Prepare Your PT Business for Post Pandemic Re-Opening - Part 1. – Client Assessment

May 7, 2020

By Tim Saye

The last few weeks have been filled with uncertainty for personal trainers and gym owners. Personal trainers across the world have had to adapt to using online personal training systems and virtual training software very quickly to continue serving their existing clients. 

Although no one knows when governments plan to issue the all-clear for gyms to re-open and re-assume the daily business of fitness, however, there are some things that you could start thinking about now, so you can get started preparing for the re-opening. 

This series will explore the considerations relating to:
- Your clients' needs and how comfortable they are about returning to public facilities
- Your finances and what help is available for you
- Your facility’s suitability and unique requirements for re-opening
- Whether your services need to change, and how to best deliver them
- And then how to create your plan of action.

Every business will be different. There are too many variables to consider in just one article, so we'll publish each point as part of a series in separate blog posts over the next weeks. Each post will be based on trainer experiences, information from data and businesses we've gathered in the UK during the COVID-19 crisis in the last 6-7 weeks since we've been in isolation. 

Our recommendations include a level of educated responses to situations that might well change rapidly, so keep your eyes peeled on official government info too. Also, if you're based outside the UK, or if your circumstances are different from what we picture in the following paragraphs, you should use this guidance alongside your government's advice. 

The circumstances might change again at short notice. You've already demonstrated your ability to adapt quickly to unexpected and demanding conditions. Whenever the gyms do re-open, you will return a better, more flexible and experienced trainer than when they closed. Take that as a new skill you mastered these weeks and months and be proud. Now, let's dig in.

Step 1. Assess Where Your Current Clients and Audience Stand

If you already have ideas on what to do after you can start training clients in person again, that's great! However, what's even better is to ask them what they plan to do BEFORE you announce any concrete plans.

Why? Mainly because people react to unexpected life circumstances differently. Some probably can't wait to meet up with friendly faces again while others might have become super cautious and decided not to revert to their old lifestyle just yet. Surveying your clients and asking them about what they want to do (rather than what you think they want) can be useful in making sure you take the action that they need.

The goal here is to find out how they're feeling about returning to the gym. Dig into the reasons too and make sure that they aren't just saying what they think you want to hear. Assure clients that whatever they choose to do, you want to be there for them, so being honest is essential in helping you to find solutions that can help them no matter what.

How to Gather Client Opinion

Just like working with a new client for the first time, taking stock of your clients' current needs by merely asking them via direct messaging, email or in a phone call may be an excellent first step. 

You could contact them to learn what they think about restrictions being lifted via your newsletter, through posting a poll on social media or conducting a survey. Survey Monkey is a free software to survey your clients, but there are other options, including Google Forms or adding a feedback form in PT Distinction.

If they are open to it, this could be something that they monitor in a journal over a few days or a week to see how their mindset shifts around the challenge of being in lockdown. This sort of "introspection coaching" can be enormously useful from a personal trainer's perspective, as your clients are offering you structured, systematic insights into their feelings over several days. 

What Questions to Ask

Start simple and consider carefully what you want to know. Think about how to craft a question so that you get a detailed and clear answer. Don't just ask questions for the sake of it. 

Consider questions relating to how they are feeling about their current training. These are useful to get a sense of how they are feeling right now. Perhaps their answers might show a need for their training programmes to be adjusted, while access to equipment is limited.

Some clients see the role of their personal trainer as a motivator to keep them accountable, and perhaps some of their eagerness to get back to the gym is being felt as a lack of structure and accountability in what they are currently doing. It may be an opportunity to coach them through some self-reliance strategies.

Regarding their fitness future, you can ask if they want to return to the gym as soon as possible or wait. Questions about their expectations of gym owners and trainers in making the environment safe to train can give you a clear idea of what changes you may need to introduce once gyms can re-open.

Keep surveys short and to the point - it should take no more than 5 minutes to complete. Asking a mix of closed questions (where the answers are suggested and limited) and more open questions which invite a discussion is most useful.

What to Do With The Information

Look for similarities in what your clients are saying and the problems they feel like they are having. There could be a chance here to serve your clients' needs better even before the lockdown is lifted.

In preparing for the re-opening of gyms, whenever that will be, making sure that you bring back as many of your clients as possible will be crucial to your business. You can do this by communicating with them about their needs regularly - and being responsible and proactive with what they tell you. 

When you can express that you care by listening to their concerns, ideas and requests, you will have a better chance to keep them engaged so they will return working with you once life can get back to a new standard of normal.