Tips to Reduce No-Shows and Late Cancels for Your Fitness Business
By Matt Juszczak
No-shows and late cancels hurt your fitness business. They cost you revenue, rob you of time and inconvenience the rest of your customers.
Ready to do something about it? The good news is that you can greatly reduce your no-shows and late cancels by following a few simple tips. We saw this right away with our Turnstyle indoor cycling studios in the Boston area. Users of Bitlancer, our Mindbody add-on service that automates late cancel and no-show penalties, report similar results.
Charge for no-shows and late cancellations.
If you’re not yet charging a fee for no-shows and late cancellations, start! This is the best incentive to encourage customers to prioritize their commitment to you. Even a small financial “nudge” makes people think twice about signing up for a class or appointment they’re not sure they can make, or just choosing to do something else.
When we opened our first indoor cycling location in Boston’s Back Bay, we saw 40 to 50 no-shows and late cancels in an average day—that’s over 15,000 in a year! We knew we had to do something.
Ultimately we decided to charge our subscription customers $5 for a cancelation within 12 hours of a class, and $10 for a no-show. For class package customers, we subtract one class for either a late cancel or a no-show. Four years later, this policy is enforced at all of our five locations—and late cancels and no-shows are down about 75%.
Communicate your new policy clearly and carefully.
The initial email or letter you send to current clients about the new policy will set the tone for how they respond. You not only want to clearly explain the change, but also why you’re making it and what you hope the positive results will be for everyone.
In our first email to customers, we put the data on the number of late cancels and no-shows right on the table so everyone understood that collectively we had a problem, and this was about solving it.
A critical point to make when discussing your new policy is that this isn’t about making more money off customers. It’s also not about chastising people for doing something wrong. It’s about fairness to the community. When spots sit empty everyone suffers, especially at peak times when people are turned away.
Enforce your policy consistently.
In some cases you’ll probably want to “forgive” late-cancel or no-show customers and not charge them. Life happens and people who have every intention of showing up, legitimately can’t.
Whether you decide to forgive no-shows or late cancels on an individual basis, automatically based on time/frequency parameters (our Bitlancer service supports this) or not at all, it’s important to be consistent. Don’t play favorites. People talk and this will quickly cause controversy. Give your desk staff guidelines for what to do about complaints and excuses
Have a higher penalty for no-shows versus late cancels.
Late canceling is a lot more considerate than just not showing up, and good reasons for no-showing versus late canceling are rare. You want to incentivize late canceling by penalizing people less if they make the effort to let you know they can’t make it.
Keep your policy simple.
A lot of fitness businesses end up complicating their late cancel/no-show policy: different late cancel windows for different times of day, penalties only if the class is full, etc. Clients need to know in advance what will happen if they miss an appointment or cancel late. A simple policy means clear expectations, predictable outcomes and fewer issues.
Whether you automate your policy or handle it manually, you’ll still see a solid reduction in late cancels and no-shows with this approach. Every business is different so crunch the numbers and talk to staff to fine-tune your approach. Good luck!