August 2012 | On My Mind

Many of you are school owners on the cusp of a new year of dance. What will you do differently this year? What can you do to improve? Of course those questions are related to teaching, but they’re also about the business.

Most of your current students and potential clientele don’t base their decisions about registration on the quality of the dance education you offer. Instead, they choose a school based on how comfortable they feel communicating with the owner or how well they understand the commitment and expenses associated with dance classes. Some are seeking a person who can talk to them about dance education without making them feel like a pain in the you-know-what. I can guarantee that no parent will ask, “How long will it take for my child to do a beautiful arabesque?” or “At what age should I expect my daughter to be doing a double pirouette?” But they might ask whom they can contact if they have questions, or they might want to know why the kids do a recital.

Some communities are saturated with dance schools. Many studio owners have written to me to say that they are frustrated because their area is inundated and they believe they can’t hang on financially unless something changes.

The change many of them are hoping for is that some of those schools will close their doors. But that’s not something they can count on, and chances are it wouldn’t happen quickly enough to be of any help. If you want something that you can count on, focus on setting your school apart from the others. Unique programs or classes and discounts are great, but what would happen if you left everything exactly as it was and simply went nuts to give the best customer service possible? Yes, you read it right—customer service.

Marketing your classes during registration isn’t enough. What happens when potential clients call to inquire about classes? Do they get a friendly person on the phone, or do they get voicemail? If it’s voicemail, how long would they have to wait before someone returns the call? Chances are those callers will continue to contact other schools until someone who can answer their questions right then answers the phone—so if you wait too long to return a call, you run the risk of losing their business. The same thing goes for email inquiries. Responding immediately is the best way to get those prospects to register at your school, not someone else’s.

And there are other ingredients in the mix when it comes to quality service. Are your students and their parents greeted with a big smile and a welcome each time they arrive? Do they have to wait in the parking lot, stressed out because the studio isn’t open yet and class starts in 10 minutes? When they finally do get inside, is the person sitting behind the desk friendly—or impatient or intimidating? Is there anyone at the desk at all? Are you and your faculty and staff happy to answer questions? Have you created an informative handout of the most commonly asked questions? Or does that anxious parent get a quick, impatient answer and a brush-off?

If you add impressive customer service to your already fabulous classes, you just might have one up on the competition. Give it a try—I have a feeling you’ll notice a difference right away.