Have you ever been called out by a client? I was years ago and my priorities changed in an instant.
I had always prided myself on knowing that I was focused on the client and their life, their goals. Their needs were number-one in my heart and business when we were in session. But one day forever changed the way I do business.

I had been training a valued, long-time client. She is a delightful woman, energetic, intelligent and very caring. A prominent member of society, she is very well-thought-of by influential people.

It was a rest period, and she asked me for a towel. I was bending over, picking up a step. I acknowledged her desire for a towel while I was, in my opinion, clearing the area for the next moves in the interest of her safety and space. Fifteen seconds it took, and then I went to get the towel. As I handed her the towel, she shoved it back in my chest, saying, "I wanted it when I asked for it!" and walked out.

Those words cut me to the quick with disbelief and confusion. I felt totally justified in taking 15 seconds to clear the gym floor before getting the towel. Fifteen seconds!

Remember Sir Issac Newton's Third Law of Motion: every action has an equal and opposite reaction? Where do you think my business would be today if I had become reactive instead of proactive? If I had tried to explain myself, dismiss her words or dish it right back, would she have come back? Who would she have shared that with?

That day, as I heard those stinging words from my valued client's lips, I instantly realized that different people have different focus, different definitions, different perceptions and different priorities of the same event or circumstances.

I chose to change the way I ran my fitness business and redefined how I focus on my clients. Actions do speak louder than words. My philosophy since that day is they want it when they want it. And I give it to them. That is what they pay me for, and that is what I will always deliver.

She called me later that day to apologize, calling it an "heiress moment." She was used to getting things when she wanted them, the way she wanted them. I share this story with her permission, and she is still my valued client with whom I have a wonderful working relationship.

Whether your client is actually a princess or not, each client deserves to be given what they want, when they ask for it. That’s what they pay you for, and that's how you retain clients. 
Greg Justice, MA, CPT, is the founder of AYC Health & Fitness (www.aycfit.com) and the Corporate Boot Camp System (www.corporatebootcampsystem.com). He has been actively involved in the fitness industry for more than a quarter of a century as a club manager, owner, personal trainer and corporate wellness supervisor.