If you run a fitness studio, the idea of asking your clients to pay an upfront booking fee can be intimidating. You wonder if they will balk at paying for a service before showing up to take advantage of it. But, the truth is, people pay upfront for most services, including airfare, concert tickets, and retainers for legal services. Asking your members to pay for service when they book their appointment or schedule a group fitness class, is not only good for you, it’s good for the client, too.

Once you have a comfortable pricing structure, setting up a system that asks your members to pay upfront can instantly improve your business. Here’s how:

Guests have more incentive to show up (reduce your risk)

One of the best reasons to take payment at the time of booking is that it reduces your risk of losing out on payments when a member is a no-show. And if you’ve booked a private session with that client, you don’t only miss out on a payment, you lose time that you could have been spending with another person or working on your business. Requiring that a customer pay upfront makes it more likely that they will keep their appointment. Asking for payment upfront tells your customers that your time is valuable and that to ensure they get the chance to work with you, they must commit.

As an added benefit, requiring payment at booking allows you to charge a fee if they cancel with less than 24-hours’ notice or fail to show up at all.

Booking payments instantly increases your cash flow

One thing a business can’t afford to be is short on cash. Constantly booking appointments or having several empty spaces in your yoga class hurts your profit margin. Increasing your cash flow lets you operate your business more effectively. You’ll have more money to attract other clients, purchase or update supplies, pay staff, and pay yourself. While you can increase your cash flow in other ways, getting payment from your customers is obviously the best way to do it.

Automated booking payments save time

One of the simplest ways to streamline your business is to automate the payment process. Creating a variety of packages with upfront booking payments will allow you (or your employees) to focus on tasks more important than negotiating with clients about services and payment methods. You can even pitch this to your customer as a cost-saving method because the less time you have to spend working on your business, the less you have to increase your rates.

Paying at booking is more convenient

Paying for a service upfront is just easier and more convenient for both parties. When your client pays immediately, you don’t have to worry about collecting or waiting around when their finances run into a brick wall.

Pragmatically, a client attending a yoga class may not want to bring their purse or wallet to the studio and leave it unattended while they meditate and stretch. Payment at booking means they can show up without a purse or bag and keep their attention where it needs to be. Once the class is over, your students can hit the road without hanging around to pay afterward.

Upfront payments build trust

Customers want to work with someone they trust. When you ask them to pay at booking, you’re setting yourself up as an expert in your field. You are telling them your time is important and they should value you as an expert. By following through with your end of the deal (providing the service they pay for), you are helping to build a trusting relationship which is a good base for repeat business.

When you ask your customer to pay upfront, you are telling them that you are committed to their happiness and their satisfaction as a customer. Call any high-end spa or hotel and try to book a reservation. Most of the time they’ll ask you to pay a booking fee or pay for your services upfront. They are telling you (without using words) that they believe you’ll be happy with the service. Tell your customers the same thing.

A final note:

Before you initiate the payment plan, make sure you have a clear set of rules for how you will handle different situations. Will you only ask people to pay upfront or require it? Will you allow walk-ins? What type of fee will you charge if someone cancels? Will there be an incentive for paying at booking (like a certain percentage off of the total price?)

Set the rules and then make sure your staff knows them. You may even consider posting your new payment structure online, in a newsletter, or at the front of your studio so as not to surprise regular clients.

Ashley Remstad

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