As your studio expands and you sign on more students, you’ll have an increasing number of parents to communicate with. Even when everything is great and students are happy, it’s easy to get bogged down by the number of texts, emails and calls you receive each day. If you value your sanity, use these six guidelines to learn how to communicate with parents of students effectively.
1. Outline Acceptable Means of Communication
From day one, you should establish preferred methods of communication with parents, taking into account their own needs and preferences. Outline what types of conversations should be handled through each outlet. If you want questions about class sent to your email but absence notifications to the office phone, note it on the studio schedule or another document that parents will keep handy. If you provide your cellphone number to parents, explain that it’s only for emergency situations. Otherwise you’ll run the risk of getting a text or call every time a parent has a question or concern. Set up similar expectations for your announcements. Let parents know that canceled classes will be relayed via email (or whatever outlet you choose), and that you’ll only call their cellphone in an urgent situation.
2. Build Trusting Relationships
Strong relationships lead to better communication. Does this mean you have to be a confidant for each and every parent? No, but you should make a point to show you’re trustworthy and encourage parents to be vocal about any problems. The first few interactions with new students and their parents are crucial in this step. Scholastic magazine recommended that you handle any issues in a discreet manner and assure parents that your teachers will do the same. Get back to parents as soon as you can, as this will show you value their willingness to communicate. Once you’ve developed trusting relationships with your customers, you’ll be in a better place to address issues and concerns.
3. Talk Early and Often
Another lesson you can learn from school teachers is that you should communicate early and often, and encourage parents to do the same. Stay on top of any problems that arise in your studio and follow through until they’re solved. Bring the issue to the attention of students, parents and teachers as soon as possible. Once you’ve devised a plan of action, follow up until you’re confident the problem has been resolved. TeachHub explained that being honest and open with parents from the start will decrease the chances that your concerns will prompt backlash from the involved parties.
4. Create Concern Forms
If you find that dancers or parents are approaching you at inconvenient times, like between classes or when you’re trying to scoot out the door, you could benefit from concern forms. Create a sheet that allows parents to write what their question or concern is about, whether it’s urgent and how they prefer to be contacted. Make the forms easily accessible, possibly in the waiting room or at the front desk, and have a designated box to collect them in. This process will ensure that you aren’t being caught off guard with problems and have enough time to think each issue through.
5. Follow the 24-Hour Rule
Sometimes issues will be complex and overwhelming, and the worst thing you can do in these situations is make a snap decision. Instead, Dance Advantage suggested that you follow the 24-hour rule. Take a day or two to think over the problem, remove your emotions from the equation and collect your thoughts. The extra time will allow you to see the big picture and find a solution that works for everyone. However, be sure to communicate to parents that you need time to think about the issue and will get back to them in a day or so, otherwise they may think you’re brushing them off.