Clear Expectations: The Importance of a Good Refund Policy

Does your program have a refund policy?

by Lukas Forbush, Customer Success Team, CourseStorm

Do I really need a refund policy?

Well-written refund policies are vital for any business providing services to the public. A refund policy establishes expectations for both your business and customers and can protect you from potential financial losses and liability. Your policy lets registrants know what to expect should they need to cancel a registration. A signed or virtually acknowledged refund policy is also one of the best tools you can use to win a disputed credit card purchase known as a “chargeback.” 

If you don’t have a refund policy now, it’s worth the time to create one, and it’s not a difficult process and it can have a serious, positive impact on your bottom line.

Writing a strong refund policy

As you create your own policy, it may be helpful to look at refund policies from other, similar programs as you craft yours as well.  

Be as concise as possible. People tend to breeze over terms and agreements when registering. Keeping your policy brief will increase the chances that your registrants will read it. Your refund policy can be half a page or less. 

Keep the information non-specific. Your policies should establish program-wide rules that apply in the majority of situations. You can make exceptions when necessary, but a consistent ruleset is important. Think of your program like a city government; there are firm rules in place that apply to everyone, but individuals may make decisions not accounted for in the rulebook. 

Below are a few items we recommend including in your refund policy:

  • Time limit for refunds. Be clear about your refund timeframes. For example, “no refunds after the first day of class” and “no refunds will be issued for missed classes or absences” are common refund restrictions.
  • Process for withdrawing from a course. This way, no registrant can claim they weren’t aware of the process and procedures you’ve put in place.
  • Policies for class cancellation. There are multiple reasons why a class may be canceled, so the procedures for a class cancellation should be explained.
  • Specific refund and exemption information. Information about what will and will not be refunded and policy exceptions should be noted as well. For instance, many programs have medical exemptions that have specific rules that may be used when needed. Others may refund a materials fee but not the class fees.
  • Clear refund request procedures. Describe the procedure that a registrant must do in order to request a refund, including any necessary paperwork that must be included.

Share your policy with your registrants.

Make sure your registrants see (and acknowledge) your refund policy!  Having a refund policy isn’t enough. Your customers need to see and acknowledge it. Present your refund policy in at least one of the following places:

  • Your organization’s main website navigation, clearly labeled;
  • As a link in the footer of your organization’s main website;
  • At the bottom of each course description as a link.

If you’re a CourseStorm customer, you may also consider:

  • In a link within the intro text of your CourseStorm site;
  • Listing the policy as a waiver that needs acknowledgment on your standard form. 

Regardless of its location, an annual update is recommended, and registrants should acknowledge that they’ve read it.

Share your policy internally.

Once you’ve created a concise, universally-applicable refund policy, be sure to share it internally to ensure that it’s consistently applied. This is critical to both your students and your staff. If your staff members are empowered to make exceptions (there will always be exceptions!), be sure to have a process by which those are noted and recorded.

Remember the policy basics.

  • Keep your policy concise;
  • Keep your policy general enough to be applicable to any situation;
  • Establish expectations and procedures for cancelations;
  • Educate staff on your policies so they are consistent;
  • Connect your refund policy to your standard form so registrations have to acknowledge it.

If you’re a CourseStorm customer and you have questions about your policy, please reach out to us at CourseStorm support. We’re happy to talk with you about it!

(And if you’re not a CourseStorm customer we’d love to show you how easy a refund —and everything else— is when you’re using CourseStorm for class registration!)