LO3 of Unit 2 – Customer communication in a fitness organisation

Customer communication in a fitness organisation

Learning outcomes
By the end of this section, you will be able to:

3.1 Describe different types of communication techniques and when to use them

3.2 Describe how to adapt communication methods to meet the needs of different customers

3.3 Explain the importance of walking the gym floor

The different types of communication techniques and when to use them

What is Communication?

Communication is a two-way process involving the sending and receiving information such as news, ideas, opinions, beliefs, attitudes, instructions and even emotions. Relationships with organisations and individuals just cannot function or develop appropriately without effective communication.

Good communication means you can:

  • Transmit, receive messages and convey information clearly in a manner that is understood
  • Express opinions, ideas, and instructions
  • Deal with and resolve difficult and conflict situations
  • Adapt to new and different situations
  • Read other people’s behaviour
  • Compromise with others to reach an agreement
  • Understand how others interpret your words or behaviour
  • Listen to others without interrupting
  • Make people feel valued as individuals


The fitness industry is a relationship industry. To be effective and successful, get good at communicating with people. Employers want employees who can communicate to manage the customer experience. There are many ways to communicate effectively and through different mediums. However, there are three basic categories of communication into which all forms fit.

These are as follows:

  • Verbal – vocabulary, tone, pitch, tempo
  • Visual (Actions) – body language and physical demonstrations. Making regular eye contact with whom you are conversing can make the interaction more successful
  • Writing – email, texting, newsletter etc


When dealing with clients face-to-face, it is said that 57% of communication is via body language, which comprises eye contact, hand gestures, body movements and facial expressions. A further 36% of communication takes place through tonality, tone (pitch), tempo (speed), and volume of your words. Vocabulary accounts for 7% of communication.

Verbal communication – This includes spoken words from face-to-face delivery, telephone calls and other media platforms. However, verbal communication is more than just spoken words. The way you use words such as the pitch, speed and tone of your voice can also convey a mood or emotional state.

Non-verbal communication skills – Body language is an essential form of communication. The way you hold yourself and the shape you are in can significantly influence how clients and clients perceive you.

Non-verbal skills include how you sit and stand, eye contact, handshake, or facial expressions such as smiling and frowning. The skill is to become a good people watcher.

A simple quick-fire trick to develop instructor-client rapport is to match and mirror a client’s body language.


Pie Chart

For example, watch how clients sit:

  • Are they in an open position, or do they cross their legs and arms?
  • Does the client make eye contact?
  • Do they fidget?
  • Does the client smile?
  • What is the client’s posture?
  • Do they lean to one side, sit up straight or slouch?
  • Does the client nod or shake their head?
  • Does the client use hand gestures while they speak?
  • What are the client’s eye movements?
  • Finally, consider facial expressions such as frowning and smiling.

Instructors must be conscious of their body language too. Remember, clients will notice your body language, so be aware of the non-verbal messages you send to others.

Written communication includes letters, emails, social media posts, posters, forms, reports, books, magazines, the internet, and other written media. The written word is potent as a form of communication. Check spelling, punctuation and grammar and the overall tone of your email before sending it. A poorly worded email and the wrong tone causes frustration and potential for conflict.

Responding immediately with email communication when upset or emotionally charged is not a good idea. Write but do not send until you have calmed down and have re-read what you have written. You will likely amend the message when viewed in a more rational light, especially if the subject matter is sensitive to the receiver or risks further conflict. Aim to select a tone to de escalate a conflict situation. Email is never a suitable method of communication when experiencing immediate emotion such as anger and frustration.

How to be an exceptional communicator?

Communicating involves not only speaking well but also ‘actively’ listening well. By actively listening, you can elicit more information from clients.

Become an active listener – Listen intently to what someone is saying and look them in the eye (do not stare). You can let the person know you have heard them by repeating keywords or phrases (known as paraphrasing) and formulating an action plan or by nodding.

Use the tools in the following list:

  • Concentrate on what the person is saying
  • Listen for content and emotion to understand the entire message.
  • Reinforce what the client is saying with verbal feedback to confirm your understanding of the message.
  • Allow clients to talk and do not interrupt.
  • Keep your tone sincere and non-judgmental when you listen.
  • Use hand gestures to emphasise key points.
  • Be consistent, direct, and honest with people.
  • Eye contact will engage your listeners when you talk but do not stare; it will make the listener feel uncomfortable.
  • Body posture is important, be open and upright or match and mirror the client.
  • Avoid speech fillers, such as ‘um’ and ‘okay’.
  • Provide feedback during the consultation.
  • Allow the client to finish.
  • Summarise what the client has said.


