As personal trainers, it is your responsibility to monitor research, industry trends, client satisfaction, business best practices, new equipment, and variations of exercises and exercise technique. There are several information-gathering options available. While it might seem easiest to set up an electronic survey, it is not very personalized and does not reflect the “personal” in personal training. Since personal training is a service business, it is not only good business practice to ask clients what matters to them, it is good client relations. Here are three ways you can get meaningful information from clients, potential clients, referral sources and colleagues.
While surveys are not always the most inclusive or accurate method of determining need, information can be gleaned that may be useful. General industry surveys, such as the American College of Sports Medicine Fitness Industry Top 20 Trends is released every year. This gives personal trainers general information regarding the types of activities in which their clients may be engaging but is not personal-training specific so does not share what clients are primarily looking for (of course, this is should be a client-specific question that personal trainers ask on a regular basis). Trends are what personal trainers help to create, not follow. The biggest trend is not a trend at all—delivering high quality personal training to clients that meet their needs to improve their quality of life by helping them reach their goals.
Direct surveys can be administered within your studio or gym that may provide answers to specific questions. For example, if you are considering a group training programming change, put out a one-question survey asking if clients would be interested in the type of session you are thinking of adding, what time would be convenient, if they know anyone else who may be interested, and leave an open-ended space for other thoughts regarding the type of group exercise that clients may find of interest.
What better way to gather information than by asking someone point blank? Well, unfortunately, sometimes people tell you what they think you want to hear rather than what you need to hear. The way the interview is framed may help provide you with accurate information. Remember to ask open-ended questions. Do you ask for clients’ expertise, or their opinion? Many clients have hired personal trainers in the past and are happy to share their experiences which may help you gain information on what you need to brush up on (and what you do well). Interviewing potential referral sources is also a good idea so that you can gather key information on what referral assistance they are looking for, in what context they are referring clients within or outside their facility, and what level of knowledge/expertise you need in order to increase referrals from them.
An often-overlooked method of gathering information is by having routine conversations with colleagues, such as time spent with colleagues at conferences discussing needs and experiences within the industry. Conversations can help you learn what hot trends are up and coming in the industry, where knowledge gaps lie, and how you can fill those gaps. Never underestimate the valuable resource colleagues can be in helping you get where you want to go.
While it is important to ask the right people the right questions to identify what you are looking to learn, sometimes you find surprising results! Keep your eyes open to all the information you receive (positive and negative) and use it to your professional advantage.