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Smart Cancellation Policies

Training for Growth
By Sherri McMillan, MSc, and Alex McMillan

Smart Cancellation Policies
Establishing fair and consistent cancellation procedures is essential for business success. We’ve all been there. Your favorite client cancels 2 hours before her session because “something came up at work.” You say, “No problem”–after all, you don’t want to lose her business. The next day, another client simply doesn’t show up for his session. Then a few more clients call to say they aren’t feeling well. At the beginning of the week, you had a 35-hour client load. By Saturday, you had actually serviced only 28 clients. Assuming a $60per-session price, those cancellations represent a loss of $420. Personal training businesses that do not have a solid cancellation policy are simply not as successful as they could be. According to Matt Church, author of Mastering Personal Fitness Training, “Operating without cancellation policies . . . costs the business money. It is a hard line to walk between being friendly and enforcing hard-nosed business rules, but you have to do it. One way is to have a written policy that you run through with clients before they start training. Nothing, however, beats the most important rule: Don’t ever let your clients cancel. The day you are glad a client cancels is the day you are doing too much.” Susan Cantwell, author of Policies That Work for Personal Trainers, emphasizes that requiring a 24-hour cancellation notice not only has business benefits for the trainer but also reinforces the importance of consistency in the client’s training. Establishing a solid cancellation policy starts with a detailed plan.
2. If rescheduling is not possible at the

Set the Rules Up-Front
At Northwest Personal Training & Fitness Education, every new client is asked to sign a copy of our client agreement, which clearly outlines our cancellation policy. Then we provide regular reminders. When a new client books the first session, complimentary or not, we remind him of the importance of our cancellation policy. The reminder goes like this: “If you have to reschedule your session, for whatever reason, please provide us with 48 hours’ notice so we can book someone else into your time slot.” When the client comes in for the session, we again remind him of the importance of abiding by our policy. If a client gives signs of becoming a chronic canceler, we present her with a copy of our cancellation letter as a reminder. (See “Sample Cancellation Policy Letter” on the next page.)

time of cancellation, the CSR immediately records the cancellation on the computer and in the client’s file. 3. The CSR informs the trainer of the cancellation. Here’s how the conversation between the CSR and the client may go:
Sally: I can’t make it to my session today. CSR: No problem, Sally. Is everything

okay? Who is your trainer, and what time was your session? Would you like me to tell your trainer why you need to cancel? Is there another time today that would work better for you? I could put you with another trainer. Sally: No, I can’t do it today. CSR: Okay, I’ll let your trainer know and make a note in your file. Do you have your next appointment scheduled? Sally: Yes, on Friday. CSR: Great! We look forward to seeing you Friday. Take care. Then the CSR informs the trainer of the cancellation. A trainer who wants to waive the cost of the canceled session must discuss this decision with the customer service manager. If the charge is waived, the trainer gets paid the administrative wage, which is lower than the training wage. A trainer who decides to charge the client gets paid the regular training wage and uses the client’s scheduled time to work on something for that client. This is key. Since the client is paying for the ses-

When a Cancellation Occurs
A client who cancels with more than 48 hours’ notice is not charged for the missed session. When a client cancels on short notice, we take the following steps: 1. Our customer service rep (CSR) attempts to get the client to reschedule that very day with the same trainer or another one, which avoids any extra charge.

Se p t e m b e r 2 0 0 5 ID E A Tr a i n e r S u c c e ss

sion, the time must be used for that client. The CSR is not the one to discuss a charge for the missed session with the client. Since the client and trainer have a long-term relationship, the trainer is in a better position to discuss the issue. In the next session, the trainer can handle the situation in the following way:
Alex: Sally, it is great to see you. Did you

get everything done that you needed to last Monday? Sally: Yeah, it was such a crazy day. Alex: Did you work out on your own to make up for the lost session? Sally: Yes, I did, and it felt great. Alex: Good. Last week while you were away, I took your scheduled hour to put together some great information on maximizing fat loss. Take it home and read it, and then I can answer any questions for you later. At the end of the session, the client signs in for two sessions instead of one.

with clients who have never abused the scheduling procedures. But everyone in the personal training business must understand that a cancellation policy is there for two reasons: the financial success of the business and the adherence of the client. The more lenient you are with a cancellation policy, the easier it is for clients to skip workouts, which will negatively affect their progress. Implementing a step-by-step policy ensures that clients thoroughly understand the procedures–and prevents any uncomfortable situations.
Alex McMillan and Sherri McMillan, MSc, are owners of Northwest Personal Training & Fitness Education in Vancouver, Washington. They have been in the fitness industry for more than 16 years and have written numerous articles and presented hundreds of workshops internationally. Sherri, who was the 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and the 1998 Can-Fit-Pro Presenter of the Year, has also authored three books. Contact Sherri and Alex at www.nwpersonaltraining.com.


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Sherri McMillan, MS

Sherri McMillan, MSc, has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for 30 years, and has received numerous industry awards, including the 2010 canfitpro International Fitness Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and 1998 canfitpro Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is an international fitness presenter, personal trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals, including Go For Fit: The Winning Way to Fat Loss, Fit Over Forty, and The Successful Trainers Guide to Marketing, and a featured presenter in various fitness DVDs.

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