How To Ask For, Issue or Deny Refund Requests (Without Sounding Like A Douche)
How To Ask For, Issue or Deny Refund Requests (Without Sounding Like A Douche)
I came out of my first-ever live workshop on a natural high.
People showed up! They asked thought-provoking questions! Everyone stayed for a full 2.5 hours!
…then I checked my email.
The first thing I saw was a scathing refund request.
The worst part was that it was all dressed up as kindness; like this email was somehow going to help me make my training actually worth something, other than the pile of dog poo this attendee clearly believed it was.
She gave special attention to how painful and uncomfortable this refund request was to write. She mentioned it 3 times.
“I really hate sending this email […] I feel bad asking for my money back […] I feel bad writing this…”
(SIDE NOTE: It’s a sure sign you have wonky money drama if you feel this bad about refunding a training you didn’t even like.)
My training was referred to as “more like a free inspirational webinar” and deemed overpriced for “really general, introductory stuff.”
It was pretty crushing.
Even more so in my ecstatic yet vulnerable state.
Nada one of the dozen glowing thank-you’s and rave reviews that subsequently arrived in my inbox could dampen its effect.
I have a no-questions-asked refund policy. And I delight in refunding anyone who was in any way unsatisfied, preferably within 24 hours. I never want anyone to walk away from my business with a bad taste in their mouth. I’d rather be out $500 than have a customer thinking bad thoughts about me or my business.
Refunds are handled by my right-hand woman Sandra, so I don’t see them for the most part. We only discuss them insofar as how many there are and if there are any repeating complaints that we need to address.
I don’t need to know anything else.
…and I definitely don’t need the 500-word breakdown of everything that was wrong with my course.
So what’s “the right way” to ask for a refund when you buy a course that doesn’t meet your expectations?
1. Give it 24 hours to marinate.
For starters, watch the actual training. In full. (Assuming it’s not 30 hours long.)
When you invest in a training and decide you don’t feel like doing it anymore, or that you’d rather buy a cashmere sweater, that’s kind of a douche-y reason to request a refund.
First give it a shot. You owe it to yourself. If you still feel like refunding, move on to step two.
2. Email support and say it in 3 sentences or less.
There’s a very good chance the person on the other side of your request has a lot less emotional investment than you do. Refunds happen. We get it. It’s part of being in business.
You don’t need to add a long-winded explanation. Chances are there’s a very clear refund policy that doesn’t require one anyway. It’s fine to say, “This course didn’t meet my expectations. I’d like a refund. Thanks in advance.”
Where possible, email a support person and not the actual course creator herself. That’s just good etiquette since she’ll likely have to pass it on to that person anyway.
Ahem…yes, I am talking about myself.
3. Don’t explain yourself unless you think it will be helpful.
Calling someone’s training a “free motivational webinar” isn’t helpful. Telling them how hesitant you were to buy, or how huge a purchasing decision this was for you isn’t helpful.
Keep it low drama. It’s just money, not a cancer diagnoses.
Try to remove yourself from the picture. More importantly, remove your money/scarcity drama from the picture.”] Because we all have bills to pay, and we all get scared sometimes that we won’t be able to pay them. Rich or poor, that’s just part of being alive. Again, not helpful.
4. If you actually watched it and found it valuable, don’t ask for a refund.
This seems obvious, but it happens a lot. If you watched the whole training, implemented some of it, and got active in the Facebook group…we know you got value, so don’t pretend you didn’t.
My goal when buying a course is to get 1 good takeaway. It’s like landing a great job or finding an awesome life partner. I don’t need 10. I just need 1 good one. So that’s the attitude I’ll approach it with.
Just be a decent human so we can all get along.
Same thing goes for those on the receiving end of refund requests.
Two important things to be aware of as a course creator dealing with refund requests:
1. At some point someone’s going to tell you your stuff is “overpriced,” “not worth the money,” or worse, “a waste of money.”
In fact, it’s a bit of a red flag if they don’t. If no one has ever called you overpriced you can be sure it’s time to raise your rates.
But that’s the risk.
Then you squint, hold your breath, and hit “publish.”
2. Whether you’re teaching, coaching or consulting, other people will try to saddle you with their emotional baggage.
It’s just part of the game. (And why coaches should charge a lot, IMO.)
This is especially true when you’re addressing a subject that triggers people, like money, sex, or politics. There will always be people who buy your stuff, only to run as far and fast as they can in the other direction.
It’s just part of the process.
If you’ve triggered someone, you’ve done your job. That means you’ve loosened up something hidden, and given that person eyes to see.
It doesn’t always make you money, but that doesn’t mean it’s not rewarding. And when you get those bleeding heart emails, you’ll have to ask yourself:
“Is this really MY stuff, or is this person trying to wipe all their childhood-wound caca all over my face?”
When I looked at the email again, I saw a ton of general discomfort around the whole subject of money.
It was raw with old wounds. When you’re truly on top of your money stuff, you don’t go on for five hundred words about how traumatic it is for you to ask for your three hundred bucks back.
You just ask, and say thank-you when the matter is handled in a professional and timely manner. (I had a particularly delightful refund experience with Todd Herman, and have often thought of buying his program again.)
But as I dug deeper (i.e. past my own ego) I saw that this email was actually much more helpful than a simple “I’m not completely satisfied, may I have a refund please?”
That email wouldn’t have been hurtful, but neither would it have been helpful.
It triggered me, which was uncomfortable, but still helpful. It forced me to confront my own nagging doubts about the quality of what I put out there, and how I can make my trainings stronger and more actionable. (The Money Vault is f#cking awesome, btw. But again, I’m human. I have an inner bitchy-mcbitch who sometimes tells me otherwise. She keeps me on my toes.)
It helped me understand my audience, which invaluable.
Whichever side of the refund request you land on, there are lessons to be learned. If you can take the emotion out of it, then you don’t have to worry about acting like or being perceived as a scheming d-bag.
It’s okay to say “no” to refund requests.
If the customer is outside of the refund period, just say so. No need to get all apologetic and Canadian about it. Rules is rules.
If you feel like making an exception for this person, you’ll be in their good graces forever and ever, and they’re a lot more likely to come back and buy from you another time.
But you don’t have to.
Women are the worst for being way too nicey-nicey in this scenario. If that sounds like you, practice being firm about your policy for a while before you decide to make exceptions.
If you don’t have a refund policy, or it was somehow unclear (ex. I had a course that said the refund period was 7 days on the sales page, and 30 days on the checkout page — so we gave everyone 30 days), be prepared to liberally issue refunds.
Got a great refund story? Share it below.
Leave a comment below with your best refund story. Did you like how the business was handled? And if not, how could it have been better?
I’m a launch strategist, copywriter and educator on all things money—earning it, growing it, and helping others get more of it.
Talking to customers IRL is hard. For one, customer interviews are a giant and agonizing time-suck. You need at least 8 (sometimes up to 20) interviews to generate data you can trust. But also, most of us who run customer interviews tend to find little pay-off. Here's how to run effective, masterful customer interviews – the kind you’ll leave knowing you got the goods. And, knowing you can get them again, in every interview you run.
People say the money is in the list. Not true. Smarter people say the money is in your relationship with your list. Getting closer. Use video to build your relationship with your list.
A massive team of talented people worked hard to raise this website, which included a full rebrand and building an evergreen quiz funnel for my program The Money Vault. Here’s a breakdown of how we built it: