You’ve held your open house. You’ve put out your back-to-school social media campaigns. You’ve advertised in a local parenting publication. If you’re like me, you are feeling like you are on a roll for getting new students into the studio this time of year!
The good news is, new students are coming in and you are VERY glad to see them. The bad news is, maybe you feel like your existing students need a little extra attention now, that they need to be thanked and loved on for choosing your studio.
Retaining students—not just getting them in the door—is at the heart of sustaining your business over time and demonstrating that you have happy clientele. We often think of retention mid-year, when some kids want to quit, or at the end of the season, when we want them to re-register after recital. But this crucial back-to-school time can’t be ignored. It is an excellent time—right out of the gate—to show you personally care about your dance families and appreciate their business.
So classes are in session, and you’re meeting new faces every day….how can you best use this time to show the love? What can you do to increase retention and keep those families engaged?
- Meet people in the hallway – OK, I know this might seem like an obvious one, but hang in there with me. Make a point, every day during the first week of dance classes, to walk the hallways and mingle with your customers. Learn names and ask about their summer, and you’ll begin forming real relationships. It’s these high-quality relationships that have much more meaning than just a “hello” or “goodbye” …. you get to know people! You won’t do this every week, but be sure to do it during the most important weeks. But the positivity you gain from making a true effort to know your customers is priceless.
- Have a “withdrawal turnaround” plan – You know these calls will start coming about the third week of classes: “She’s too tired.” “They moved her swimming lessons to Tuesday.” “She doesn’t seem to like ballet anymore.” It can seem like the beginning of the year is rife with people who get started, and then want to withdraw from lessons. Turning attrition to retention isn’t guaranteed, but it’s worth trying a few extra steps. Having a “withdrawal turnaround” plan with your staff can completely shift the process and help retain customers who might have otherwise disappeared. Be prepared to offer families a new day of the week or a different style of dance instead of withdrawing right away – a free trial of that new class couldn’t hurt! Chances are they didn’t realize what else could work for their schedule, or they didn’t know that their tiny dancer might really love a jazz class.
- Calls, emails, and cards – A personal “check-in” phone call, email, or handwritten card to every enrolled student’s family can go a long way to show they are not just a number at your studio. Decide what you can do yourself, and delegate the rest to a staff member or two. The phone call could be as easy as saying, “Thank you for dancing with us this season! How is Sara enjoying her classes?” And then just listen (and take notes)! An email can say something similar, along with a special message from the teacher. And a gratitude-filled, handwritten card – well, that is worth much, much more than the price of the stamp. Choose the method that makes the most sense for your time and your studio, and run with it! Not only do you get to show that you care, these communications may open the door for you to solve problems that you didn’t even know existed – saving you AND your customers from future frustrations.
- Ask for feedback – Although we may typically survey our customers at the end of each season, why not reach out at the start too? A simple “How are we doing?” can go a long way. Maybe you had no idea that parking was an issue for families during the 4-5pm hour, or maybe there were inconsistencies with the way welcome folders were distributed. Hearing this valuable feedback right from the get-go can help you make immediate improvements for some things, and plan for others – keeping your customers happy. When your dance families feel truly heard, they’ll feel more invested in staying at your studio over time.
Retention is something you ALWAYS want to strive for, and starting right away during the back-to-school months is imperative. Take these four tips and customize them to your studio, then tell us in the comments what worked well for you! You can also find me on social @MistyLown. I’d love to hear from you. Until then, I wish you a successful start to the year with your retention only going up and up and up!