7 Strategies for Preventing and Handling Online Course Refund Requests

When you’re first starting out and gearing up to publish your course, one of the last things you may be thinking of is the idea of one of your students requesting a refund…

It’s a scary thought at first, but it’s an inevitable part of running an online business (or any business in general). Whether it’s a customer who had a technical issue or simply changed their mind, you need to be prepared to handle online course refund requests in a way that will satisfy your customer and protect your business.

After managing our own online courses for over 15 years and helping our clients launch their courses, we have developed systems and processes that work extremely well for handling refunds in an online course business (and even more importantly, things to think about to reduce refunds from the get-go). As a result, our refund rate for our courses is significantly less than the average in our industry.

Here are our top tips – both for preventing refunds and handling them:

Three Strategies to Prevent Online Course Refunds

In the online learning space, the industry standard refund rates on courses can be as high as 30%. But don’t let these statistics discourage you from putting your course out into the world!

The good news is there are simple strategies you can weave into the course development process to decrease your chance of refunds in your program before you even click “publish”. We know because the courses we’ve developed in our own business and those we help experts in our community develop result in refund rates less than 2%. 

Here are some strategies and tactics to reduce refund rates that you can weave in while you create your course:

1. Create With the End in Mind and Identify the Essential Content to Help Your Students Get Results

Organizing your course with a Content Storyboard (shared in our Create 6-Figure Courses Virtual Bootcamp program)

In working with thousands of course creators, we’ve observed that some courses with a high refund rate simply fail to make sense to the student. The modules do not build upon each other to achieve the desired result that the student expected when they purchased the course.

When you create your online course with one specific result in mind, and carry that result throughout the program, it creates a more linear experience that the student can easily understand. As they progress through the course, they can see themselves reaching their goal.

Along the same lines, when you’re creating your course, you want to stay focused on THE essential content that will help your students achieve their goals. If a piece of content does not directly relate to the transformation in your course, it should be set aside for a future program.

2. Proof and Then Proof Again

Testing before you launch your online course is incredibly important! Refunds often happen because the student wasn’t able to get started or misunderstood one or more of the course components.

Before you launch your online course, it is critical that you test the whole process from purchase to enrollment, to logging in to the course platform, to actually getting started on the course. The first test is for technical issues: Does the checkout work? Do you land on the right thank you page after purchasing? Are you able to log in to the course hosting platform?

Then, you could go through a second time to look for more subtle content related issues. Are the instructions clear? Are there any typos? Are the images on the page correct and related to the product you are selling?

Finally, we recommend having a potential student or someone who is unfamiliar with the content test the entire process. You might be surprised to learn just how many obvious issues there can be that are easy to overlook if you’ve been working on a course for months.

By creating an intuitive, simple process, you can reduce or eliminate refunds from customers who are confused. A well thought out, elegant, consistent purchase and enrollment process will send the message that you are committed to providing the best possible experience for your customers.

3. Offer a Way to Receive Feedback From You or Your Team

If you’ve ever taken an online course on a topic that is entirely new to you, you’ve probably experienced a point when you think, “Am I even doing this right?”

There is a risk for more refund requests at this time if you do not have a way for your students to receive feedback on their work or ask questions.

Consider including a Q&A in your online course or a way for your students to submit their work for critique. This will help them know they are on the right track and reduce refund requests.

Four Tips for Handling Online Course Refund Requests

1. Template Responses Are Your Friend

If you’re in the beginning of your online course journey, it’s likely that you will be wearing multiple hats, including customer support. We highly recommend creating templated responses for refund requests (and all other common customer service questions).

Not only does this speed up response time, but it also prevents you from going down a rabbit hole wondering and obsessing about the refund request.

2. Respond Quickly

The first rule of dealing with any customer service request is to always respond quickly.

In the case of an online course refund request, you should aim to get back to the customer within 24 hours. Our internal benchmark is to respond within 6 hours. That isn’t to say you need to respond that quickly (especially when you are first starting out – you might be delivering your course and providing customer service), but it IS important to have an internal benchmark and stick to it.

Most customers are happy when they have a response within 24 hours.

3. Ask How You Can Help

You would be surprised how many online course refund requests are simply technical challenges that the customer is not able to solve on their own. The first step of any refund process should be to ask the customer how you can help them dive back into the content.

First, we recommend clarifying that a refund is available to them, and then asking whether they have any questions or had a challenge accessing the content. Showing that you’re happy to help, whether they still want to receive a refund or not, increases your student’s trust in you and your brand.

4. Share the Process for a Refund and Give it Quickly

If the customer is set on receiving a refund, share with them the next steps. What do you need from them to set the process in motion? When will the refund be given?

In our business, we let the customer know that the refund will be provided within 24 hours, and the charge may take up to 7 days to show in their bank account. We also provide a copy of the receipt showing that the refund is in process.


It’s important to remember that when online course refund requests do come up, it doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on your content. It might mean that the student wasn’t a good fit for the course, or they realized they aren’t ready to commit to doing the work required.

Since you are a small business, you have the opportunity to show up for your customers in an empathetic, personal way, which builds trust and loyalty. You might be surprised how many customers end up coming back and purchasing your next course after receiving a refund!

As an online course creator, it’s natural to feel a range of emotions when you’re getting ready to launch your course – from excitement to anxiety. Preparing in advance and having a concrete plan in place for refund requests is one way you can feel more confident going into your online course launch.

When you handle refund requests quickly and professionally, you provide a positive experience for your customers, lay the foundation for a positive reputation, and make it more likely your customers will come back for more.

What are your questions about dealing with online course refunds?

Create Your Online Course With Our Proprietary Expert Experience Method

If you’re ready to create your online course with these strategies in mind, our Create 6-Figure Courses Virtual Bootcamp is the perfect place to start. Click here to learn more.

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