There is a networking group here in Portland, Maine that I’ve considered getting involved with. They host events where women can network with one another and there is usually a speaker who makes a presentation. The group meets over dinner and the group announces their events using e-mail.
However, when they send each email announcing an event, they also include this text:
Your registration is a commitment to attend, therefore a meal has been ordered in your name. If you find you need to cancel your registration, please do so by February XX, 2011. If you find you are unexpectedly unable to attend, you may find someone to take your place but please let us know so we can expect your substitute. Early notification is important as we may be able to find a replacement for you from our waiting list if we have one. However, in the event you have to cancel and both parties are unable to provide a replacement, you will be invoiced for the registration fee plus a $5.00 administrative fee.
I fully understand that a meal is involved and there will be no refund if I cancel too close to the meeting date. But the way I read this, I will get fined $5 if I tell them I won’t be coming (and no substitute is found). However, if I just don’t show up, there will be no fine? I don’t think credit card policies will allow them to just make another charge without my authorization. How can it be more of a burden for me to tell them I’m not showing up, rather than just not show up?
I have many issues with this text:
- As stated above, the policy makes no sense. As a working mother, things come up. I fully understand not getting a refund, but it makes me mad to think I could offer to be of some assistance (maybe someone gets off the wait list) by telling them I can’t come, but now I wouldn’t because I would be risking the $5.
- It’s very heavy-handed and has a harsh, penalizing tone to it. If I was considering checking out the group, I would hesitate. In fact, I’ve more than hesitated, I’ve written them off unless they have some sort of phenomenal presentation scheduled.
- I really think they should change this policy, but if they don’t want to, it should be on the registration screen, and not in every promotional email. Your emails are supposed to entice people to participate. Get your readers excited about the event and your group. This just leaves a bad taste in your reader’s mouth… email after email after email.
Language and tone affect your brand identity
There are so many ways that your brand is built by you and your own organization, that is not part of the design of your brand identity. Take a look at how you present your policies to your clients and prospects. These are similar to customer service touchpoints, but you may never get to directly interact with your prospect.
We often don’t like to talk about things like cancellation or termination fees, but they need to be presented in a way that is straightforward. Harsh cancellation terms may be making your prospects wary of closing the sale. But even when reasonable, you can even make them more palatable by softening your tone and language.
As a final note, I did call this group and spoke with someone there to confirm I had read the policy correctly. I did.