Published in the “Tricks of the Trade” column of the February 2013 IDEA Fitness Journal.
I really think this is the wrong question. A better question would be “What steps can be taken to head off irreconcilable differences in a trainer /client relationship?” I will address both.
Firing clients should rarely happen. Generally, if you are to the point where you feel you must discontinue the relationship, the client does also and will self-select out. In 28 years, we have worked with thousands and only fired a small number of clients. When we have, it has been because the client was disrespectful to the trainer or disrespecting policies that had been made abundantly clear.
When firing a client, I always use the same language, explaining that “I don’t think we are a good fit for one another” in a private setting and unemotional way. I make little effort to ensure the client understands my reasoning…it doesn’t matter. If the client is enough of a problem to warrant this kind of action, they are generally going to disagree or worse…want to argue. Your sole objective must be to move on… not to convince them of how right you are or what their responsibility is.
At One on One, we go to great efforts to head off problems through proactive communication. In our initial consultation, we not only ask what the clients’ expectations are of us, but also share our expectations of them. One of those expectations is to read our Frequently Asked Questions. It is included in their Welcome Packet and outlines our policies and the rationale behind them. Clients know from day one what is expected and can make a decision to proceed or not proceed as they choose. Occasionally, they decide not to. That is OK…these are the people you often have trouble with! Additionally, you have insulated yourself from the client who wants to say “I didn’t know about this” or “I didn’t know about that”. The fact is that you have made everything crystal clear…and have the paper trail to prove it!
If you feel the need to fire clients on a regular basis, you probably should take a little time to review your own behavior and policies. Chances are that ego and poor communication are contributing to the problem.