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What’s important in your cancellation policy?

By Fitness business management archives and news, Gym and studios, HIIT and group, Pilates, Yoga

If you have been receiving too many ‘I’m sorry I won’t be able to make it today at the very last minute, is time to set a cancellation policy and start protecting your income. Make this task item number one on your to-do list and keep on reading.

“There’s nothing worse than a cancellation” is a phrase we hear quite often at Gymcatch. Although it’s not quite true. Worse than cancellations are last-minute cancellations, and worse still, a no-show.

We’ve all been in that situation where you have prepared for a training session or class and a client cancels at the very last minute. Handling late cancellations and no-shows can be very difficult for your business, eat away precious income and waste the opportunity to get a new face or different client into the session.

Cancellations and no-shows are out of your control but they are bad for business and bad for morale.   What you can do is two things:

1) encourage responsible behaviour of your client base so to minimise cancellations, maximise the notice they give you when they cancel and eradicate no-shows in all  but extreme cases; and

2) mitigate the financial risk of cancellations.

There is a stack of evidence and proven processes which tells us that you can stop cancellations blighting your business. You don’t need to accept a high drop out rate and you shouldn’t.

Take payment at the point of booking

Cancellation rates at businesses where the client pays at the point of booking are 40% lower than at businesses which operate a pay-on-the-door model.

It’s just a fact of human psychology that once a client has paid for something they are far less likely to not show up or cancel it. Some businesses don’t like taking online payments either for reasons of not wanting to pay the card fees or because of additional admin. All the data points to that being a false economy. What you lose in card fees you’ll make back several-fold in reduced and non-refunded, cancellations.

This helps both sides of the cancellation risk: taking payment in advance reduces the number of cancellations and having the client’s money puts you in control of whether your policies allow a refund in the circumstances.

Do I need to let clients cancel at all?

A cancellation is always better than a no-show (because you’ve got a chance of filling the space). Not giving a client the means of cancelling doesn’t stop them from cancelling, it just means they don’t turn up and you won’t know about it in advance.

This is where having a booking software that automates tasks for you, such as booking confirmation messages and reminders, can be very useful and help reduce your no-shows as well as save you time. If you take a proactive approach, you will help minimize no-shows.


Automation of waitlists and refunds

While you can reduce the number of no-shows and cancellations they can’t be eradicated. But encouraging clients to act responsibly and follow a clear process if they need to cancel maximises the chance of you not being out of pocket.

Making it simple to cancel (and receive a refund if it is due) incentivises clients to do this and give you maximum notice.

And for clients who want to take a cancelled space, an instant waitlist which converts to bookings and that is easy to use saves you the bother of phoning round to try and fill a spot.

Do I need a cancellation policy?

Yes, you do. Every business should have a cancellation policy that sets the boundaries of its services. You don’t need to be a lawyer or to copy someone else’s policy. It just needs to very simply and in plain language set the rules that clients need to know when they book.

With this clear, no-surprises, approach a cancellation policy’s role goes beyond protecting your income and also protects your relationship with your client as it stipulates how you work and what your working boundaries are. Most client-provider relationships that break down, do so because of a lack of communication.

Don’t be afraid of making the terms onerous. Strict cancellation policies will encourage good clients to book rather than put them off because it places real value on the place – it demonstrates scarcity and that the client is buying something in demand.

Setting the tone at the very start, for example at sign-up stage will help bring more commitment from the client too. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use your discretion when a client comes to you with some particularly difficult circumstances – you’ve always got that option.

What should I include in a cancellation policy?

