Recently, we asked TechRepublic members to help out with a sticky business situation. A trainer was ready to get on the plane for an out-of-town session when the client called to cancel. The trainer had no contract, but felt he was entitled to some kind of compensation for his now-useless plane ticket.

Members said that you should never do anything without a contract, and that you should be sure that it covers all your bases. They also said that most agreements should give refund rates based on how much warning the canceling company provided: 30 days or 15 days. Answers about traveling expenses varied; some trainers were stricter than others.

Get everything spelled out up front
RobR. has a standard contract that lists exactly which expenses will be reimbursed and when they will be reimbursed.

“Once approved and expended, reimbursable expenses are the responsibility of the client, regardless of whether or not the project/event for which they were approved has been cancelled or postponed. In the case of prepaid projects, I always try to be as fair and economical as possible (always treat clients’ money as if it were your own!). I would only charge them back for full airfare on a cancelled trip if, in fact, the tickets were non-refundable and I couldn’t use them at a later date.”

Shawn M. said that after being burned by promised training dates that fell through, he doesn’t make any plans without a contract in hand.

“The first person to present me with a contract is the one who wins for that week. Normally, if they give me more than two weeks’ notice they can cancel, no questions asked, barring situations like a nonrefundable ticket. Then they pay only what I lost—no extra. If they cancel with less than two weeks before the class, then they pay what I lose in expenses, normally just the cost of the plane ticket, unless I can recoup that and they will pay 50 percent of my training fee. If I can make $2,500 a week to sit at home with my wife, I can accept that.”

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction
Stsavage says that it helps to make it clear up front that changing schedules has consequences.

“Cancellation should be discussed with the client, and specifics should be negotiated based on vendor and client needs. My company charges 50 percent for training cancelled 45 days out and 100 percent if cancelled 30 days out.”

When Loucomnews gets the, “I’m sorry, we’re going to have to cancel,” phone call, the client feels the consequences and bears some of the responsibility for rescheduling:

“I managed these kinds of incidents by saying something like, ‘Sure, I would be happy to reschedule for next month. I need you to reimburse me for my expenses for this month and we can regroup next month.’ The client often ‘managed’ to decide to go ahead and pursue training in spite of the earlier ‘need’ for rescheduling.”

Perspective, perspective, perspective
Pratik P. reminds us that we’re all only human.

“We must realize that we are all dealing with other people. And, as our businesses have needs, so do the businesses of other people.”
How many times did you get burned before wising up? How do you win these battles and preserve your client relationships? Tell us what you think of these solutions.