Devote a portion of your day towards written communication, such as replying to emails and posts and messages on social media.

Become aware of your body language:

  • Posture – standing tall with shoulders back
  • Eye contact – solid with a ‘smiling’ face (relax your jaw)
  • Gestures with hands and arms – purposeful and deliberate (no crossed arms)
  • Speech – slow and clear
  • The tone of voice – moderate to low

Asking the right questions allows you to gather better information and learn more about a client; thus, building stronger relationships. Some standard questioning techniques include:

Open questions – used to elicit longer answers and good for finding out more detail and opening a conversation. Open questions usually begin with what, why, how, tell me and describe.

Here are some examples:

  • What are your expectations?
  • Why do you want to start an exercise programme?
  • How was the session? Tell me what experience you have of free weight training
  • Describe to me in more detail

Closed questions – Single word answers like ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or short factual answers like your ‘name’ or ‘place of birth’.

Some examples include:

  • Are you tired today?
  • What is your name?
  • What is your nationality?
  • Where do you live?
  • So, you want to lose one stone in weight, is that correct?

Funnel questions are used to gain further information, interest, and confidence in your speaking person. Question technique follows the general to specific rule when greater detail is required in an area, eventually homing in on the main point.

Here is an example:

Fitness instructor: “Have you ever been to a gym before?”

Member: “Yes”

Fitness instructor: “What sort of gym exercises have you tried?”

Member: “Spinning and gym.”

Fitness instructor: “What sort of gym exercises have you tried?”

Member: “Machines and some free weights.”

Fitness instructor: “Have you tried squatting?”

Member: “Yes, but it hurt my knees.”

Fitness instructor: “Squatting is a great exercise, but it does depend on how you perform them, so let’s take a look at your technique – are you okay with that?”

Member: “Okay”

Leading questions are a type of closed question used to lead the person around your way of thinking. They often involve phrasing questions, so the most straightforward response is ‘yes. For example, “I think free weight training is better, wouldn’t you agree?” However, avoid placing personal bias upon clients as they must decide for themselves. A good example to avoid leading questioning methods is when establishing client SMART goals and outcomes.

Good communication skills are fundamental for a successful organisation. Good communicators are also good at listening and know when to let the other person speak. It is no good repeating ineffective messages as it wastes time, causing recipients much frustration.

Handling customer complaints

Organisations inevitably receive complaints if services offered do not meet the needs and expectations of their customers. It’s all too easy to view complaints negatively; however, well-managed complaints can benefit businesses. Complaints provide opportunities to build solid and lasting relationships with customers while also acknowledging areas to improve service.


It is important to remember that receiving customer complaints gives the organisation valuable information about how they need to improve their service or product. Your response and solution, therefore, determine the outcome and impact of a complaint. A poorly handled complaint can result in a loss of trust in you, or the organisation and customers will go elsewhere and encourage others to do the same. For every problem, there is always a solution.

Key Point – Customer Complaints

  • Perceived or actual poor customer service and the perceived indifference of staff and management account for about 68% of customers who do not return to a business.
  • If you cannot resolve a complaint on the spot, tell the customer what will happen next and when.

How to manage complaint

When managing complaints, follow the CARES acronym:

C- Communication

Listen actively to the customer’s complaint and try to understand why their expectations have not been met. Ask questions to clarify and summarise the main points of the customer’s complaint, then clearly communicate the process and set expectations. If the customer is agitated or aggressive, remain calm and courteous with conversation and discuss the fastest way to resolve their issue. Nothing is gained by becoming defensive.

A – Accountability

Customer complaints may have nothing to do with your area or department; however, as a face in an organisation, take ownership of the customer’s complaint by telling them how you intend to handle it. Make sure you do follow up with an investigation and inform the customer of any further action. For example, a customer has a complaint about hygiene in the spinning room. Determine the facts and a solution.

