firing" a client should be conducted privately and professionally. It is wise to take the proper steps to ensure that your reputation is not damaged and your integrity is intact. Here are some quick tips:

1.) Write everything down. Keep a log or jot notes in a folder regarding your client's attitude and response to the sessions. Any weird comments or snide remarks should be noted and dated.

2.) Keep every email or voicemail. Arm yourself with evidence of changes in attitude. You can always refer back to this info to support your decision or present it to the client. Sometimes, people do not remember"being a jerk" when they say or write things. But their effect can take a toll on you--remembered or not. Show them.

3.) Highlight areas of the contract that state the relationship can be severed under your conditions. If it's stated in the contract at the time the client looked it over and signed it, you have a good reason to let them go. For instance: contracts can dictate that if a client misses a number of sessions without a notification; if a client is continuously late; if a client does not adhere to the program; or if the client makes others feel uneasy. If you have it in writing, you can let them go. Make a copy of that contract and give them a copy.

4.) Plan on a refund. If you keep their money, you lose the initiative. You look like a bad guy. If you plan correctly, budget a refund as soon as you "fire" the client. Make it known that you simply want to cut all ties. Refunding them for unused sessions will save yourself from any legalities that may arise. As I detailed in Part 2, give the client a list of fitness professionals in the area that may work with them.

5.) Do not talk about the incident with others. If you have higher-tiered staff or business partner, you may want to alert them of your decision. Do not, under any circumstances, talk about the incident with clients--even if you feel you can trust them. In a situation like this, it is best to let it "dissolve". The less you talk about it, the more likely it will go away.

But what if it doesn't go away?

Your newly "fired" client may feel insulted or disgruntled. If they don't wanna go down without a fight or smear your business to others, you need to be ready. In this situation, you can draft up a notice that reinforces the conditions of your contract and display it in view of others. If asked, you can be genuine--yet professional--without leaking out too much info. If others ask, you can simply give them minor details. Good businesses don't "air out their dirty laundry", and others should respect that. Or you can go the military route and create a diversion:

How do you do that?

Immediately hold a free trial offer of bootcamp classes.

Raffle off sessions

Purchase a prize (Flat screen TV, gift cards, iPod, etc) and hold a contest for most referred clients.

Create a new program that involves a group (walking group, biking group, running group)

Create a social network and ask everyone to join.

Have a guest speaker come in for a free seminar (doctor, etc)

If you market it effectively and immediately, the smoke will blow over sooner than you think. You will be on your way to feeling better about your day and the decrease in stress levels will enable you to focus more energy on the business. Remember, you shouldn't be minimizing your client load--only increasing it. "Firing" a client is your last resort. However, the elation you feel once a negative energy is removed from your life is unexplainable. Your positive clients will appreciate your newfound happiness!


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