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How To Deal With Last Minute Cancellations as a Personal Trainer

Oct 26
How To Deal With Last Minute Cancellations as a Personal Trainer

One of the most frustrating aspects of running a personal training business, whether you are in a large commercial gym or running a home-based operation, is dealing with clients who cancel at the last minute. What makes this worse is when they reschedule the appointment and then cancel on you again. Although their cancellation may not be due to poor training or improper advice on your part, it is still quite disappointing as you not only planned out their entire workout, but your business suffers in terms of revenue generated as these missed appointments eat up profits. In this article, we are going to explore how to respond to common reasons given, how to utilize a cancellation policy, and some tips on how you can reduce the occurrence of cancelled appointments.

How To Respond to Common Reasons Given for Cancellations

It can be pretty easy to forget that clients are often uncomfortable when they come into personal training sessions. Although this is not the case for regular gym-goers or fitness enthusiasts, it is for the majority of new clients as they will have a multitude amount of projections about what the session will be like, what the trainer expects of them, and what the trainer thinks of them. One of the biggest reasons why clients cancel is because they feel less than, judged, or looked down upon. In most cases, this is not because you are making them feel that way but because that is their frame of mind. When you combine this with the fact that a lot of individuals want a “quick fix” and do not have a comprehensive understanding of the work needed to get to the state they want, you end up with a massive barrier that causes a lot of cancellations. With this said, let’s take a look at common reasons given and how to deal with them.

  • I cannot afford to pay for this anymore. When you get this type of response, commonly it is not because they can’t actually pay for the training but often due to an underlying reason. For instance, they may be feeling uncomfortable with the type of training being done but don’t want to say anything because they feel like they do not have the knowledge to speak up in the correct manner. Or, they may be unable to see the value of the training due to a lack of instant results. A good way to respond to this is to say something along the lines of: I am so sorry to hear that your financial situation has changed, but I do enjoy training you and I do not want to see you lose the progress that you have made towards your fitness goals. If you are willing, let’s have a chat about how we can make your sessions and program more affordable.
  • I do not have enough time for this due to a busy schedule or prior commitments. This type of response occurs when the individual is feeling worn down or bleak about the results and feels like it is becoming a waste of time. Other reasons include: not enjoying the workouts, not being comfortable with you, or not understanding what you are teaching them. A good response to this is: I understand that a busy schedule can often get in the way of working out, but I think we can come to an agreement for sessions by scheduling two weeks or a month in advance. This ensures that you get your training in without needing to sacrifice it when your schedule gets hectic.
  • I do not feel like I am getting the results that I want from this type of training. Often this type of response comes out when an individual feels like they have plateaued, are unable to see the results or progress they have made, or are unhappy with the fact that results haven’t been as quick as expected. A good response to this would be something along the lines of: I am sorry you feel like you are not getting the results you want from our training program, however, I truly think that we can make further adjustments to your training and nutrition. At this point, enter in a time frame and say that a week or two after your next check-in, you’ll see where they are at with their progress and then make a plan to help them reach their goals at a faster, better, quicker rate. Ask them what their schedule looks like and schedule in an appointment. In most cases, individuals just want reassurance that they are going to be able to reach their set goals.
  • I am not getting enough from my nutrition plan or take-home resources and feel like I am paying for nothing. I am so sorry that you are not getting the benefits that you want from our take-home resources, but before we cancel your next set of appointments, let’s chat about how we can figure out a way to make these more advantageous for you. I do not want you to think you have spent money that has been wasted. When is your schedule free, would you be willing to link up for a chat about these resources? With this type of responses, the client is often just unaware of how to use the resources in an efficient and successful manner and you just need to teach them!

Unfortunately, sometimes last-minute issues do crop up, like needing to stay late at work or having to attend to a child that has become ill. When these circumstances come up, there are a few ways you can handle them and these ways will be dependent on your cancellation policy.

