In this episode, we’ll talk about policies and procedures for personal training businesses. We will zero in on three of them, namely, a 24-hour cancellation policy, medical freeze (or just simply “A freeze”), and rollover sessions.
The 24-hour cancellation policy is applicable in situations where a client has booked a training slot and then they cancel, which means that the business will have lost the revenue it would have generated during that time slot. Therefore, the client has to be charged a stipulated cancellation fee when they cancel.
That policy serves well in making clients more accountable because the moment they book a slot, they will always ensure that they attend the training, which of course, keeps them on track in their fitness journey. The medical freeze or freeze is when a client is looking to take time off from the gym to go on vacation, work, or anything else that might keep them away from the gym. That usually takes anything between one to three months, and it’s usually a very bad sign because it might mean that the client is trying to leave the facility. We will share our experience with this and talk about the strategies we use to overcome it effectively. Rollovers refer to when a client doesn’t use up all their sessions and they can roll them over into the next month or year.
When we had annual memberships, we ran our rollovers like the old school cell phone service providers used to do where a user had a certain amount of minutes they could use every month, and if they didn’t use them all, they would roll them over to the next month as long as they stayed active as a member with the service provider. Stay tuned to learn more about the best rollover tactics to use and pick all the actionable steps you can take at your personal training facility to grow sustainably.
Key Points of Discussion:
- The questions around policies and procedures for personal training businesses (03:10)
- The promise that you make someone as a personal trainer to hold them accountable (05:20)
- Taking it back from transactional to the coach relationship (08:39)
- Better behavior equals better performance (13:11)
- Allowing a two-month freeze in an annual membership but doing it in such a way that no client wants to take that time off (15:20)
- The best strategy for someone who might be going on a medical freeze (19:04)
- In rollover strategies, use or lose it is a great policy, but not the best (21:47)
- Allowing clients to downgrade their memberships to use rollovers (27:18)
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Mentioned in this episode
Today we are talking about policies and procedures. We often get questions about specific ones. These are things that seem kind of boring but it is the stuff that you can put to work in your gym and it’s problems that you’re solving on a daily basis in real-time.
24-hour Cancellation Policy
The first one is having a 24-hour cancellation policy. We know people miss workouts a lot for all sorts of reasons from being sick to just forget.
Here is how we got to that 24-hour cancellation policy and the thoughts around that started when we were doing one on one training and it made sense. For example, you had one hour available or a one-half hour at a time slot open. Someone had booked that time slot. If they canceled you had to charge them because from a business standpoint you’re selling your time for money. There’s also the accountability component.
If you have somebody scheduled at 6:00 AM and you’re not charging them if they don’t show up, you’re not doing your job as a trainer. One of the number one functions would be accountability. A top motivating reason why people hire a personal trainer is to say “I just want somebody to make me do it or make me get out of bed and do this thing.” Part of the reason that I can do that is to say, if you don’t show up, you’re going to lose the session and be charged. These are the top reasons we firmly believe in the 24-hour cancellation policy. Even in a group training system, you should still have a 24-hour cancellation policy. Unless, if you’re running an unlimited Bootcamp model and you’re not asking people to schedule to come in. Then, no, there’s no 24-hour cancellation.
There’s no way to do that because you don’t know if they’re coming in or not. You’re just selling an unlimited membership, letting them come in on their own. However, if you’re selling personal training in any way, shape or form you have a finite amount of time slots available, so you still need to enforce a 24-hour cancellation policy.
While unlimited sounds attractive, there’s a finite number of spots available in those groups and you just don’t want people coming every single day for the purposes of taking up more resources than they should. And secondly, again, for their benefit, you don’t want people exercising full-body strength training every single day of the week. We’re not selling cardio classes.
There are other brands that do that and they’re fine to do unlimited because you can go in there every day just like you can jog every day if your body can hold up to it. In a truly personal training setting where you’re trying to get people stronger and more functional, recovery is a big part of that. Putting that unlimited tag on essentially at personal training level, it is a bad idea because they’re going to, some people are going to abuse it, they’re going to come every single day. This isn’t in the best interest of the client.
The second one comes up a lot and we call it no medical freeze or just a freeze. You know when somebody’s looking to take time off either vacation or work or whatever, it was generally somewhere one month to three months. So how do you handle that and or how do we handle that? We’ve done it a couple of ways and freezes are good and bad. You know, you need to be somewhat flexible with people, but at the same time, It can sometimes be a different term for attrition or somebody quitting. Here’s the couple of ways that I would suggest that you do it.
When we had an annual membership within the 12 month time period, we would allow up to two months of freeze time. The way that we would apply that made it a little bit less compelling to actually freeze. Meaning we would allow members to freeze for two months in any 12 month time period but the member was still required to pay during that time period. We simply added those rollover months to the end of their term. Here’s how that would usually happen, someone would come in and say, “listen, I’m not going to be around much for June and July. I’ve got all these things going on with my kids and will be traveling a good bit, I’d like to freeze my membership.” Then we would say, “okay, great. No problem at all.
