One Conscious Shift for Better Client Retention

In this week’s blog, I talk about the single shift I made in my sessions that boosted my client retention by a thousand percent, and made me happier too!

Maybe a thousand percent is an exaggeration, but it feels like it is so. To be honest, I haven’t actually done the hard math, but I know I haven’t had a client move off of my schedule since last fall unless they actually moved out of the state. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s backtrack to before then for some context.

I live and work in NYC, and I am lucky to work at a studio that has a lot of visibility and a lot of potential leads for new clientele. I was teaching a lot, and often had new clients to replace those who would leave me, but the hustle of always finding new clients was seriously burning me out. I spent a lot of time wondering if I was cut out for this work. I spent a lot of time stressing out about one client leaving, worrying if I could replace them in time to make up the lost income. The ebb and flow of the revolving door of clients coming in and buying 1 or 2 packages and then moving on to the next thing made me feel disconnected from my work, like a wasn’t making an impact, and left me wondering what I was doing wrong.

Why couldn’t I get these people to love Pilates and need it forever after one package? How come they weren’t “getting it”? Did I not have that “Pilates teacher magic” that made me and the rest of the die-hard Pilates lifers pledge allegiance to the United States of Uncle Joe?

And really, at the end of it all, it wasn’t because I was missing any “magic,” it was because I was missing the connection with my clients that would build their trust in me to help them create meaningful change in their bodies through the Pilates work. So how do you create connection? How do you get people to like you and open up to you?

Small talk. It started with small talk. Let me tell you- there is no talking in my Pilates sessions. I like to teach a focussed and detailed workout, and keep people moving for the whole hour. There is no time for small talk, and I know that at the end of the session, my clients are grateful for that. So I had to get strategic. And it was painful, because I am not good at small talk. I detest it, and really would rather not, and I am awkward and just not a cool cucumber about it AT ALL.

In order to boost my client retention from garbage to great, I had to make a conscious effort. I would start each session asking them the usual- how does their body feel, anything they want to focus on, etc. And at the end of the session, during clean-up, while they put their shoes on, I would ask them if they had fun plans for the weekend. Or if they were enjoying the unusually warm weather, or the current news cycle, or if they gave me something to work with at the beginning of the session, I would start with that. Anything.

With these small starting points, I would get to know my clients, and they would get to know me way faster than before. Our rapport would continue to grow, and each after-session chat would become more natural as personal details came out of the woodwork. A connection was developed which made every interaction during the sessions easier, and more beneficial to them. Once it became time for package renewal, it was a no brainer.

Some teachers might read this like “duh dummy,” and that’s ok. For those of us that are blessed with the people-person-small-talk gene, I hope that you are wielding that superpower to your advantage in your Pilates business. For everyone else, I hope that this small-talk strategy helps. I thought my client retention came down to only my quality of instruction, but taking an analytical look at the human element and using a strategy to develop a deeper connection with my clients boosted my confidence in the process and in my abilities. Icing on the cake? I learn new and interesting things about my clients everyday. We joke and laugh and have fun. I feel more comfortable and less awkward doing my job(winning over here), and the majority of my clients genuinely want to get to know me too (I have boundaries for what I share and how much, but another day, another blog post), which is great for the ego.

Do you have a small-talk strategy, or something else that you use to cultivate a connection with your clients? If not, try mine on for size and see how it goes. I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.