Personal Trainer

How to Deal With Last Minute Cancellations for Unforeseen Reasons

The most common question that comes up when someone cancels due to unforeseen circumstances like illness, is whether you should charge the client. This can come with some difficult reasoning, as on one hand, you went through the trouble of setting up a routine and creating time in your schedule, but on the other, if it truly wasn’t the client’s fault then there isn’t much that could have been done about it. Here are a few things to consider when deciding on whether to charge them or not.

  • If the client cancels with more than twenty-four hours ahead, this gives you a sufficient amount of time to call up other clients who may want to take the slot. So, generally, you shouldn’t charge if this is the case.
  • If the client cancels with less than twenty-four hours before the session, charge them. This is because it may be difficult to fill in the slot with another client and it completely alters your day and leaves, otherwise productive time, open.
  • If the client doesn’t cancel and no-shows, then charge them every single time unless there has been an extreme circumstance like an accident or injury that caused them to be unable to call.
  • Reiterate that you have a cancellation policy.

If you are cancelled on at the last minute, there are some things that you can do to keep your time productive. Choose to contact your other clients to see if you can fill in the scheduled slot and if you cannot, consider doing a workout for yourself. By being in the gym or being in front of others, you are exposing yourself to potential new clients and it helps keep you looking the part.

Tips on How You Can Reduce Cancellations

Due to how inevitable it is to come across cancellations in the personal training industry, it makes sense to eliminate scenarios in which they would occur more often. One way of doing this is to make sure you have good business systems in place like a fairness policy (cancellation policy), a set confirmation process, and a session reminder procedure.

  • Have a cancellation policy or fairness policy in place. It needs to be detailed, it needs to be explained, and it needs to be signed. Now, these will differ from one personal trainer to another, but generally, it needs to outline how much time must be given prior to cancelling, how re-scheduling works, and whether sessions need to be paid in advance. Some cancellation policies require twenty-four notice, while others require seventy-two hours or a three days notice. You may want to stipulate that a session must be rescheduled within 7 days, otherwise, the session will be charged for in full. Make sure you enforce the policy too!
  • Always keep the scheduled session amount the same. So if you and your client agree to train 2x per week, then keep that commitment throughout the duration of the contract. When you maintain a consistent schedule with clients every week, it ends up being more than just training time. Your clients may welcome the time every week as a way to let of steam, get away from work, or get out of the house.
  • If a client has a genuine reason for cancelling, you may want to let them off without charging. This can show good faith and keep them motivated to continue training with you. This is especially true if they have been training with you for a long period of time. However, if they are a new client and cancel more than once, this would not apply.
  • Always confirm the scheduled sessions with a 1-2 day advance. This gives you time to fill the spot if they do cancel.
  • Send out reminders a few hours before the session. This can help eliminate any last minute excuses like saying they forgot about the session. This can also make your client feel good and keep them motivated to train with you.
  • If the client does cancel, consider changing the time of their sessions to make it more convenient for them. On the flip side of this, never change a client to another time slot straight away. Instead, you want to create the impressions that your training time is limited and valuable.
  • If a client keeps cancelling over and over, check-in with them and see if there is more than just a surface excuse. Maybe they have an issue with the program or maybe they don’t feel comfortable with the results they are getting. By being open with them, you have a chance at getting them back on track and if not, it gives you insight into what you can change for future clients.

All in all, the main thing to be aware of is the number of cancellations you are getting. If you have twenty clients a week and half of them cancel on you, your revenue is going to plummet unless you have a cancellation policy enforced. If you are consistently getting the same reasons for cancelling, do a deep dive and find out whether something else is going on or if you just have chronic cancellers. In the end, you need to put your business first and eliminate scenarios in which your clients are more likely to skip out on training with you. By implementing a step-by-step policy and business structure, your clients are more likely to understand the ramifications of cancelling which can help you to avoid the uncomfortable situations that often follow.

Personal Trainer