Have you ever driven through the cold and snow for an appointment, only to get there and realize that the appointment had been cancelled?
It’s infuriating, right?
Unfortunately, it tends to happen a few times every winter at sports facilities located in the snowier parts of the country.
This type of miscommunication costs much more than fees from cancelled lessons or classes. It also costs you the goodwill of the instructor, or, more likely, the client who is understandably upset about having driven to your facility in the cold for no reason.
When customers go through an experience like this, they’re less likely to return to your business and may even complain about you to their friends and community.
Incidents like this are almost always due to a need for better systems and processes. You should take a moment to review how you handle those communications now, before inclement winter weather arrives. And while you’re thinking about it, there are other preparations you can make for inclement winter weather that can actually boost your revenue.
Make a plan for last-minute closings
Even if you’ve been open for years, go over these procedures — especially with new staff members.
Review your plan for deciding whether to close.
It’s nice if you can base the decision on whether to close your doors on a simple and consistent set of factors. The more variability that goes into whether you close, the more confusing it will be.
For example, you can decide to conform to the closings of a certain local school district or municipality. That way, your clients know that when one is closed, the other is closed, too.
If you want to be a little more flexible and base your decision on your general understanding of the road conditions or the ability of your instructors to make it safely to your facility, you can certainly do that.
However, the staff needs to know exactly who will be making the call, how far in advance it will typically be made, and how they should expect to find out about it. That brings me to my next point.
Decide how to alert your customers and staff
Once you decide to close, I suggest the following tactics:
- Emailing and/or texting the people on your active client list and staff list
- Posting a message on your web site
- Posting the news on all social media pages
- Posting the news on your scheduling software
- Personally calling any client who was scheduled to come into the facility that day
- Personally calling any staffers scheduled to come in that day
Quickly posting to as many places as you can is well worth avoiding even one confused customer or employee. Whoever is in charge of posting these messages also must have access to all of these tools. Double-check now so you’re not scrambling last minute.
Decide how to give refunds for when the facility is closed
Will your clients get refunds or store credits? Will that vary depending on the service they were scheduled for? Who decides? Who is responsible for giving the refunds, and when are they expected to give them? What happens when the lesson cancelled is part of a long-term package or membership (added on to the end, for example?)
If you don’t know the answers to all of these questions for every service that could be scheduled at your facility on a snow day, it’s time to get the procedures in writing now.
Make sure your clients know the drill
When we email our clients, we like to think of them opening each message and avidly reading every word. But the reality is much different: Each of your clients gets bombarded with emails daily. They may even have more than one email account. Some of those emails may go directly to a Spam or Promotions folder. Others simply get overlooked.
Even when clients do read the emails, people typically need to hear a message 3-5 times before it really sinks in. That’s why you should start now with reminders of your inclement weather policy.
Clients should understand where to look for any official updates about whether you’re open. They should also know what to expect as far as getting their money back when one of their services is cancelled due to weather or any other unexpected reason.
This will cut down on calls to the front desk and the remote chance of people showing up when the facility is closed, even after you’ve made as much of an effort as possible to let them know you’re closed.
Finalize other plans for inclement winter weather
When schools close, you can also take advantage of the opportunity to host special open house events. Kids and families will be looking for somewhere to burn some energy.
For more ideas, check out our Winter Checklist for Sports Facilities.