Even personal trainers with a comprehensive cancellation policy, have had to deal with clients bailing on them at the last minute seemingly without any solid or legitimate reason, using a variety of excuses. And because you’re a “nice guy” who doesn't want to risk the wrath of his clients, you effortlessly let it go every time.
Now there's a time when it's OK to let it go, but the bills won’t just go away and if you continue allowing your clients cancel without payment, you may very well be heading for bankruptcy.
Late cancellations were one of the most burning issues personal trainers recently asked about in online fitpro communities like UK PTs, Fit Pros Unite and our own PT Business & Marketing Academy. Excuses typically included rough weather, family troubles with kids or overtime at work.
It's inspiring to see how trainers with different backgrounds, niche and target market address this problem and come up with solutions and ideas to help their clients stay more committed to their fitness goals.
While their methods and terms may be slightly different, these successful trainers agree on one thing: creating and enforcing a sound cancellation policy will help you set the right tone from the get go so your clients will know what to expect and what's expected of them.
When done right, it will drastically reduce the rate of client no shows and that, of course, translates into more paid hours and a “smiling” bank account.
The Law on Cancellation Policies for Personal Trainers
We were curious what the law says about the topic so we did some digging. In the US and the UK all businesses need to state their terms and conditions clearly on their website and at the premises, so clients can see them before making a purchase.
A "cooling off" period is available for purchases made outside of the business premises. E.g. if you sell online products or do in-home training, check the laws in your state or country. The Federal Law in the US gives three days to customers for purchases over $25. That can be different in certain states. In the UK customers have 14 days to change their minds in a similar scenario.
However, when it comes to single appointments, only the agreement you made with your personal training client counts and you should be able to prove that they have agreed to it should you be questioned for a charged session that didn't happen due to late cancellation or no show.
Here are 5 steps on how to set up and enforce a cancellation policy to keep your cashflow healthy and your clients happy.
Step 1. Have the Right Mindset
For you to do this with a clear conscience, you need to wrap your head around this fact: cancellation policy is an incentive, not a punishment! Think about it, if you had to pay the full charge for a service, whether or not you use it, wouldn’t you rather just … you know – use it?
Furthermore, your clients hired you as their personal trainer so that you can help them attain their fitness goal. If they start missing sessions, they won’t get anywhere near those goals.
Missing sessions without a legitimate reason isn’t just going to waste your very precious time, it will be a great disservice to your client as well.
Understanding that a good cancellation policy benefits both of you and will enable you to enforce your personal trainer cancellation policy, without looking like a jerk.
Step 2. Critical Ingredients of a Perfect Cancellation Policy
If your cancellation policy will be effective and easy to enforce, then the terms must be very clear! At the very least you need to clearly spell out the following:
Here is a sample personal trainer cancellation policy you can model:
I understand that (company name) operates on a scheduled hourly appointment basis for private training sessions. Therefore, when cancelling an appointment, I am required to provide MORE than 24-hour notice, for which no additional levy shall be incurred. However, if I cancel a session LESS than 24 hours to the scheduled time, I shall be charged in full for that training session, while my trainer will utilize that time in working on my fitness program. I understand that I’m entitled to a one-time cancellation fee waiver, whereby I can cancel a session in less than 24-hours, at no additional charge.
Should my personal trainer cancel a session with less than 24-hour prior notice, I shall be entitled to one free session upon rescheduling. I understand that the free session must be redeemed within 7 days of cancelling the previous one or shall be forfeited.
However, should my personal trainer cancel a session with MORE than 24-hour notice, I shall be entitled to no free session, but the training session shall be rescheduled within 7 days to ensure consistency and progress in my fitness program.
I have read and completely understand these terms:
And here's that same template in a non branded Word document for you to download:
There are 2 key features you should note in this cancellation policy:
Step 3. Clearly State Your Cancellation Policy from Start
Don’t gloss over the importance of talking about your cancellation policy with a client – it can literally make or break your business! Spell out the terms of your cancellation policy to new clients, right from the point of consultation.
Make sure they fully understand all the terms and consent to it before signing up to your services. Get them to sign an agreement if needed.
Step 4. Help Clients Remember
Some folks have so much on their minds that they can forget just about anything – including the day of the week, I am guilty of that myself sometimes!
You are better to account for such people in your systems and send out timely reminders to them. Use this opportunity to mention the cancellation policy. This way you will not only help them to keep track of their upcoming training sessions, but also make them understand what will happen if they don't make it.
Reminders may be automated using a client management or online training software or sent manually. Give them a buzz 24+ hours and ideally 2 hours prior to the session.
Step 5. Remember to Be Flexible
A good personal trainer cancellation prevents clients from bailing on you last minute when the terms have been agreed in advance, unless there is an emergency. But there are times when a little understanding goes a long way.
Clients usually appreciate they’re getting good value for their money, whether they’re physically present for the session or not. However, a free pass can be applied on certain occasions – especially for the really committed clients.
Some of the ideas that worked for personal trainers are
On a Final Note…
Remember, you are running a business yourself that needs to feed your own family and provide the quality of life you aspire to have. For you to succeed, you need to make money.
Creating a solid and strict cancellation policy is easy. Enforcing said policy is more of a challenge, but I guarantee you it will decrease the occurrence of last minute cancellations and no shows and help your clients understand the value of our services.
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