Here is the elephant in the room. Most of the problems that happen in any studio stem from policies that are not clear to clients. Even when they’ve signed them.
It could be a client that pays tuition late or makeup lesson requests. Whatever drives you a little crazy when your client asks is a sign that your policies may be unclear.
“I have told my clients of the policies! They just don’t remember!”
I hear you. But, it isn’t just our kids that need multiple reminders before something new sticks. Us adults can be pretty bad for that too.
How You Know It’s Your Policies
The first year that I made comprehensive studio policies I agonized over the wording & spent hours going through each section to make sure it perfectly stated what my clients needed to know.
Then, I handed it off to my mom & my husband. My mom used to get me to proofread things for their business so I knew she would have a pretty good idea where I was coming from. And, my husband is an engineer. Read this to mean “likes things to be clearly & succinctly worded”.
Turns out my policies were not clear at all.
What was incredibly clear in my own mind didn’t translate to making sense for others.
We all think differently
You do not have all the same type of person in your studio.
Some clients will be want to know all their options & prefer language that reflects this. Other clients will be like my husband & want you to just get to the point already. And many clients will be somewhere in the middle.
Attempting to write policies that reach both these types of clients is not an easy prospect. But, it is not impossible.
It just takes time & willingness to edit, edit, edit.
Plus, realize that anything new in your policies may take a full year for some clients to internalize.
Policy Stress Test
Each year I go through my policies with a fine-tooth comb. I put them under a bit of a stress test to see if they are clear to both clients that want their options listed & those that just want it to get to the point.
Are your policies clear?
A quick look back
Think back through the year to any client requests that asked for an exception or a clarification.
These are an indicator that something in your policies is not clear.
What needs to change
The first year that I incorporated music lab into my travel studio there were lots of questions. This was something completely new for all of us & as prepared as I was beforehand there were some questions I hadn’t even thought of.
In fact, that first year I had to make up some music lab policies on the fly.
Not what anyone wants in an ideal world, but it was it was.
Making a list of what needs to change in your policies is not a failure on your part.
It’s good business practice to continually adapt & improve each year.
Make a list of anything that needs to change in your policies. Be brutally honest with yourself.
Trust me when I say that it will make your next year run more smoothly.
Use your client’s wording
Using the feedback you got from your clients (& every question or request is feedback), look at the how they asked.
Did multiple clients use the same or similar wording to describe their request?
Instead of spending hours crafting the “perfect” wording, use your clients instead. It clearly makes sense to them … so why waste time making it more “perfect”?
This is a common advertising technique that helps your clients feel that you “get” them & really understand their needs.
Options, options, options
One of the biggest reasons clients ask for exceptions is wanting options that work for them.
Gone are the days when companies can do whatever they want & the client just has to put up with it. Now with so many options available, companies big & small must provide options to stay in business.
And if you just said that your studio is not a company … pinch yourself.
Yes! Your studio is a company & it must live up to these expectations or risk dying out.
Your policies should clearly state what options your client has.
What happens when your client is going on vacation? Or, has a sick child on the day of lessons?
Clearly state the options available.
Or, be prepared for clients to come up with their own options.
Proofreaders that are not you
Having someone else proofread your policies is invaluable for finding those areas that will cause questions in the next year.
But, this step is two-fold.
- Choose proofreaders that are different in personality to you.
- Embrace their suggestions, even when you want to say, “But I put so much work into this!”
Use differences to help you
Remember how I said my husband likes things to be succinct?
I was working on my dissertation & needed to cut 500 words from a particular section. My piano teacher & I had agonized over the wording already. But, that last 500 words was just not going anywhere.
So, I asked my husband for help.
We had a bit of a rocky start. Jokingly chanting “Slash it! Slash it! Slash it!” got him banned from changing anything on his own even if it was wrong spelling.
It involved quite a bit of debate. At times it was heated as we each argued for our own viewpoint.
In the end though the 500 words were taken out. It wasn’t as succinct as my husband would have originally made it. It wasn’t as detailed as I had originally written. But, it was a well-written section that fit within the parameters of that section of my dissertation.
Choosing proofreaders that are different in personality is key to changing policies that are not clear.
Keep ego out of it
Is it easy hearing criticism of your policies?
Honestly, I still don’t always like the feedback I get from my proofreaders. And, I know they have my best interests at heart.
But the truth of the matter is that your policies will be clearer & easier for your clients to follow if you take into account that feedback.
Remember, your policies are not for you. They are for your clients.
Policies are about making expectations & responsibilities clear for each party.
Policies Not Clear?
Follow these 5-steps for an amazing stress test on your policies.
I promise that each year you do this your policies will get better & better.
How do I know this works?
I have not had a single client ask for an exception or need clarification on my studio policies in over a year (as of writing this article). And even then it was clarification on new policies.
Do you have tips on how to make my policy shorter? I use bullet points but it’s still way too long.
I feel your pain as I went through exactly the same thing! Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy or quick solution.
Take a look at each bullet point & be ruthless. Are there any that are similar in topic? Is there a way of combining similar ones together? If you know someone that will be much more ruthless about the wording than you will, see if they are willing to edit (my husband is my go-to person).
Once I went through this process, my policies were still too long … in that they didn’t fit on the single side of one page. So, I had to make peace with that. If you are able to successfully defend why a specific policy needs to be there, keep it. Better to be clear than upset clients because they feel like you’re “changing the rules”. Also placing my policies in a Google registration form helped make things less overwhelming for clients to read.
I hope these tips help, Leigh!