Hey, everybody welcome. I’m Sara Intonato. Thank you so much for joining me today, as we dive into what is a very commonly discussed topic amongst not just yoga teachers, but anyone in a healing or service based profession. It’s actually not just a topic people ask me about. It’s something they complain about. This topic is: why our clients canceling on me and how can I make them stop? So this is a two part question. We have to divide and conquer here, so first we’re going to get into the why this is happening and second, what you can do in this moment to prevent it from happening again, starting right now. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
First step, why is this happening?
Why, even after you confirm your appointments, do your clients cancel on you often last minute, often when you’re already on the way to meet them for your appointment? It can leave you feeling really deflated. Why is this happening to you? Well, there were a few reasons. First, if you are a yoga teacher, or a healer, or in any type of profession which requires someone to change, maybe even if you’re a therapist for example, you have to remember that change can be scary.
So even when somebody is trying to release a habit, which they know doesn’t serve them, it can be hard for them to imagine their life without it. We’re deeply, deeply ingrained in our patterns, even when those patterns are detrimental to us. So if someone is diving into their healing work, doing really well at the start, and then all of a sudden starts slipping up, you have to remember they’re now looking at themselves in a way they’ve never looked at before.
They’re making changes, which might be affecting their relationships, or their work, or their whole way of being. So it’s normal for some resistance to come up, because they’re trying to let go of habits, which are as familiar as their favorite pair of jeans, which have holes in them and are worn to shreds. But they still keep hanging on just like we do with those old shredded jeans. So the reason why someone hired you to work with them is probably because they needed accountability. They knew that this change would be difficult. They knew it’s something that was crucial to their lives, but they couldn’t do it alone.
Think about yoga for example. You can find yoga on the Internet now. It’s not difficult. You can go to a studio anytime you want. They’re a dime a dozen now, but people still book one-on-one lessons. Why is that? It’s because they know if someone shows up at their house, knocks at the door and is prepared to help them and work with them, they have no out. They’re going to show up and do that work whether they want to do it or not. So if somebody has been slipping up, you have to remind yourself that it’s your job to hold them accountable.
If you are not holding them accountable, you’re not going to help them get the results that they need. So yes, somebody is challenged trying to make a change in their life. We all know what that’s like, and we have empathy for it. However, this is your job as a professional to help them make this change, even though they know growing can be uncomfortable. But if they want results, they’ve hired you.
It’s your job as a professional to help them make this happen, and that means holding the space, holding the container for them to not have those outs as easily. So you’re probably thinking, Sarah, this makes perfect sense. I totally am onboard. I want to hold my clients accountable for doing their part in this work, because we know we can’t do it for them no matter how much we want to. But you might also be wondering, how do I do this? How do I hold someone accountable? Well, for starters, it’s up to you as a professional to have a cancellation policy and then enforce it.
Don’t be scared. I know some of you are going to be hearing this, and start to sweat, and start to shake and be afraid that if you have a cancellation policy, people will no longer like you. The truth is, there might be some people who don’t. However, if these are your ideal clients who really want the changes that you’re helping them to make, they won’t bat an eyelash. So it’s up to you to decide what cancellation policy is appropriate, and then enforce it.
Here are some examples of how to do that. When I have a one on one client, I let them know from the get-go, 24 hours notice cancellation is required or you’ll be charged for the appointment. Okay. Guess what? Nobody cancels unless it’s an absolute emergency. However, I tell them this upfront so you know what to expect. If it is a serious emergency, which could not have been prevented, I’m a human being. I will absolutely consider giving them a free pass. I certainly have done that in the past with clients who I know are committed, and I don’t question that they’re showing up for the work. But it’s up to me to enforce that.
I also want to remind you that your cancellation policy might not be the same as mine. It really depends on what type of work you’re doing for you to form the right cancellation policy for you and your business. So for example, when I host a retreat, my cancellation policy is not 24 hours. I’m booking a venue. I’m booking catering. I’m organizing swag. I have to buy items for the headcount. I have to book other services with the headcount in mind, so my cancellation policy is very different. Usually it’s a month or 90 days, because I also have to factor in that if someone cancels, I have to have the time available to sell that spot to somebody else. That’s not something that can happen overnight with a higher priced offering in most cases. Sometimes it can. So I have to be the one to lead the way and say, this is the policy, this is what you’re accountable for. This is what you can expect from me. We can’t expect our clients to do this. It’s up to us to lead.
Okay. How do you enforce a policy like this, even when you are abundantly clear with the stipulations in advance? Well, having someone pay upfront is a sure fire away to get them to be held accountable. Maybe you’ve never done this before. Maybe you’re a massage therapist or yoga teacher, and the idea of asking for money before you deliver is making you really uncomfortable. Let me break this down for you. If you just enroll somebody in a small package like paying for five sessions in full upfront, you will be able to then enforce the cancellation policy and they know it. That’s the most important thing. You already have their payment. They’ve already demonstrated they’re committed for this amount of work so they know that if they mess up, it’s on them, you’re going to charge them anyway. This is true whether you are working with a client on retainer, or if you’re working with a client for a finite amount of sessions.
Don’t forget to put an expiration date on those types of packages, by the way. Otherwise, you will have people stretching out 10 sessions with you over the course of five years, or vanishing and then coming back later to say, “Hey, are my sessions still valid?” You have to have it in writing what you’re available for and what you’re not. So putting boundaries around duration, can be a crucial point for you in these policies. But when someone pays upfront, they’re saying, “Hey, I’m accountable. I’m ready to do this work for you, or with you.”