  1. Contact information
    How to contact you or your gym or studio. If your client needs to contact you to cancel a session make sure you tell them the process for that. Do you want them to contact you directly, if so how. Or do they need to cancel their booking on your booking system?
  2. Cancellation without penalty?
    Are you going to allow clients to cancel and provide them with a refund, provided they give you sufficient notice?
    Not all businesses do this. Some say that once you’ve booked there are no refunds. Others will always provide a refund no matter when the cancellation comes in. Most businesses fall somewhere in the middle.The whole point of this is to maximise your chance of selling the space that the client is cancelling. If you’re a business with packed waitlists and are regularly over-subscribed and your services are easy to participate in at short notice you can afford to allow cancellations until relatively late. E.g. 48 or 24 hours before the start time.If your session is harder to fill, you don’t have a regular waitlist, or the class is difficult to participate in at short notice then you will probably want the place on sale for longer. E.g. 1 week.We find that cancellation policies which allow refunds up until a few hours before the class start time are counter-productive and see low levels of client uptake on the newly available and more frequent cancellations.at least 24 or 48 hours before. Some will even charge a penalty fee if the 24- or 48-hour timeframe has been breached. If your client has adhered to the timeframe, however, you can give them the option to book into the next session.
  3. Cash refunds or credit
    It’s important to state in your cancellation policy whether you will issue a monetary refund, allow to reschedule or even include a penalty fee.  Offering a refund in the form of a credit to book another session will usually be the better option.  It cheats the revenue in the business, is lighter on admin and acts as a better tool for retention.
  4. Agreement
    When a client makes a booking you’re entering a contract with them so you need to know that you’ve got their agreement. Make sure they read and understood both your cancellation and refund policies. Having your clients tick or sign in the agreement will save any misunderstandings as they’re in clear knowledge of how you operate.

Gymcatch helps you minimise the number of cancellations. Our booking and management system lets you set your cancellation policy to suit your business needs. You can choose to automatically credit customers with a class package that lets them book a replacement class if they give you enough notice. And although cancellations are inevitable and when this happens, our waitlist feature set allows you to fill up the cancelled space fast.

 

 

 

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How to create a referral programme

By Dance, Fitness marketing and social archives and news, Gym and studios, HIIT and group, Pilates, Yoga

A referral programme is a very cost-effective and low risk way to reward your loyal customers for recommending new ones. It’s a very powerful marketing tactic to get existing customers to talk about you and help you acquire new ones.

According to a Nielsen report 83% of people trust their friends’ opinions. Although an old cliché, people buy from people, and that’s because there is immediate confidence and credibility to their testimonial. Led by trust, these future customers have the potential to quickly convert.

In summary, these are the key benefits to a referral programme:

  • Turns customers into loyal ones
  • Helps you build on your testimonials
  • Expands your reach and awareness
  • Converts leads into customers faster

If you are now ready to set up your referral programme and are looking for ideas, this blog is for you, and to make it easy we’ve broken it down into a 4 step guide with inspirational ideas you may want to consider.

  1. Set the goal you want to achieve with your referral programme
    Before you get started, decide on what you want to achieve with your programme. You want this to be clear and measurable. Acquiring new customers may not be your goal or what you want by the end of it. Some businesses will be looking at increasing sales or loyalty to get more advocates and improve on retention. Once you have decided on your goal, think about how you will be measuring progress and what are your referral sources.
  2. Decide on your incentive or reward
    The most successful way to get this right is to encourage insight from your customers to determine what incentive or reward will motivate them. Non-cash incentives such as in-store credits or priority access boost customer retention and sales. You don’t want to spend endless hours tracking and calculating incentives manually. Instead automate as much of this work as possible to save yourself valuable time. Choosing a conversion event, for example, the reward is applicable once the customer has booked a class or session with you and made full payment. This will eliminate any doubts and set the boundaries for when claiming a reward.
  3. Decide on your advocates
    The most critical part of the programme is choosing customers that are as passionate as you are about what you do and know your brand. Share your mission with them and draw some parameters. Work out the tags or hashtags and key messages you want them sharing.

    Consider the following:
    Who do you want to target?
    What do you need them to do?
    How can they achieve this?

  4. Promote your referral programme
    Tell your customers about your programme, chances are they aren’t aware and/or need reminding. Your most loyal customers should be your first place to get started. These are people that love your classes or sessions and have probably already advocated your business more than once before. However, make it easy for your customers to share your services and get rewarded. Social media has become a popular channel to share information and get the word out, but it has to be a simple process for both the referrer and referee, or they will lose interest.

A referral programme creates a win-win situation for all. Your existing clients get rewarded, feel valued, and you get quality leads for new customers. The more customers you get to tell their friends about your classes or appointments the more opportunity for new business you create.

Need inspiration?
Take a look at what some brands are doing!

Uber
Uber’s referral programme has 2 parts. Uber gives drivers and riders a unique referral code to share with friends interested in creating a driver or rider account. When a referral is successful a payment reward is made.
In parallel, they run a user referral programme too that works very similarly. When a user shares their code with a friend and that friend signs up they both get their next trip for free.

