It happens all too frequently that a client cancels on you minutes before their scheduled appointment. Unless you’re able to schedule a replacement within often very short notice, you can say goodbye to a whole hour’s worth of income. If this happens a few times a week – which inevitably it will at some point – will your business survive the swing?
This is exactly why every personal trainer needs a good cancellation policy in place. This is one of the most important tools in running an effective and profitable personal training business.
Cancelled Sessions Equal Lost Revenue
Most clients hire you to hold them accountable as they typically will not enjoy exercise in the same way that you do. Although they’ve hired you for that very reason, don’t be surprised when clients start finding every excuse under the sun to avoid their workout.
Many personal trainers avoid cancellation policies out of fear of upsetting their clients. They worry that being too rigid will result in lost business and fewer clients.
Without a proper cancellation policy, cancelled sessions mean you’re not making any money.
When clients are disrespectful of your time, it not only damages the client-trainer relationship, but it also hurts your bank account. These situations will leave you frustrated and struggling to make ends meet.
Even if you want to be BFFs with your clients, you have to remember that you are running a business and this is your livelihood we’re talking about. The unfortunate reality is that your business won’t be around for very long if you aren’t implementing this proven practice.
It’s Time To Get Serious About Your Business
Let your clients know up front that you have a strict cancellation policy with specific requirements. This way, you’re setting the right expectations so that there will be no surprises when they have to cancel or reschedule.
In fact, the cancellation policy should go both ways. If you’re unable to make a session, you should always offer to comp their next session.
Inform your clients in the first session – the consultation. As soon as they are enrolled, give them with a written copy of the policy and also post it somewhere visible on your website. A good practice is to add the cancellation policy to the physical activity readiness questionnaire, which should be completed before their first training session.
Don’t be afraid to enforce your cancellation policy. The policy is in place for a reason, after all. If a clients is unable to respect your time and appreciate the fact that you are making a living from your personal training services, you might want to ask yourself if you should continue working with them anyway.
What’s In A Cancellation Policy?
My recommendation, and the most commonly used method, is a 24 hour cancellation policy.
The vast majority of cancellations can be handled well in advance of 24 hours. However, for any client cancellations that fall within the 24 hour window, you should still require payment in full for the missed session.
And, as mentioned earlier, if you need to cancel within 24 hours you should offer the client their next session free of charge. A free session might be tough to swallow, but it proves that you’re dedicated to their success much in the same way the should be committed to working with you.
If you must cancel and it’s outside of the 24 hour window, you can simply reschedule according to their availability. In these instances, you would ideally reschedule that same week to maintain a steady flow of income.
When a client does cancel without sufficient notice, then it’s best to spend that time productively. If you have some extra time, you could squeeze in a workout or a meal, but since the client is still technically paying you for this time, I recommend spending that time researching or preparing for their next appointment.
As a personal trainer, you should always strive to add value to their program, even if they aren’t there with you. Your clients will thank you for using that extra time to their benefit, instead of simply browsing Facebook or Twitter on their dime.
Exceptions To The Rule
In my opinion, it’s usually worth offering each client a one-time exception to the cancellation policy. This not only serves as a reminder to your clients that it is important to stick to their commitment, but it also shows that your policy is reasonable and fair.
While you should allow a single exception, you should also consider other cases that are sensitive or forgivable scenarios. For example, a medical emergency is a sensitive topic and you may want to consider waiving the cancellation fee.
Beware of clients that continually cancel and abuse your cancellation policy. A cancellation represents an opportunity cost where you could have been working with another client, but the time was originally blocked. You will need to make the difficult decision of whether or not to “fire” the client and find someone who is a better fit. Besides, they probably won’t be seeing results and may end up leaving you anyway.
Greater Success With A Cancellation Policy
If you want to ensure a stable income, financial success and accountability, a solid cancellation policy is critical to your business. While not every scheduling conflict can be foreseen in advance, with enough advanced notice, you should be able to plan so that you don’t have any large, unproductive (and unpaid!) gaps in your schedule.
Do you have a cancellation policy? If so, how much notice do you request from your clients and how has it benefited your business?