#178: 5 Steps to Preventing or Reducing Digital Course Refund Requests


It is frustrating when you have barely finished doing a happy dance over your digital course sale Stripe notifications only to open your email and see course refund requests. Sometimes before the course has even started!

How can we live in the excitement and success of the moment if we are dreading the refund requests that we feel are sure to come?

In today’s episode I’ll give you 5 steps to minimize the refund requests you receive for your digital course. After all, we want to keep those funds heading from Stripe into your bank account not back into theirs.

Four of these ideas are ones that I use in the college classroom to prevent students from dropping the course and in my paid courses as well. After all, it can be nearly impossible to grow your business if you are constantly worrying about and processing refunds. The lost credit card fees alone are enough to make you want to cry, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The 5th step is something that I only use in my paid digital courses, and because it is the step that can give us the heebie jeebies, at the end of the episode, I’m going to give you the proverbial easy button that will save you time, energy, money, and frustration.

Refund to Raving Fan

What if it were possible to reduce the number of refund requests we receive for our digital courses and boost the number of raving fans all at the same time?

We can! We hear a lot about engagement when digital courses come up, and you’ll hear me talk a lot about student engagement. Today, I want to focus on a slightly different piece of the student experience and that is connection. Connection is a piece of engagement, but it isn’t the whole of engagement. Connection is the magic behind reducing those refund requests and creating raving fans of our courses and business.

Let’s jump in with Step 1.

Step 1: Consistent Communication

Step 1 is all about communication. A lot of times you will hear me say that consistency in business is rarely the end all and be all of success. In this case, consistency reigns supreme. Our students need to hear from us consistently.

Think about it, we hand over a credit card for $2000 and then we don’t hear anything. Maybe we get an email notification that our card has been charged but that it is.

How would you feel as a student?

Nervous, scared, frustrated, worried, doubtful, fearful?

These feelings are the opposite of what we want our students to feel.

We want them excited, ready to shout from the rooftops what they are doing, and dive in the moment the course is ready.

How can we do this? The simplest way is to get a solid email sequence set up before we even launch the course. The moment the new student enters their credit card information we want a sequence to kick off to warmly welcome them. In this series you can include a welcome, a timeline of events, important links and login information, how to get help or support easily (in other words don’t send them in a wild goose chase), what pre-work they can do to feel like they make progress even before the course officially begins, and the opportunity to share concerns that are on their mind about the course and what is coming up. 

When we are brought into the “the know” instead of being left out in the cold to guess what will happen, we are more likely to stick around. We are also more likely to forgive the tech glitches. 

I’m part of a membership that also has masterclasses and a tech platform. Recently they ran a promotion to new members that offered both pieces of the business for a low rate. Current members were being served the ads on Facebook. And you can guess how they felt. They were shocked, felt cheated, and were really disappointed in the lack of communication. People are leaving the membership because they feel like they aren’t being taken care of. A simple email sequence letting current customers know what was about to happen and how they could upgrade their membership to take advantage of the new offer would have gone a long way to creating trust.

This idea of trust leads us into the next step and that is to create opportunities for connection.

Step 2: Create Opportunities to Connect

We need connections as humans. And this is certainly true when we have made a financial commitment to a course. We want to know that we aren’t alone. This means that the sooner we foster connections both with the students and between the students, the more “at home” they will feel. 

In my digital courses for college, I often have a journal assignment that allows for students to share their thoughts, questions, concerns, and big ideas with me. It is often their favorite part of the course. Now, this probably isn’t possible for a big digital course, but how can we mirror this kind of connection? 

If you do have a smaller course, or run your course in small group cohorts, or have a high ticket VIP option, then you might be able to do something similar for each module. We can give our students the chance to share their thoughts with us video messages, voice messages in Telegram, Slack, or Facebook messenger, or even have a dedicated form they can fill out that allows you to respond via email.

But what if you are running a larger course? This is where we can use groups like Facebook, Circle, or Slack groups that allow everyone to connect. The benefit of a group like this is that not only can the students connect with us, the course expert, they can connect with one another and begin making friends, building collaborations, and answering each other’s questions. We can open the groups early and the key here is to have planned connection posts. Help people find one another and show up as the course creator. Be present. So often in larger courses we think we are going to have interactions with the course creator, but we don’t. The beauty, especially when our business is smaller, is that we can show up in a very personalized way. We get to answer posts, start conversations, pose thought questions.

When we are connected and feel like our questions are being answered, we are less likely to ask for a refund. Our needs are being met.

Step 3: Ask for Feedback

This brings us to Step 3. We need to consistently ask for feedback. When we ask for feedback, it gives students a sense of ownership over the process and when we are owners, we tend to stick around.

The key to asking for feedback is to make sure that we are willing to implement the ideas or at least address them. For example, I often have students in my college classes ask for extra credit. I don’t offer extra credit and haven’t in 15 years. However, I address the request by letting them know that a portion of their grade each semester is a doable 100% for every student. 

In a paid course, this might look like a student asking for additional examples of the concept. We can provide the additional examples and thank them for the suggestion or we can, if there are plenty of examples in the Facebook group, teach them how to search the Facebook group for examples.

