Clients cancel their appointments. It happens, but it doesn’t have to mean lost revenue and it doesn’t have to be upsetting for you or your clients. If you have an approach that is fair and you stick to it cancelations can easily be managed.
- Learn the 4 steps to sticking to your cancellation policy without upsetting your clients.
- Understand the alternative ways to work with clients who late cancel. Including written communication and when it is OK to waive the cancelation fee.
- Learn why continuing to provide excellent customer service (no matter what happens) when a client late cancels might just be the difference between keeping and losing a client.
In this article I will discuss the 4 steps we take to help avoid the majority of the issues that can come up when clients cancel after our 24 hour predefined cancellation deadline. I will also discuss if and when it is ever OK to waive the cancellation fee.
Step 1 – Set Your CSRs (Customer Service Reps) Up For Success
Whenever a CSR is setting an appointment, make sure he/she remind clients, “If for whatever reason you need to reschedule, please remember to give us at least a 24 hour notice. This allows us to schedule someone else into the time slot you will be missing”. Having your CSRs do this will regularly remind clients of the importance of advance notice and the value of your time. It will remind clients that you do in fact have a cancelation policy in place.
Step 2 – Review Cancellation Policy During The First Session
Reviewing your cancellation policy should be a part of your first session check list. All of your trainers should review your cancellation policy and its importance during the first session. Also, make sure that your cancellation policy is clearly stated and included in the documentation your clients sign when they first start working with you.
Step 3 – Work on Something for Your Client if They Short Notice Cancel
When someone calls and short notice cancels, we always ask “Is there anything specific that you would like your trainer to work on during that time?” That information is then relayed to the trainer who MUST use the time for the client since the client is paying for that time!
Step 4 – What to Do When a Client is Upset
- Make sure to listen to the client’s concern – show your client that you understand where they are coming from.
- Paraphrase & Empathize with the clients’ concern – this helps your client see that you are taking their concern seriously.
- After doing this it is Your Turn to Explain Your Policy -
- First, let your client know how much you appreciate them as a client and that you would never want to do anything to upset them so much that they didn’t want to train with you anymore.
- Then ask questions to make sure they were aware of the cancellation policy etc.
- “Did/Do you understand our cancellation policy?”
- “Did you know that we thought about having a 48 hour cancellation policy but decided on a 24 hour policy to better meet our customers’ needs? However, in order to make the 24 hour policy work and maintain our viability as a business, we must remain firm when it comes to not waiving our cancellation fee for any reason. If we didn’t stand by our 24 hour cancellation policy we would lose 25-40% of our revenues each week due to cancellations.”
- “Can you see how it is really difficult to decide which client’s cancellation fee should be waived and which shouldn’t? For example – we shouldn’t charge when the client is sick but should charge when the client’s kid is sick. We can’t be the judge of these situations so we hold to our policy, but of course we will always do something for you during the time you have to cancel. That way we will be even more ready for you the next time you come in! What would you like us to work on for you?”
- “Is there anything that we could do better for you when you do have to short notice cancel so you feel you still get value from the time?”
- Hopefully, by this point your client feels like they’ve been listened to, that you understand his/her concerns and your client better understands your situation. You can finish the conversation by again stating how much you appreciate them as a client and will continue to do whatever you can to take care of them and ensure they are getting fabulous results.
This approach normally does the trick. We receive the 24 hour notice we need to run a successful business and our clients understand why we must stick to our policy.
Those steps work almost 100% of the time for us, but there is always the exception to the rule. Some clients’ needs and some situations just can’t be resolved this way. So…if all else fails and you don’t want to lose a client over a cancellation dispute…Try:
- Using Written Information:
Sometimes you are not able to speak with a client about their situation or your client feels more comfortable expressing their concerns over email. In that case, go ahead and send them a copy of your cancellation policy and rational behind your cancellation policy (discussed above). Also include an email/letter that explains that you need to stick to your cancellation policy in order to be fair to all clients (how do you decide if one reason for a cancellation is better than another?), to keep clients accountable to their fitness programs and ensure that you won’t lose 25 -40% of revenues. When you are writing this type of email/letter be sure to do it in a kind way by paraphrasing your client’s concerns and empathizing with them.
- Is it Ever OK To Waive The Cancellation Fee?
If you have made every attempt to resolve the solution but the client is still unhappy and based on the circumstances, you can choose to waive the fee in order to not lose the client. Make sure to let the client know that you are sorry that they are upset, that it is difficult to enforce a tough policy that is fair for everyone and that you understand their point of few and let them know that you will waive the cancellation fee.
- Inform Management:
Trainers and CSRs should know to email the owner/manager about what happened and why they made the final and difficult decision to go ahead and waive the cancellation fee.
Remember, we are here to encourage our clients to stick to their fitness program and we can’t do that if we are constantly losing revenues from cancellations. It is in everyone’s (yours and your clients) best interest to have a strict cancellation policy.
*IMPORTANT NOTE* If you have made the final decision to waive the fee, be sure not to do it with attitude. It is easy to get flustered and upset in these situations. But making your client feel like you are resenting waiving the fee doesn’t do anyone any good. Make sure to continue to provide amazing customer service and go over board to solidify the relationship with that client. Remember, each client feels justified in his/her perspective like you feel justified in your stance. You don’t want them to feel like you are upset with them or don’t appreciate their business or think they are a bad person because they’ve “made” you waive the fee.