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WHEN A CLIENT QUITS: THE POWER OF THE EXIT INTERVIEW.

When Madlab School of Fitness first started in 2005—then known as CrossFit Vancouver—owner Craig 'Patty' Patterson, who was mentored by the founder of CrossFit Greg Glassman—put all new clients through personal training sessions.

Eventually, when he had enough clients, he started pooling them together into small groups, just like Glassman did, but before they joined a group, they started off by doing ten personal training sessions.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and pretty soon, CrossFit Vancouver started doing it just like everyone else in the industry: rushing people to group classes before they were properly trained up in an individualized environment. 

The result was devastating on both Patty and his clients: He went from bringing in $8,000 to $9,000 a month from his book of 35 clients to watching 100 clients come and go over the course of half a year, and ultimately finding himself in serious debt in the process. 

Confused at the time as to why this was happening, as to why clients were leaving so quickly, Patty introduced what has now become a staple in the Madlab community: the exit interview.

Basically, he started sitting down, sometimes over a coffee, other times over a beer or going for a walk in the park, and asking them the same three questions:

How did I fail you?
Where can I improve?
Is there anything else you would like to share with me, no matter how uncomfortable or painful it might be?

After doing about five or six of those "gut-wrenching interviews," as he called them, a clear picture emerged. 

The feedback was: People weren't getting enough individual coaching. 

"Why don't we do more one-on-one stuff?" they asked. 
"People in group classes don't know what they're doing," they said. 
"The more new people in a class, the more attention they get, while the older, experienced clients get no energy or attention from the coach at all," they insisted.

Ultimately, the clients' feedback helped shape Madlab into what it is today: A coaching service where each client receives some degree of individualized coaching that considers their unique needs and goals. 

Though the Madlab system has grown considerably since 2007 when Patty began the exit interviews—and we pride ourselves on our high client retention rates today—people will still leave for one reason or another. The exit interview continues to provide insights into how we can make things better for our clients in the future. 

As the saying goes, if you're not open and willing to evolve, if you're stagnant and unwilling to change as the market changes (which it has considerably in the last 15 years), you're inevitably going to fall behind.

And the exit interview is a perfect opportunity to expose what you need to do to continually improve your service. 

Give it a try. When someone quits, ask them for five minutes of their time, on the phone, via Zoom or in-person:

How did I fail you?
Where can I improve?
Is there anything else you would like to share with me, no matter how uncomfortable or painful it might be?

You'd be surprised how much you can learn from them.

- Emily Beers

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