Dropbox
Dropbox allows you to earn extra free storage space when you invite friends to try it out. Basic accounts get 500 MB per referral and can earn up to 16GB. Plus accounts get 1 GB and earn up to 32 GB per referral.

How do referrals work on Gymcatch?
There are many ways to use Gymcatch’s features to run a successful referral programme and reward your customers. Our Discount Codes bolt-on, for example, allows customers to invite their friends and family at a fixed amount or percentage off. This is great when wanting to encourage loyalty and improve retention.

You can also use bundles and make them available for purchase for a limited time and remove it from sale at the end of the offer period. These are included as part of the base plan and although mean a little more planning are very easy to set up.

Our own referral programme means customers get rewarded with 2 free months and receive a cash reward when referring a new business. The referred business gets an extra free month directly into their account when registering with us.

For more information on Gymcatch and how it can help your yogapilatesdance or personal training business. Get in contact to book a demo or start a free month.

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3 step guide to cutting costs for your fitness business

By Fitness business management archives and news, Gym and studios, HIIT and group, Pilates, Yoga

As a fitness or wellness professional, you’re probably already feeling the squeeze of rising costs and the impacts this will have on your business. Looking at your financial health and planning for the months ahead will prove an invaluable exercise.

And although there are some critical costs or expenses that can’t be avoided, there are others that can easily be reduced and get you to start saving money, fast.

We wanted to share a guide that might help you save money and get your business into better financial health by cutting common costs or expenses without jeopardizing your business’ potential to grow. This isn’t about cutting corners – this is about making sure that every penny you spend is well spent. Here’s a practical guide to cutting costs and improving business in three As.

1. Audit

What are you spending, on what and why? Are there alternatives to any item of expenditure, are there items that you can eradicate by changing your internal processes?  On revenue, what are your attendance and cancellation rates, and how are your products and services performing?

Write down every process or cost associated with your business. Don’t restrict yourself to the obvious things. This is every expense, policy process. Think about cancellation policies, waitlist, communications, marketing, the operations of your business, the time you spend on different elements, your training and development. This is a deep dive into everything in your professional life.

Break down every detail of your business, no matter how small or no matter how long that expense has been in your business. Take nothing for granted and don’t pass off small costs. The accumulation of marginal gains goes straight to your bottom line.

2. Analyse

What are the little changes you can make to improve your profitability? These might all be small changes individually, but when you add them up, they can really make a difference.

The SCAMPER method will help you find the best and most innovative solution. SCAMPER is the acronym for (substitute, combine, adapt, modify, put, eliminate and reverse) and encourages you to improve existing processes.

Take your list of expenses and process and say for each of those and apply the SCAMPER options to each of them. Is there a substitute, can you adapt or modify it?

Is there something you use but you could use something less expensive? Do you use something which doesn’t actually pay for itself? Are you doing work that you could push back on your clients?

This table gives you an example of how to analyse the operations of your business:

3. Action

Now that you have worked out what savings you can make, is time to get stuck in with planning and work out how you will operationally manage your business so that your costs remain low, you reinvest where you need to, and simultaneously your efficiency runs high.

See this as a new opportunity to reinvent some of the things you do and bring added value to your customers. By connecting with your most loyal customers, they will be feeding you tons of great insight. Use this information to improve the way you communicate with your audience to truly connect with them and grow your community. Adding value will help you figure your niche and stay one step ahead of everyone else.

 

These are our top 5 tips for creating value for your customers:

  1. Make it easy for your customers to book and pay. Everyone dislikes a painful buying experience. Make this easy for them, and yourself and automate this. They will love getting notified and being able to have control over their class or appointment booking schedule.
  2. Leverage the power of customer testimonials. Make sure you reward your loyal few and fill their inboxes with discount codes and other incentives they can use to encourage them to invite friends and family.
  3. Make sure your customers hear from you, and often. Staying top of mind is an artform and you want to make sure your name pops to mind even at the dinner party. Give them access to free resources such as healthy tips guides, helpful facts and reminders, or an inspirational story.
  4. Create a VIP room. You can use Facebook to bring your most loyal customers together in a place where they can feel inspired and motivated, and hear the most up to date news from you. Add them to a priority list in your booking system too so that they get access to booking ahead of anyone else and can secure their spot!
  5. Do what you love. When you do the things you love you become more productive and motivated. Automating and delegating some of the boring admin tasks with software will enable you to do more of what you love and gain more time to engage more with your customers.

