Dealing with AWOL clients
Some percentage of your clients will go silent – we call them AWOL clients. It may seem awkward at first to send a message to clients who are non-responsive but it makes a big impact. Sending them gentle nudges each day will keep them around much longer, even if they're silent. What sometimes happens is people fall off the wagon (or fail to start) but then come back around days or weeks later when a coach keeps prodding.
Tip: You can use the Tools > Bulk Message feature to select all of your AWOL clients and then send the same message to all of them.
Below are some tactics for re-engaging AWOL clients:
All you're doing is reminding them that you're here to help. These don't show your value as a coach, but they do have the benefit of being easy to write and of being easy to repeat. Use these to fill in when you're not sure what to say.
- "How are you doing?"
- "What's going on? What can I do to help you back on track?"
- "Please check in with me when you can and let me know how things are going. Remember, I'm here to help!"
- "Happy Monday!"
- "Hope all is well!"
- Send some motivational quotes.
- "You may be wondering how I feel about you not responding. It's just part of coaching. When you're ready, I'm going to be thrilled to get back to working with you."
In any momentum methodology, for example BJ Fogg's Tiny Habits, the goal of a coach is to aggressively search for a tiny task that can be done successfully and repeatedly. Your AWOL client is not making any progress, so even tiny steps are an improvement.
- "I'm worried about you setting the bar too high and then not being able to check in on a daily basis. To be able to improve you need to be able to generate momentum. Here are some suggestions of things you could do today: <insert tiny steps>. Do any of those feel appropriate?" [Remember: when you give advice, it's important to check with your client on whether that advice was well received.]
- "I'd like to introduce you to a concept called Tiny Habits. It comes from BJ Fogg, a researcher at Stanford. The idea is to reduce your habit to the smallest possible step and then build on top of there. Essentially, he stresses consistency first. Would you be open to some suggestions about turning this goal into a Tiny Habit?"
- "When I first started coaching, the Coach.me founder gave a talk about what he called The Momentum Method. In order to get momentum, you need to find some place to start. Usually that first step can be very small, like <insert examples>. Do you have any ideas for generating momentum for yourself?"
Often, people fail simply for lack of planning. Some goals, like flying to space, require massive plans. Most client goals, however, require very simple plans. In order to go to the gym, you simply need to put time on your calendar. An excellent resource for training yourself in this concept is the book Thinking Fast and Slow (Here's a video summary).
- "What's your plan for the week?"
- "What days are you planning to check in this week?"
- "What time of day are you planning to check in today?"
- "The weekend can be a great time to get back on track. Do you want to set a goal to <insert goal name> at least once this weekend?"
- "What's been stopping you from checking in?"
- "What obstacles are you facing today?"
- "Do you have any questions that are holding you back? Do you need any resources?"
- For diet: "What could you eat for lunch that would be healthy and filling?"
- For get up early: "What time are you going to bed tonight?"
If you've had some interactions from your clients you can refer back to those. If not, you can share general insight that you've picked up as a coach.
- Insight: "You told me you have a tendency to start strong to lose momentum later. Is this what happens now? How can we break this cycle?"
- Expert info: "I came across this quote today while re-reading a section of David Allen's GTD and wanted to share it with you..."
- Links: "Have you read this article?" <Article Summary & Link>
Many AWOL clients are telling themselves that they need to succeed at the goal before they respond to you. That's an unnecessary block that you can overcome with humor or off-topic messages. Exercise restraint—you don't know the cultural sensitivities of your AWOL client so stick to mainstream and safe-for-work topics.
- "Did you see the dress meme today? What color did you think it was?"
"Don't even act like you don't want me to take it personally! I haven't slept for days worrying about you! It's been far too long since your last check in! Don't make me start a hunger fast."
Simple tips help the person visualize actually making progress.
- "Here's a tip to remember to do the goal. You can set reminders through Coach.me. There's an option in the coaching options (it's a gear looking icon on your check-in screen on the iPhone or three dots on Android and web)."
- "Some clients have more success if they tell a friend about the goal."
- "Visual cues can help - for example, put a reminder on your door."
- "Have you ever heard of anchor habits? The idea is to attach your habit to an pre-existing habit that you know you do reliably. When I get in the car (anchor) I will check that I've remembered my wallet."
- "How has your rest been? Good rest is needed when forming new habits."