Here’s How That Works
Here’s how that works. You’re going to continue to be billed during those months and then we’re simply going attach those months on to the end of your agreement.” To which many people would say, “ah, okay, well, you know what I mean, I’m going to be here. I’ll try to make it in. I’ll just figure it out.” Basically what they were saying is I don’t want to pay for the next few months. When we said, no problem, you can freeze, but we’re going to tack them onto the end, but you still have to pay.
It was surprising how many people really didn’t need to take time off. That worked great when we had annual memberships. When we went to monthly memberships, it was a little bit different. With a monthly membership, you can give a 30-day notice and cancel whenever you want.
Language Around A Freeze
We still like the idea and the language around a freeze because the insinuation is, and the expectation is that that person’s going to come back. What we allow is three months of consecutive freezing currently. The reason we have three months is that we know that beyond three minutes if someone’s been on freeze and it’s typically medical. If they’ve been on medical freeze for more than three months, the likelihood of them churning out is very high. So part of it is an accounting issue as well. When we’re not realizing their revenue. So now when they freeze, it’s not like, Hey, you keep paying and we’ll tax them on at the end. That doesn’t work in a month to month structure. Now we say, “okay, great. Here’s how we’re going to do it. When are you going to be back? We’ll just say you can freeze for up to three months.”
If they say, okay, I’m coming back August 1st, great. Coming back August 1st we’re going to go ahead and set you up to start your billing on August 1st. We will communicate with you before that happens, but we plan on you being here on August 1st. Now from an accounting standpoint, they’re not paying us, but we can’t count them as churned out just yet. They’ve got three months. We have to create a special report and put them into a bucket called freezes. We look at those and some of those come back into active membership. Meaning they start paying again and some churn out. But not until that three month time period.
The last one I want to talk about is rollover sessions. This was the bane of our existence for a while. Rollovers mean when you go from selling packages of sessions and you go to EFT or just drafting someone’s account a certain amount of per month.
If you’re gonna work out here eight times a month, it’s going to cost you $250 right? Great. So each month on the first of the month, let’s just say to keep it simple, money goes in the account, eight sessions get credited. Let’s say that the customer does not use all of those sessions and we get this question all the time. Does that customer get to use them later? There are 1,000,001 versions of how you can do this. So you could go hard line and say, use it or lose it. I think that goes in line with what we talked about cancellations, your goals to get them to the gym more often.
Obvious. If they showed up 12 times a month, you’re going to be much better off than if they showed up nine times a month. So yeah, use it or lose it. But I think that’s not really wearing the nice guy hat at the point of sale because that’s when you’re going to get those questions. “What if I can’t use all these sessions?” Well, then there are alternatives if you are going to roll them over. I’ll give you some examples of things that we’ve done poorly. When we had annual memberships, we almost ran it like an old school cell phone used to do. Which was, you had a certain amount of minutes you could use every month and if you didn’t use them all they would roll over to the next month.
Additional Rollover Sessions
As long as you stayed active as a member with your service provider you would accumulate these minutes to be used in later months. We thought, well that’s kind of a neat model. It’s what other businesses are doing. We’ll do that for training. These annual agreements, somebody would reach the end of their annual agreement. It was time to resign and they may have 30 rollover sessions because they just had a couple of bad months where they didn’t get in much. They have all these additional rollover sessions and then they look at those and have questions like “how many rollover sessions do I have?” We’re saying, “Hey, as long as you’re an active member at any capacity, you can use these rollovers. They’rethink, “great, I’m going to downgrade my membership to one time a week and I’m going to use my rollover sessions moving forward.”
Again, in a personal training model, our clients have the financial wherewithal, to have second homes and take vacations. So there’s that fine line between holding them accountable and getting them into the gym and then also being somewhat understanding of the fact that they may have a couple of months where they’re just not there much.
Then 12 months later when all those agreements were coming to an end and people were downgraded, it was like, Oh, that was a terrible idea. You know, so something we should have seen, but we didn’t get it. But yes, that was not good. And again, use it or lose it. I like it, but that’s a little harsh and makes it harder, especially during the sale. I think that 60 days is a nice, happy medium between holding them accountable and also being somewhat understanding of their lifestyle. Do you allow downgrading memberships? Use rollovers? Yes. It’s not as applicable now because we’re in a month to month, so they could do that for sure. The current software we use has these different triggers.
90-day onboarding process
We have a 90-day onboarding process as an example where automated messages go out for the first 90 days of someone’s membership. Just keeping them in the loop and the accountability that’s needed in the first 90 days is very critical for a new member. The way our software currently works is if we change someone’s membership, it restarts them as if they’re brand-new members to the gym.
There are always complexities like that and you want to really try to do what’s best for the customer and not shoehorn your systems into the software. At times you’re kind of doing a little bit of both, to be honest. The biggest takeaway, obviously these policies are really important, but it’s really all the conversations to the clients around these, right? You just can’t put them in the fine print and never talk about them. You have to have those good private conversations make sure you know that you’re going to keep them accountable and tell them why they’re there.
That’s why you’re here. I’m not doing it to be mean. I’m not doing it to make extra money. It’s not about that. It’s about you showing up to the gym and keeping your promise to me that you’re going to do what I asked to be successful. I hope that helped.