Cameron Wenaus, from Retreat Guru and Nate Hughes, from Menla, hosted our November Webinar – Diving Deeper into Analytics and Trends. Both self confessed data geeks they loved the invitation from HCN. Representatives joined in from various holistic centers including: Breitenbush Hot Springs, Kashi Ashram, Le Monastere des Augustines, The Haven, Hollyhock, Findhorn Foundation, Saratoga Springs, Institute of Noetic Sciences and Guest House Center.
Nate started out in customer facing roles and explained the context of the webinar, “I worked as a registration coordinator and front desk manager and saw a lot of trends. Cancellations always seemed to be a pain point for centers. Intuitively we know that it costs us money. I tried to create policy around those trends that would help fix some of the problems”.
In data science sometimes numbers can tell us different things. “In our research we saw a lot of things that we were thinking; people go for early bird pricing or book well in advance and this can lead to cancellations. That’s really where this presentation took off. It also naturally uncovered more questions than we originally posed.”
Cameron appreciated the opportunity to research a specific problem for retreat centers. These are the original questions researched:
- How many people cancel their retreat?
- What’s the industry average for that?
- When do these cancellations happen?
- Are they last minute or are they well in advance?
- Who cancels retreats?
- What types of retreats get canceled, if any?
- And, can we do anything about preventing cancellations?
The data came from 93 centers in the Retreat Guru database out of a possible 150 centers, over a three year period. “We looked at 1800 programs and 33,000 registrations,” explained Cameron. “There are some limitations to the data of course. It’s not a random sample, because these are our software clients who we provide registration to.” The data focused on the 93 centers who consistently captured age, gender and price to explore how that affects cancellations.
The key question asked was how many people cancel their retreat? “We found that 1.72% of all registrations result in a cancellation,” said Cameron. “This is relatively stable over time. It may look like a small number so does it matter?”
Then Nate pointed out, “Let’s run the numbers here for a retreat center that’s doing 2000 registrations. That’s close to $50,000 in lost revenue a year. Or, that could be two medium-sized programs. So, it is quite significant.”
If we could tackle this even to just a small degree it could really make a difference for centers. In addition to the quantitative data, Retreat Guru sent out a qualitative survey about the reasons for cancellations. Some of the answers from people running retreat centers include:
- The pain is high. It costs us time and money.
- Lots see wasted time.
- Cancellations are not being able to offer the space to someone that really may need it. That’s heartbreaking when someone bows out and someone else can’t do it because it was full.
- Overall lost revenue, that’s a challenge.
- People canceling 14 to 30 days before the retreat means others aren’t able to register.
- There’s a ripple effect in the organization because you attempt to fill the spot.
It’s important to have a cancelation policy that can recoup the administrative cost associated with the cancelation. Going beyond that and finding a balance that disincentivizes far in advance bookings, coupled with short-term cancelations would be ideal. However this is only one approach. There’s the punitive and the pro-active. Deposits and cancellation policies come under the punitive. The webinar explored both behavioral and demographic characteristics of people that are likely to cancel and suggested pro-active ways to respond.
The research highlighted two main reasons people cancel retreats. Interested to learn more? It also showed that low cost retreats have a higher cancellation rate. Curious to explore proactive approaches to minimise overall cancellations? The full transcript and powerpoint presentation is available to HCN members. The full hour long recording will also be available shortly.
View the full 2018 webinar series here.