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Why Fit Pros Shouldn’t Charge For Missed Sessions

Are you a Fitness Professional who charges your clients for a missed session? Maybe you have a  24 hour cancellation policy?

You might be burning money.

Wait!? What!? Surely charging clients will make you MORE money, not less? And surely the looming threat of being out-of-pocket will encourage your clients to not miss sessions, which can only benefit you and them?

While these claims may make sense on a macro level in the short term, in the long term, things start to change.

Before we talk about why, let’s talk about the faulty assumption at the core of this issue. It’s a matter of perspective. For too many Fitness Professionals, business is a short term prospect. The things that keep them up at night are the day-to-day operations – things like new client acquisition and programming. The problem with this short term approach is that it gives short term results. Sure, ‘6 week challenges’ and ‘discounted rates’ and other promotions may give short term success, but this rarely transfers to long term success.

The very strategies that give short term success and almost the exact opposite of the strategies that give long term success. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is why the Fitness Industry has such high turn-over. New Fit Pros who enter the workforce quickly burn out as their short term strategies fail to transfer to the long term.

So the problem is, we sacrifice long term success for short term success. It’s a mental model that’s doomed to fail.

So back to the issue at hand. Charging clients who miss sessions.

In his book, ‘Drive’, author Daniel Pink talks about research conducted in 2000 into child care facilities – specifically, whether parents were late picking up their kids. As part of the research, they trialled a policy of charging parents who picked their kids up late.

Now, the natural instinct to this might be that this reduced late pick-ups, just like the assumption would be that charging clients for missed sessions would increase attendance rates.

Not true.

What in fact happened in this study, was that late pick-ups actually increased – eventually settling at double the usual rate.

Punishing the parents actually made the more likely to complete the behaviour they were being punished for.

How? Why?

The researchers proposed that without a fine, the parents where driven by a moral obligation to the staff of the childcare centre. Just like your clients have a moral obligation to you. Of course, this requires an existing level of respect for you and your services (if you don’t have that respect, you’ve got bigger problems than whether or not to charge clients). When the fine (or in our case, a charge for a missed session) was introduced, the decision shifted from “…a partly moral obligation… to a pure transaction (I can buy extra time). There wasn’t room for both. The punishment didn’t promote good behaviour; it crowded it out.”.

Why do you do what you do? To help people, and to earn money for providing this ‘help’. Long term, charging clients for missed sessions compromises your ability to do both.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams

Founder/Director

Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology. He has worked with many thousands of individuals along the full spectrum of health, and has coached at The CrossFit Games. He regularly presents to corporate and fitness industry groups and mentors Fitness Professionals.