Think about the last time you booked a spa appointment, for example. I went to a really fabulous spa with a friend a few months back, and I had to book and pay for our massages and our spa time in full, just to get an appointment. I knew that at that point I was not able to get my money back. I knew that I could transfer it to a different day if I wanted, but I was either showing up at that spa or I was losing the money.
Those were the choices, and I knew that from the get-go. It was spelled out for me, so guess what happened? When I woke up that day, it didn’t matter that it was cold and rainy. It didn’t matter that I was tired and hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep. It didn’t matter that it was the holiday season, and I was busy and probably would have canceled that and done other things if I could have. I got up, I got myself ready and I’d got to that appointment, because I had invested enough money to take it seriously.
If I had spent $10 or $50 even, Or didn’t have any type of cancellation policy, do you think I would have woken up on that cold, yucky morning, feeling tired and been motivated to get myself out of the house? Probably not. But because I had invested in this experience, I knew what time I had to be on a train. I knew how much time I needed to get from the train to the spa. I knew how much time I needed to get myself ready and shower. I knew what I had to bring to the appointment to be prepared. I was invested in this experience because I had paid up front.
So this brings up an entirely new piece of this cancellation puzzle.
Do your prices reflect a commitment?
Are you charging enough money that if someone books in pays, they take it seriously? Because if you’re charging too little, and someone wakes up and it’s a crummy day out, and they’ve only spent a tiny amount of money, they may not care about canceling it. They might just say, “You know what? Forget it. It’s not worth it.” If that’s the case, great, you get to keep their money, and that’s fine. But what we really want is to make a difference in people’s lives. If we want them to show up with accountability and commitment, we have to know that they’re invested in the experience. So whether someone is paying you $50 or $5,000, it has to be enough that there clicking and paying with that level of awareness. So if you notice that even if you charge someone in advance, and you’re still getting lots of cancellations, it might be that you’re not charging enough. Consider raising your prices at that point.
It’s also crucial for you to have boundaries around your energy and your work, if you want people to take your cancellation policy seriously. Here’s what I mean by that. I had a friend many years ago, also a yoga teacher, tell me that she would often go to a client’s home and the client would say, “Hey, I’m so excited to see you, but I don’t really feel like doing yoga this morning.” Maybe because she was tired, maybe because she was just not ready to show up and do the work. So the client would then say, “How about I pay you and we just have breakfast together instead? Or how about you keep the money, and you help me pick out a new dress to wear to this dinner tonight?” While that sounds fun, in theory, when she asked me how I would handle it, here’s what I said.
I said, “You know so and so, you hired me because you are desiring these results,” and then name the results that this person is looking for in their lives. Use their words. Show them that you’re listening and paying attention. Then I would tell her, if I let you off the hook today, what I’m telling you is that I don’t take this work seriously, and I don’t take you seriously, and that’s not how I show up for my clients. I care about you. I care about the progress you’re trying to make in your life. So let’s take the pressure off, and maybe today we do a session that’s a little bit less intensity, if you’re not feeling up to snuff. Maybe today we do a session that is more rejuvenating for you, but we’re showing up and we’re doing this practice.
That sends a message that this person now has to take you seriously. Maybe if this person is not your ideal client, they let their package run out, And you don’t renew them. But this will encourage your clients to take you seriously. When the package is over, they’re going to have received the results that they wanted when they booked working with you in the first place. So scroll back to the bigger picture for a minute. If you let someone off the hook, if you let someone cancel or become too friendly with them, it blurs the boundaries quite a bit. If someone came to them and said, “Hey, I’m looking for a yoga teacher, or massage therapist, or a psychotherapists, do you know anyone?” They might say, “Hey, yeah, I really like this person, but I’m not really getting any results with her.”
How do you think that will reflect back on you? How do you think that will make you feel, as somebody who I know values his or her craft, and wants to show up in it authentically? So remind your clients when they come up with resistance, why they hired you in the first place, what you’re trying to help them accomplish. Because the fact of the matter is resistance is normal. Everyone encounters it. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with this person for feeling it, but that’s why they’ve hired you as an expert in your field. Once you develop your cancellation policies, enforce them. Have your clients pay in full upfront, or at least on a payment plan, but you take a deposit upfront, and charge prices which reflect an amount your ideal client takes seriously. Guess what happens? They miraculously stop canceling.
I can’t remember the last time someone canceled on me last minute, because my clients now are invested in the work that we do. People will certainly find all the excuses if they are not invested in the work that you’re doing. So it’s up to you to show them the way, and if they are not someone who’s invested in the work with you, to release them with grace and with love.
If this podcast touches a nerve with you, it means we’re onto something, something worth exploring at a deeper level, and I’m here to help you with it. So here’s some action steps for you.
One, come on and follow me on Instagram. I’m @saraintonato and I’m all about building relationships and using social media to have real conversations with people just like you.
Two, share this podcast. If you know a friend or a service provider who is stuck with this cancellation mumbo jumbo, send this their way. Encourage them to listen.
Three, leave a review on iTunes. Reviews are a currency in podcasts world. So if you come over to the podcast and leave a review, I want you to know I appreciate it, and I appreciate you listening.
Remember helping others and being successful are not mutually exclusive. You can have both. Okay. Have a great day. Namaste.