Avoiding the Rotating Door Syndrome

This month on The Unfinished Lesson, we will be looking at ways to retain clients.  With registration coming up in many studios, it is important to remind students & parents alike why they just HAVE to stay with you for another year.

One of the schools I worked at in Mexico liked to survey students each semester to see what they thought of their subject teachers.  Most of the time, the information on the surveys was just put into a teacher’s file.  But, we all knew that they were important in ensuring we had a job for the next semester.  Bad reviews meant that we were at higher risk of not getting another contract.  One teacher I knew had an interesting solution.  In the weeks leading up to evaluations, he would ensure his students were doing a constant stream of fun activities.  While watching movies, playing games & doing field trips may seem like he was gaming the system a bit (& he was), he also had consistently high reviews & much more job security than the majority of us.

So, what does that mean for our studios?  People best remember experiences highly linked with emotions or the end of experiences (also known as the peak-end rule).  Just like my friend, we can combine these a bit & create positive emotions with specific activities to increase our re-enrollment rates.  But, there is a caveat.  If your clients & students have had a negative experience the rest of the year, there is no guarantee that it won’t outweigh their overwhelming impression of your studio.  In other words, you can only game the system so much.

Rotating door syndrome

There are many reasons why students leave a studio.  Some of these include:

  • Interest has waned (the newness has worn off)
  • Other activities take precedent (developed a passion for something else they want to pursue more fully)
  • Interpersonal conflicts with teacher or studio owner
  • Scheduling or policy conflicts
  • Moving to a different city/town/part of the country/out of the country

Students leaving the studio is not the problem though.  It is the FREQUENCY in which the students leave the studio.

Unsustainable growth is not growth.  It is instability.

~ Alonzo de la Cruz

Constantly recruiting new students is exhausting & costly!  Having a high churn rate is a sign that you may not be spending enough time, energy or focus on your current clients. They are where you will get the most return on investment.

Create memorable experiences

This month I am doing several things to ensure that students (& their parents) are seeing why they love piano lessons with me.  Students are participating in:

  • Practice challenge: Double or triple points for a certain number of days practiced & a small candy for a larger number of days practiced.
  • Composing project:  Who doesn’t love expressing themselves?  Plus, it has been a great way to review or introduce new theory concepts for students.
  • Recital repertoire:  Right now is selection & finding music. But, having students choose the song the just HAVE to learn increases their enjoyment at a time when excitement tends to die down a bit.
  • Group lesson week:  I’ll be writing more about this in a couple of weeks, but needless to say the kids will be raving about this to their parents when they head home.
  • Spring Break Annual Challenge:  Practice tends to decrease over breaks.  This is a creative challenge that students can do anywhere!  Travelling & don’t have access to a piano? … No problem.  You can still participate.  I’ll be sharing the details with you in a few weeks.

Check in with your clients

What do they REALLY think about your studio?  While I do check in with clients on an almost weekly basis, having a formal survey that I can collate the results into potential patterns has been amazing.  Next week, I will be sharing the benefits of surveying your clients, as well as giving you the questions I ask my clients each year to ensure that I am best meeting their needs.

We exist to serve our clients.  But if we have no idea what they want or need, how can we best serve them?

Remind them they are part of your community

We all want to be a part of something.  It is basic human nature.  To remind your clients of your studio’s community, you can:

  • Hold a group lesson
  • Remind them of a recital coming up (& maybe include pictures from previous years)
  • Focus on student pictures & videos for your social media posts … give those parents lots of bragging rights!

Track your retention rates & WHY clients leave

Yes, we want clients to stay.  But, sometimes they leave.  If we don’t know why, we lose an important piece of information that can help us keep future clients with us longer.

While it can feel overwhelming, knowing the why makes marketing easier.  I used to get a certain type of client in my studio because they LOVED the idea of having a travel teacher.  The problem was they had no interest in finding out our studio culture & left just a few months in.  It wasn’t that they were bad clients.  They just weren’t a good fit for my studio. 

Because I tracked why clients left, I was able to see a pattern forming.  Now, the wording on my studio site is intentional about drawing the clients that make a great fit into the studio.  And driving away those clients that I know will leave anyways.  Much better for them to find a studio that is a good fit & stay, than subject their child to a rotating door of teachers.

Having a spreadsheet that tracks your retention rates from year to year helps you see your studio’s growth.  Including a running list of why clients are leaving enables you to see patterns that occur annually & gives you the opportunity to make positive changes.

Be the BEST studio by creating the experience your ideal client wants.  Use your spreadsheet to pinpoint what makes your studio unique.  And, what drives clients away.

What are YOUR strategies for keeping clients?  Let us know in the comments below!

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