Over the years, I’ve found that when we give students the opportunity to provide feedback, something even bigger happens. It raises their own self-awareness of their behavior, their effort, their use of the course materials, and ultimately helps them to take a step forward. One simple question can help create this shift in self-awareness. “Is there anything that I can do better to help you be more successful in this course?” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had students say that they’ve realized they have access to everything they need and they need to shift what they are doing. Ultimately, this creates a shift in mindset and action taking. That action reduces refunds.

So far, we’ve covered three of the five steps to reducing course refund requests. Consistent communication, creating opportunities for connection, and asking for feedback are key. We have just two more steps to cover and remember that I’m going to give you the proverbial easy button for Step 5 at the end of today’s episode in the Sixty-Second Solution.

Step 4: Share the Plan

Now, onto Step 4. Surprises can be fun, but honestly, not when business growth and success is on the line. We want to know what to expect each step of the way. Share your plan with your students. Don’t hide it away saying that you’ll uncover it when the time is right. Show it all at the beginning.

They are already inside our course and we don’t need to be secretive. Every person in our course has had key details kept from them in the past about something and they know it doesn’t make them feel good, and doesn’t set them up for success. 

This can be through an agenda for the course, a course mind map, be creative. It could be a quick video with a handout that shows the flow of the course. It doesn’t even have to be formal or have the exact same vibe as our course content.

The key here is to make sure our students have the roadmap and can plan their expectations. We often ask for refunds because we don’t know what to expect or fear that what is included in the course won’t meet our needs. The plan can help alleviate this, create dialogue, and ultimately help students see the growth potential.

Step 5: Have a Solid Refund Policy

Finally, we ultimately want raving fans of our courses and programs, right? Did you know that our refund policy can create a raving fan? Yep!

How many times have you told someone about a really seamless refund that you sought out? Or about the customer service you received when you were worried about something? What about when the terms of a purchase were just easy to understand?

These all help us to have a really good experience with a business. Although Steps one through 4 are all about reducing the number of course refunds, the fact is that refunds are a part of business. Step 5 is how we can still turn a customer who asks for a refund into a raving fan. And that is through customer service.

Having a really clear refund policy that is easy to understand, doesn’t require a bunch of fancy moves and jumping through hoops can really ease someone’s mind. It leaves them feeling supported even though they didn’t move forward. They will remember this and the next time someone asks them about our program they say, “You know, I didn’t stick with it, but I had such a great experience with customer service when I asked for a refund. I can’t remember a time when it was so easy to navigate customer service. They actually listened.”

What do you think that person, who asked for the recommendation, will think? It will probably be along the lines of, “Wow! If they got great service when they were leaving, I bet the support inside the course is fantastic.” It gives them confidence to move forward even though someone else didn’t.

Now I know that for a lot of course creators, the legal side of things makes us want to hide in a cave. The legal stuff doesn’t have to be hard. At the end of today’s episode, in the Sixty-Second Solution, I’ll share the proverbial easy button for all things legal inside your business.

Action Item: Create Connection

Aside from taking care of the legal side of things in your business, what action step can you take this week in your course to implement opportunities for connection, communication, feedback, and sharing a plan?

If you have an established course, look through your welcome sequence. Do you need to add a few more emails? What about opportunities for feedback? Are you waiting until the end of the course to ask for feedback? What about adding in a short survey after each module? This would give you time to address concerns before the course ends.

If you have a brand new digital course, what is your plan for creating opportunities to connect? How can you strengthen those opportunities?

The key is to take action this week.

Create Connections

Today we’ve been talking about reducing refund requests for our digital courses and turning even those refund requests into raving fans.

Here on the Digital Course Creator Podcast I’m openly sharing the lessons I’ve learned, the tools and tactics that I’ve used so that you can become a Six-Figure Digital Course Creator. 

But here’s what I’ve realized. All too often the solutions designed to help you get to six-figures focus solely on marketing. 

Success in business and in any area of life requires strategy in a number of categories and you can get that from a lot of different resources. Books, podcasts, webinars, and even courses.

So why do we still struggle consistently to reach our enrollment and financial goals?

Because whatever change we want in our lives will be 10% what we learn, read, or study, and 90% or more mindset.

As a Psychology Professor and Coach, I share as much as I can about mindset here on the show, but to truly thrive we all need individualized attention, accountability, and support.

So if you are ready to say yes to a thriving, financially solid business, I’d love to have a conversation with you.

I have at least two slots open on my calendar each week to help course creators take action, dig into their purpose, and create a strategic plan for growth so that they can get unstuck! These are free, no obligation calls.

If you are ready to make the next 12 months THE year that you go from being uncertain about your course creation business to a Six-Figure Course Creator, grab a strategy call slot at coursecalls.com.

Sixty-Second Solution

As promised, there is the proverbial easy button for legal things inside your business.

Have you ever found yourself wondering how to create a refund policy, wondering what goes in a good refund policy and then finally just take one from someone else’s product?

You really need your own policy that is tailored to your business. The easiest way to do this that I have found is called Plainly Legal.

Plainly Legal is a legal platform created by a lawyer who specializes in online creator businesses. Bobby Klinck has years of experience and has created customizable templates to help course creators build terms and conditions, coaching agreements, course policies, refund policies, privacy policies. 

I love using Plainly Legal because the documents that get generated are thorough and take just a few minutes to complete. You enter in your business information and it pops out your legal document.

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