R – Responsiveness

Please respond to complaints quickly because customers want to know that you or the organisation cares about them. The best method is to act quickly, exceeding the customer’s expectations. A record of all customer complaints from the initial problem to the eventual solution should ideally be recorded and logged for future reference. There is nothing worse than not having facts about complaints. Keeping records allows you or the organisation to recognise any trends in complaints.

E – Empathy

Always try to speak to the customer in person and thank the customer for raising the complaint. Acknowledge the customer’s complaint by understanding how it impacts the customer’s experience. Be polite and courteous, treating the customer with genuine empathy.

S – Solution

For every complaint, there is a solution. The importance of keeping the customer updated on progress is often neglected. It would be best if you acted quickly on promises; inform the customer when an action is completed and how you or the organisation will prevent the issue from happening again.

Your customers should think that your company CARES.


The aim of any consulting with clients is to encourage clients to engage in regular exercise. More importantly, make exercise a long-term habit. Fitness instructors, therefore, must become exceptional communicators to build professional relationships with their clients.

Building solid relationships with members, colleagues, and managers is part of being professional and is essential to get on in your careers. Knowing how and when to communicate effectively with people avoids unintentionally situations whereby others perceive your communication as unfavourable or gives rise to a conflict situation.

  • It is inevitable an organisation will receive complaints if the service it offers does not meet the needs and expectations of its customers.
  • Receiving customer complaints gives you valuable information about how to improve your service or product. Your response and the solution determine the outcome and impact of a complaint.
  • When managing complaints, follow the CARES acronym.

The importance of walking the gym floor

A core value for any fitness business is delivering exceptional client service. One way you can differentiate yourself from the competition is to become adept at forming client-centred solid relationships. Walking the gym floor allows the fitness instructor to CONNECT with members of the facility and build a sense of belonging. To connect is to establish a rapport or relationship with the gym members.

The word ‘relationship’ means ‘how two or more people or things are connected. Developing professional relationships with gym members (and your work colleagues) is an essential aspect of becoming a successful fitness instructor and having a long career. Relationships with staff and customers form the bedrock of any successful business or organisation.

Developing effective relationships has several benefits:

  • It will improve your reputation and standing within an organisation
  • It will increase the number of clients and bookings
  • Clients and individuals will be more likely to recommend you to colleagues
  • It will help gym members adhere to their goals, training plan and help with changes in their health-related behaviours.

Fitness Instructors are the focal point within the facility, as they tend more to talk to members of the public and offer advice and assistance, depending on the facility in which they work. Whilst walking the gym floor, instructors may show people how to use certain pieces of equipment and create a basic programme based on the person’s goals. If qualified, they may also cover certain group exercise classes.

Alongside this, the role of a Fitness Instructor whilst walking the gym floor can also involve carrying out risk assessment duties and report any safety hazards and unsafe practices to the management team., assist customers in safe exercising and proper body alignment. Report any safety hazards, and unsafe practices to management prompt are required to clean equipment within the gym.

Walking the gym floor allows the fitness instructor to communicate and listen to customer feedback, complaints, and questions promptly and professionally. Instructors can refer customers to in-house fitness professionals, including Spa Therapists, Exercise Physiologists, and Health Professionals when needed, provide excellent customer services according to company standards.

How to engage with members on the gym floor

  • Start conversations by asking questions – open-ended questioning is the method to ignite conversation. Questions can be general or even non-topic related. Newly qualified trainers may want to prepare a list of questions to use to start conversations with members. Preparation removes the anxiety out of that initial conversation and member engagement.
  • Find out who you are talking to, asking a compelling question to find out more about the member; people love to talk about themselves most of the time! This knowledge of who the person is, what drives them, and heading in life is particularly useful when building rapport.
  • Listen more than you talk – as a knowledgeable professional, it’s easy to get carried away and lecture anybody prepared to listen about health and fitness. Good trainers let their clients do the talking using open questions to keep the conversation flowing.
  • Remembering people’s names and stories – to sustain a repeated bout of interactions, you need to try to remember people’s names. This simple thing can help to increase the chance of the development of rapport with individuals. As I am sure you have heard before, ‘people buy off those they know, like or trust’. By encouraging repeated interactions, you will allow people to get to know you!
  • Continue learning and improving on performance and practise– you must keep honing and developing your communication skills. But keep in mind the critical factors above as a starting point.

It is a way of letting them know that their presence is noticed. Like nodding your head to say, “I appreciate you being here, and I’m going to look for you next time.”