Cancellation Policies That Benefit Event Planners & Participants
At some point, everyone has had to make a change to a registration or request a refund for an event they’ve committed to attending. There are endless reasons for change requests, ranging from conflicting schedules to the changing of one’s mind.
Some events will allow participants to make changes without any hassle, but for others it seems nearly impossible. In many cases there is good reason why changes are difficult to make, but taking an extremely hard line with requests for refunds and changes can hurt your event overall.
Even though the refund and cancellation policy is important to the success of your event, it often seems to be overlooked when setting up online registration forms. Not only will a well thought out policy reduce difficult situations regarding refunds and changes, it should also encourage people to register for your event.
Here is a list of several items that you should consider for your cancellation and refund policies:
Clearly state important dates
Make sure dates for full refunds, partial refunds, changes, etc. are clearly stated. This will help to reduce disputes and give you something to refer to if an issue does arise. It is also a good idea to state the registration deadline.
Clearly state refund or change fees
If refunds are permitted, let people know how much it will cost them. You may not want to charge a fee in the name of good customer service, but remember that if the transaction was on a credit card, the credit card processing fees on the initial transaction cannot be recouped, so you must be prepared to absorb this amount. Also keep in mind the staff time to deal with the change and the resulting impact on changes to other details such as event materials, name tags, meals, etc.
Keep it simple and professional
Keep your policy simple and professional, but be careful of the tone. In some cases, if you can give a brief explanation of why you have selected certain dates and policies you will get more understanding from participants. A statement like “Any change requests must be made before November 24th as we need to confirm meals and seating with the venue” may get a better reaction than “No changes after November 24th.
Provide change request instructions
In most cases you should state that cancellation or change requests be made in writing. At a minimum, provide the name, phone number and email address of the person to contact.
A good way to avoid giving refunds and having to charge a fee or losing revenue is to allow event participants to send an alternate person to the event. In many cases this will keep all parties happy and there are no additional transaction fees involved. You may want to set a deadline for changes so you have time for preparing name tags, meals, etc.
Another alternative is to give a credit towards another event if applicable. Again, there are no additional transaction fees for either party and everyone should end up happy. As the event planner you should put a date on the credit so it cannot be held indefinitely.
Remember that in most cases the main goal is to get people to register for your event. By adding some flexibility to your refund and cancellation policies and giving some alternatives, you are likely to attract more registrations. Of course, some people may take you up on your more generous policies, but the additional registrations you receive may more than offset the number of people asking for their money back or to make a change.
Here are three sample cancellation policies.
- The registration deadline is January 10, 2005. Full refunds are available prior to November 30, 2005. After this date you may send an alternate to the event without additional charge. To request a cancellation or to make a change please send an email to the Event Planner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Refunds less a $25.00 cancellation fee will be given for cancellations received in writing to email@example.com prior to November 30, 2005. Following this date, no refunds will be given, but a credit will be issued to use towards another event within one year.
- Sorry, tickets are non refundable as all proceeds will be donated the charity.
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