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How to Create a Cancellation Policy for Personal Training
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As a personal trainer, the last thing you want is for your clients to cancel. The whole reason you got into this field was to help others reach their fitness goals. That’s pretty hard to do when they don’t appear at their scheduled personal training session.
Yet, if you don’t already have a dedicated cancellation policy, you could really be hurting your business. Why is this one policy so important in personal training?
Why You Need a Cancellation Policy as a Personal Trainer
First and foremost, having this policy helps protect your fitness business. It clearly defines what you will and won’t do if clients no longer want your services. This reduces any potential issues. Issues that could potentially wind up with you paying hefty fines.
In 2012, L.A. Fitness was hit with a class-action lawsuit over its handling of cancellations. Specifically, after clients supplied a Notice of Cancellation, they were charged an additional monthly fee. In the end, L.A. Fitness agreed to pay $3.8 million to these members, along with writing a check for an extra $200,000 in attorney fees and a few other charges.
Think about what type of damage this type of lawsuit could do to your personal training business. Not only could it hurt you financially, but it can tarnish your reputation as well. The clearer you are about what clients can expect should they cancel their membership or appointment, the less leverage they have inside the courtroom.
A cancellation policy also helps protect your relationship with your client. It tells them exactly what to expect from you should they decide to cancel a scheduled session or rescind their membership agreement. This reduces the likelihood of hurt feelings because you’ve already said upfront what will happen in that type of situation.
A cancellation policy also creates a template for how you will treat your clients when they either don’t show up or want a refund. You can’t be accused of handling their cancellation differently than you did for another person. Each personal training client is treated the same.
Membership Cancellation vs Cancelled Session
When deciding how you will treat a client cancellation, it’s important to consider your fee structure. Your response will look differently if they are canceling a membership versus if they want to cancel an individual session.
If you charge clients membership dues for your services, your cancellation policy needs to address how much money they’ll get back, if any. It should clearly state what happens if they pay by the month and what happens if they paid an annual fee.
It’s also important to clearly state what happens to unused sessions. If they’ve already paid for the month, do you keep training them? Another option is to prorate the days. This allows clients to stop their training immediately and get a portion of their dues returned.
With a membership fee structure, you could also consider allowing them a freeze period versus outright cancellation of their contract. Sometimes life happens. Work gets busy or family needs more of your time. Offering a freeze would enable clients to keep training with you once their life slows down a bit.
Conversely, if you charge by the session, what happens when a client can’t show up? What if it’s a small group training session? How will you handle this type of cancellation? Decide in advance how you are going to respond when a purchased session or membership is canceled.
Addressing Late Cancellation
Part of addressing cancellation requires that you create a refund policy for late cancellations. For example, what is your refund policy if a client calls 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment and says they won’t be showing up?
While you may want to be somewhat flexible for your clients, late cancellation means that you may not have the ability to fill that time slot. Get too many last-minute openings in your schedule and it can really hurt your personal trainer income.
It’s also necessary to predetermine your response if clients do provide adequate notice. This could include allowing them to make up the missed session. If a number of sessions must be missed, such as due to a surgery or illness, it might include extending their contract.
How to Create a Cancellation Policy for Personal Training Clients
A cancellation form should be part of your training package contract. Plan to discuss it with your clients at their first training session, before you even do the fitness assessment.
A comprehensive cancellation policy includes:
- Instructions about how to contact you or the gym if cancellation is necessary. If they are to call, such as when canceling an individual session, provide the phone number. If they are canceling a membership, is written notice required? When requiring a written cancellation, include the address they are to mail it to or drop it off at.
- Provide time requirements for cancellation. How much advanced notice do you require if they want to avoid being charged on their credit card or billed the fee? A typical fitness program contract calls for 24 hours notice if the session will be missed. If a 24-hour notice is not provided, a cancellation fee is charged. This helps offset income lost due to being unable to find a new client in time. Spell this out clearly.
- State what happens if they show up late to an appointment. It may not be a big deal for a personal training client to be a few minutes late from time to time. But if they show up 30 minutes into their scheduled training session, this could be a problem. Especially if it becomes a pattern. That’s why it’s helpful to include a section in your cancellation policy that addresses being late or tardy. Will their session be shortened, yet they will still be charged the full rate? Tell them this in advance. Knowing that they still have to pay may even help reduce your cancellations.
- Address unused sessions upon membership expiration. Technically, having leftover sessions when a membership expires is a form of cancellation. Therefore, if you offer any type of membership package, it’s important to say what happens with those sessions. Typically, they are forfeited without refund. Again, the more clear you are on this, the less your client can object because they were informed upfront.
Review the cancellation policy section by section to ensure that your client understands. Taking this approach also offers them the opportunity to ask any questions or clear up any misunderstandings.
To solidify your policy, ask them to initial next to each section and then sign the form on the bottom. This way, if your client were to ever decide to take you to court, this helps reinforce that you reviewed your policy with them in great detail. Them signing it also supports the fact that they understood the policy and agreed to abide by its terms.
In the end, a cancellation policy is just one more form of protection for your personal training business. What else can you do to better protect your growing fitness empire? The ISSA’s Personal Trainer Certification course provides guidance in this area. Topics covered include scope of responsibility, liability, release forms, and more.
Certified Personal Trainer
The Certified Fitness Trainer program is designed to equip graduates with the practical day-to-day skills necessary, as well as the theoretical knowledge needed to excel as a personal trainer serving the general public. Along with the necessary exercise science foundation, the distance education program covers client assessment, program design, basic nutrition, and sports medicine along with business and marketing skills.