You may or may not already feel the effect of Coronavirus on your session schedule. However, all personal trainers, gym owners, physical therapists and fitness professionals, in general, need to face the fact that there will be a period when you get more cancellations than usual. Potentially you will even have to close shop if your country's leaders decide to order everybody to stay home.
In this atmosphere, it's worth considering shifting your approach even further towards over delivering in client care. If they feel safe and cared for during these harder times, they will have all the more reasons to stay with you on top of the fantastic work you already do, when life goes back to usual.
Another aspect of doing everything in your power to prevent the spread of the virus is to look after yourself and your loved ones. If everybody does their part in prevention, there is a higher chance we all get through this period without any issues. So here are 6 tips to help you keep your clients happy and decrease the backlash you may experience in the next few months.
Tip #1. Keep Checking Advice from Your Health AuthorityThe internet is flooded by news on all platforms and people may hear conflicting information and advice. Since it's out of the scope of any personal trainer to make medical recommendations, stick to what's being advised by your country's health authority.
Even if you don't tend to watch or listen to the news in general, this is the time when you will need to go out of the way and stay on top of the information daily as the situation can escalate very quickly. I share a few links for you below.
United KingdomNHS Advice on Coronavirus - symptoms, what to do and what not to do
Government Advice - travel advice, guidance for health professionals, stats, information to small businesses and more.
The United States of AmericaThe CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is your primary source of information and updates, from statistics to travel advice, including resources for health professionals and resources on prevention.
AustraliaThe Department of Health website gives you all the details you need to stay on top of what's happening with the spread of the virus, prevention advice and more.
EuropeThere seems to be a collaboration between the EU countries. Still, ultimately it will be your government who makes the call on what restrictions they put on the population, so keep checking on your government's press releases and the health authority to stay up-to-date.
Tip #2. Go Heavy on CleaningExperts estimate the coronavirus causing COVID-19 may survive on inanimate surfaces for up to 72 hours. While it's an educated guess based on research done on other coronavirus strains in the past, it's better to be safe than sorry.
General cleaning should be performed as often as necessary, depending on your footfall, no changes there. However, disinfecting all places people touch as often as possible is also crucial: door handles, stair railings, light switches, taps, hand sanitiser dispenser buttons, door frames, water machines, etc.
I am sure most of you are already wiping mats, benches and all obvious equipment after each client, but in the current situation, you may want to consider others too. Think of your dumbbells, barbells, cable handles, kettelbells and any other equipment you and your clients touch during a session. While on a typical day, it may sound obsessive to wipe those handles used by a client after each use, these situations make us realise how easy it can be to spread germs this way. Introduce a wipe everything a client touches before another one or yourself uses it can become a crucial point for your clients to feel safe to come in.
When it comes to cleaning material, remember that you are dealing with a virus. Your standard antibacterial surface cleaner may not cut it. Soap is so effective because it breaks down the fatty layer that covers the virus, but when it comes to disinfectants, use either bleach-based detergents or surface cleaners with over 60% alcohol (ethanol) content.
Tip #3. Introduce a Hand Wash Procedure and No Touch PolicyWe trust that everybody washes their hands regularly, however introducing a hand washing procedure for clients and staff alike before and after sessions is a reasonable action in this climate.
Breaking the topic for the first time you see a client might feel a bit awkward, but since the whole world has been talking about this for weeks now, nobody should be too surprised. If so, ensure this is for everybody's benefit, and you want them to feel they are safe with you.
Putting out hand sanitisers across the gym floor is also highly recommended so that people can use it as often they think they need it. You work with people, with all their beliefs, so giving them the option to do what they believe will help them is crucial. Plus it also protects them and you from other germs.
Another important element of prevention is to introduce a “no touch” policy when greeting and saying bye. Some trainers do handshakes, others high 5s or even hugs. They all are great ways to strengthen the bond with your clients, however, you may want to suspend those habits until the emergency situation is resolved.
Tip #4. Encourage Staff and Clients to Stay Away with Mild SymptomsThis step is the hardest to take for most personal trainers and small fitness businesses. I understand cash flow is crucial. However, human life should always come first. While you and most of your clients will likely be fine, almost everybody has at least one vulnerable person in their closed circles.
You also have a duty of care towards ALL your clients. Even more so, if they include those above 60 and people with health conditions who come to you to improve their lifestyle and manage their conditions like asthma, COPD, high blood pressure, Type 2 and so on.
Politely ask clients and staff who have the symptoms described in the health authority updates to stay away until they feel better or have the chance to get properly diagnosed.
Tip #5. Keep Clients UpdatedAnnouncing the changes and the measures you are taking to each individual may take up a lot of time, so it makes sense to use your normal marketing channels for marketing to keep your clients informed.
Posters - put up signs in the gym with all the info, so it's in front of them.
Emails - Use your email lists to send your clients updates when you introduce the new measures and ensure them their safety and wellbeing is your priority.
Social Media - Create posts and reminders, so it's on top of people's mind.
Managing expectations is an essential aspect of excellent customer service. Especially in challenging times like these. Communicate clearly, thoroughly and often.
Tip #6. Tis the Time to Go OnlineOnce you've covered all the above bases and ensured you took all measures in prevention, you can also start thinking about how you're planning to take care of those clients that remain healthy while the whole world shuts its doors.
Europe is the current hot spot; the virus is on the rise in all countries. There is a high chance that most governments will have to make a call on quarantine at some point in the next 4-6 weeks when they expect the pandemic to peak.
They have similar expectations for other parts of the world too, so it's not unreasonable to start thinking about how you'll earn your bread and butter when nobody can get out of their homes, even if for only two weeks.
If you have never considered online training until now, you may want to call it a beta test, to see how you and your clients like it. If you have been into hybrid training or partly online, you may want to double down on your online coaching. While PT Distinction has you covered for all things online coaching most face to face clients will probably want to keep their live sessions as well. Think of Skype, Zoom, FaceTime or other video options to provide live sessions to those that are keen to try it. You never know, you may end up developing a service that will change the course of your fitness career for the future.
One positive to come out of this current situation is people across the globe can't fail to see the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and keeping fit.