It’s that time of year. Crunch time. Recitals, summer camps (if you are holding them), registration all get put on top of our regular responsibilities. On the one hand, it’s an exciting time of new possibilities & ideas. On the other hand, it’s stressful wondering if the finances are going to work out so those new possibilities & ideas can become reality.
In 2016, my province (Alberta) was in its 2nd year of recession. The last time this happened was in the early ’80s, so to say that many people are stressed about finances is a bit of an understatement. In an environment where many are worried about the future, how do we as teachers handle our registration process? I won’t say that this year has been exactly the same as in other years because it hasn’t. But, there are ways to ‘recession protect’ our businesses so that we do still get students enrolled.
I’ve posted several blogs on determining your tuition rates & this is part of the pre-registration process. However, making yourself ‘recession protected’ is something that is done all year round.
Students & families can’t imagine NOT re-registering with you. They wonder why on earth anyone would hesitate to enroll.
Best case scenario:
Your families advertise for you & tell their friends you are well worth the wait & cost.
Remember you are more than a teacher. Notice I didn’t mention piano? You are more than a teacher. You are also a confidant, advocate, cheerleader, life coach, & so much more.
One of my clients has talked quite a bit about how much her child has grown during lessons in the last few years. He is on the autism spectrum (high-functioning) & teachers don’t always accept his idiosyncrasies. While she does talk about his musical growth, what she really focuses on are his coping skills when he is frustrated (no more leaving the room), his ability to articulate what he wants to say, increased social skills (reading non-verbal cues), & comfort level with trying new things whether they are on the piano, activities or apps.
When you can make piano lessons about more than just piano, you become pretty darn hard to replace. When you are teaching important life skills, you become part of the team. Or, as one of my clients said, “You’re their second mom.”
Listen. Listen. And, listen some more. We all want to be heard. So if a parent or student brings up a concern, actively listen. Then, do your best to address it. Even if you’re wondering where on earth they are coming from. (During a conversation with a parent a few weeks ago I was thinking, “We haven’t used that computer program for 3 months. Why are we talking about this?”)
It’s easy to accept the praise, but how we handle the criticisms or concerns is what really stands out to our clients. Try to understand the root of the problem. Is it really a program concern or is it something else? Is it a parent who is overwhelmed with trying to help with practice time & doesn’t know how to ask for help? Is it that other things are going on outside of lessons & this concern has been magnified by their stress?
I can’t say that I’m always great at this. It is a conscious choice to stop & think before I respond. Oftentimes, I will leave an email for a few hours or overnight to think about my response before sending a reply. If it’s in the moment, I have found asking clarifying questions & repeating back the concern helps me better understand the root concern. “If I understand correctly, you are concerned that Johnny is not excited about practicing anymore. You are wondering if his programming really works for him.”
Be in their corner. Let parents know that their child(ren)’s well-being is your priority. As a parent, I can attest to this. When I feel that my child’s teacher is in their corner & will advocate for them, I WANT to help that teacher however I can. I go out of my way to tell others about that teacher & how my child has thrived with them.
Parents can feel overwhelmed with the sheer number of decisions they need to make for their kids. What school should they go to? How much should we help them with their homework? Before they are in school, what skills do they need to learn? What extra-curricular activities will have the most benefit for my child? And, the list keeps going on.
Reminding parents of their great choice to hire you makes them want to share that decision with others. And if you know there is a specific life skill the parents would like their child to focus on, be sure to give praise that includes those skills. A couple of examples of comments include:
- “I was so impressed at how Suzy looked for patterns in her music all on her own! A month ago, she would have needed help seeing the pattern, but today … wow! Suzy looked at the music & told ME what was happening!”
- “I was so happy to get Charlie’s text this week. When he wasn’t sure what exactly to do, he texted to ask for clarification. Great advocating, Charlie! I like how you asked for help rather than waiting for the lesson.”
Tell clients about your professional development. Letting them know how you are continually improving your teaching & program offerings sets you are apart from other teachers. There is still a stereotype of the piano teacher alone in their studio doing the same thing for decades. It’s up to us to let parents know that is no longer the norm (we hope).
Plus when parents see our enthusiasm for our craft, it’s hard for them to not catch that same enthusiasm. Who do they want to teach their child(ren)? The teacher who is static or the one who has the skills to individualize their approach for their child? (I hope you said the latter.)
The other part of this tip is to continually add new ideas to the studio. When the studio becomes static, it’s a lot easier for parents & students to feel they aren’t missing out. But, when something new is coming up students are loath to leave because they may miss out.
Thank your clients regularly for choosing you. This last tip may sound a bit strange I know, but hear me out. I know my clients could choose someone else. But, they don’t. This knowledge reminds me that I should be thankful.
I used to have a client referral program, but no one would accept the money. (I understand this is a nice problem to have.) So if a parent or student recommends me to someone else, I make sure I give heartfelt thanks instead. Regardless of whether that recommendation pans out, it’s important to acknowledge the referral.
Another way to thank clients is to celebrate their child(ren)’s successes. One year, I posted a Weekend Shout-Out on our studio Facebook page. There, I list the milestones that students reached that week. It’s hard to walk away when you see your child & others continually growing musically. Plus, who wants to leave when something is thriving?
Lastly, at your recital (or even random times throughout the year) thank everyone for their contributions. Students for practicing & being willing to try new things. Parents for enrolling their child(ren) & providing an environment conducive to practicing. Grandparents & other family members for encouraging comments every time they hear a child play.
Thinking registration all year …
It can be hard to keep our businesses running when economic times are tough. What are your tips for ‘recession protecting’ your studio? I would love to hear from you below!