In Episode 16 of the Online Trainer Show, we talk about when to issue refunds to personal training clients, why it’s important to set clear expectations from the start, and how to avoid refund and cancellation requests entirely.
Plus, we’ll give you an exact script to use when the unfortunate refund request does come in from a client, so you can not only save money but maintain a good rapport.
Why refund requests happen and how to avoid them
Simply put, someone asking for a refund means an expectation was unmet. While dissatisfaction builds over time, the request itself is a knee-jerk reaction when clients feel they're not being looked after the way they expected to be. Something has been off, and they haven’t felt like they could communicate it to you until it was the last straw.
By the time a client requests a refund, it's often too late. Your customer needs to know that you're there for them from day one. Think about what their expectations are before they start the program, and be very curious about why they were dissatisfied with previous programs. Get ahead of that from the beginning.
Then, set the expectation that they can always communicate with you. Amber jokingly tells her clients, "Even if you call me an evil witch—I don't care. You're not going to hurt my feelings. If you are ever less than 100 percent ecstatic about our working relationship, we need to address it."
Offer multiple channels of communication (like giving them your number in addition to email and in-person). For many, it’s a lot easier to shoot a quick text with an angry emoji than to have a full-blown conversation, so make it as easy for them as possible.
What to do when refund and cancellation requests happen
If and when this message comes in, don’t panic. Clients tend to speak up within a few hours of an emotional trigger. Take a step back and follow this two-step process.
Step 1 - Respond to them right away to acknowledge you’ve received it, but that’s it.
Say something like, “Hey, I'm about to jump on calls for the afternoon, and I want to make sure I fully understand what's going on before getting back to you. In the meantime, I'm curious—what is it you felt was missing from the program?"
It's the old "count to 10 when you're angry” trick that allows them time to calm down, and sets the scene for a more rational conversation.
Step 2 - Appreciate them for delaying, and take accountability with this script:
Thank you so much for your patience. I failed you, and I feel awful about that. From what you've said, you weren't being heard and supported in the way that you needed. I really wish that I had been there for you more in the beginning.
Change like this is hard and sometimes it sucks and takes more than to happen. I know this system works, and I also know that it has to be adapted differently to everybody.
And while I would have absolutely loved the chance to work with you to make that happen, I did not do a good enough job at the start. That’s my bad, and I just know that I'm gonna do a better job next time.
Of course, if you want to leave the program, that’s okay with me. Please tell me what you think is fair in terms of a refund.
Most people are rational and willing to work with you. Instead of requesting 100 percent back, they might just ask for a refund on the unused sessions.
Not only do you save money, but this script shows them it will get better if they continue to work with you … without actually saying that. A client in this situation feels they lack control, so they can't think you're pushing anything on them. Meet them where they’re at, empower them to make a decision, and you might be surprised where that leads.