 

Once you have audited your expenses or costs and know the actions you need to take to make some savings, you’ll want to make sure your booking and customer management software is affordable and easy to use for you and your customers. That’s where Gymcatch can help you, get in contact with us today.

In-person fitness class

How to price your in-person fitness classes

By Fitness business management archives and news, HIIT and group

Pricing your in-person fitness classes is probably one of the most difficult decisions you have had to make for your business. Here, personal trainer, Anna Martin shares her top tips on setting your prices right.

Know your area and your target market
Every area has a price ceiling. This is going to differ depending on where you are and your local demographics. So it’s important to benchmark your price against other local fitness providers. The closer the service the better the comparison.

For example, while you can compare the price of small group training at a gym to the price of a dance fitness class, you have acknowledged that it’s a different experience and market and the client’s willingness to pay will differ. It’s important to understand what’s driving fitness consumers’ decisions to buy your services.

Most of us want to charge a fair price: provide a great service that offers the client value, but which also makes us feel valued, appreciated, and attributing a price to your own effort, skills and experience.

Within reason, price is not among the primary factors when clients are buying fitness. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that as long as you’re cheap, you’ll get full classes.

Value your skills, education and experience
If you’ve been teaching for a while, you have accumulated a set of skills. Those skills are a combination of the education earned as well as the experience you’ve gained from all the days in the trenches helping different bodies stay fit and well.

This should be considered when setting up your prices. Just because someone locally is charging less than you, don’t feel you need to price match. If you’re offering something better, charge more!

Likewise, if you are supplying quality equipment to do the class you should charge for that (and make sure your clients know they are getting the best kit). Similarly, if you are providing a service that is capacity-constrained, and therefore are restricted on numbers, that will probably also mean that you will need to increase the class price.

Don’t be embarrassed at increasing your pricing for your fitness classes. You’re not ripping-off customers: if you’re providing a quality product your client base will have no problem paying a proper price for it.

Keep a close eye on your overheads
Work out what you need to make from that class in order to make it worth you doing it (after all you have bills to pay too) and then calculate any per head or per hour cost that you may need to charge in order to make it profitable.

Include all your overheads too. Your travel, your admin time, your client support outside of the class, marketing, insurance, licenses etc.: it’s not just the hire of the venue and the time spent at the front of the class which your clients need to pay for.

One of the worst things you can do is to go in too low because you’re scared to ask for more. It breeds resentment and it’s also self-defeating. And that is the LAST emotion you want to have walking into a room full of people who are there waiting for you to bring the magic.

Your prices will go up, this is a fact of life. You can’t make yourself immune from inflation.

From experience, most price increases in group exercise happen when we need to, not because we would like to. It is unlikely that your price increase isn’t fair, one of the few drawbacks in this industry is that we tend to undersell ourselves when we should value ourselves more.

Increasing your prices is just a matter of good communication. Let them know face to face that it’s going to happen and then email them, giving them plenty of notice (as in weeks or even 1-2 months rather than days). But don’t make a big deal of it.

Make sure everyone knows in a thorough way, let them know when the prices will increase and to what, then move on. What you don’t want or need is spending months or weeks talking about your prices.

It’s a distraction and it’s boring and it’s not what your clients are paying for. You might lose the odd client. But it’s far better to lose the odd client at your new price than hang on to those clients charging an unsustainable amount.

Keep things simple
A common mistake that fitness instructors make is to create overly complicated pricing structures, often to try and be all things to all people. This is often self-defeating.

While lots of us are creatures of habit and show a bit of reluctance to change, you should not tie yourself to running your business in a way you don’t want to, just because you are worried about changing things up for certain clients.

Communicate clearly, explain why you need to change the way you run your business and your clients will understand and change. Spare yourself, bespoke pricing, making bookings for people, bank transfers etc. Advertise a fair, simple, and transparent price structure and ask clients to get onboard.

If you don’t give them a choice they will. If you are timid and do give them a choice, people will instinctively want to stick to what they know. That’s not because the way they do it is better, it’s just because it’s what they are used to and they don’t like change!

Lastly, now that you have worked out the right pricing for your fitness classes is time to think about your lead generation strategy and how to get more customers through the door.

For more information on Gymcatch and how it can help your yogapilatesdance or personal training business. Get in contact to book a demo or start a free month.