Doing a good job of managing all of the needs of parents – and their personalities – is important because your business depends on them. In your line of work, there is no way to avoid interaction with parents. They are the ones paying for the service you’re providing to their child. Hopefully, you’ll have more positive experiences with parents than negative, but it’s inevitable you’ll have some bumps in the road. What do you do when you get one of these annoying parents? I talked to Clint Salter, Jen Lewis, and Courtney Spencer to get an insider’s prospective:
Former dancer, studio owner, and now owner of Studio Success Formula
1. Killer communication – it’s not enough to send out a monthly newsletter and sporadic email correspondence. Parents want to know what’s going on. Create a communication schedule with a list of all the necessary information. Include the following:
- Who. Who is this information going to?
- What. What’s a brief summary of the information you’re sending?
- Why. Why is this information important? (This will help you make your information concise—don’t beat around the bush!)
- When. When will you send this information out?
I’ve found that over 80% of owners don’t have a communication schedule in place. When parents feel out of the loop, challenges arise. Get organized and create your communication schedule today.
2. Set Boundaries and Expectations – when a new enrollment is standing at the office window, do you find yourself falling into Yes-Mommy mode? You want that new student badly—so you just say yes to everything?
<pMommy: “Can I get the uniform next week?”
You: “Of course. No problem at all!”
Mommy: “Can I pay the fee in a few weeks? We’d like to get settled into our new house first—after returning from our month-long cruise to the Maldives, that is.”
You: “You poor thing. Of course!”
Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
It’s crucial that you establish clear expectations about how you as a owner operate—and how you expect students and parents to behave as part of your dance family. I firmly believe that if you are clear on your ideal student and parent, this won’t be a challenge.Give a list of values to all students and parents. Be firm and fair when it comes to expectations from both perspectives—your expectations and theirs as paying customers.
What does all this come down to? Communication. If you find that you’re constantly putting out parent-fires, it’s time to revisit the way you’re communicating with your customers—both students and parents.
The most important thing to do when you are dealing with annoying parents is to listen. Sometimes they just need to get it all out and it usually ends up working itself out. I’ve dealt with some parents who were really upset about something else and it just spilled over into their visit at the gym.
If they are having an issue and you need to call them back, wait until the next day. It is amazing what one night’s sleep can do to resolve a potential “situation.” For those situations where they were upset about something and just let it all out at the gym, we almost always see a difference the next time we talk to them.
Just give them the pickle – This mentality comes from a customer in line at McDonalds. They ordered a burger that didn’t happen to come with a pickle. They asked for the pickle and the employee explained that this burger does not come with pickles. Long story short, this customer became furious – he really just wanted a pickle. The manager was called and said, “just give them the pickle.” Sometimes what they are asking for just isn’t worth the argument.
When a situation comes up like this, be accommodating. But, don’t let them think this is how it’ll always be. Say something like, “This is not our policy, but I’ll do it just this time.” That way, the customer will see that you are empathetic with their situation but you do have policies and will stick to them. Only use this card as needed – you don’t want to get in a situation where parents come up constantly asking for a break in tuition.
Miller Street Dance Academy Office Manager/Instructor
1. Just let them talk and listen, 9 times out of 10 they just want to vent. So listen and just smile 🙂 then…
2. After you’ve listened to them rant and complain, (in a sweet calm voice) thank them for sharing their thoughts and let them know that you see where they are coming from. At that point you can explain to them why you do things the way you do (because there is always a good reason and parents have no idea what goes on behind the “scenes” and in the office). Also try to talk slow, sweet and calm while explaining this way they don’t get defensive. Then, finish up with putting a positive spin on the issue.
Example: A parent is upset about how much recital costumes cost and they want to see the costume before they pay for it.
Parent- “I’m paying so much money for these recital costumes I want to see them now.”
You – “I know recital costumes are so pretty and it’s such an exciting time of the for EVERYONE! But it’s actually a SURPRISE for everyone in the studio even our teachers! Costume handout week is so fun and exciting do you know the date for costume week?”
Parent- “Well no.” [And they’ve completely forgotten that they were upset about not seeing the costumes because you acted so excited and happy about costume handout week.]
You- ” Please, lets go by the office and get those dates for you. You certainly don’t want to miss the most exciting week of the year! And don’t forget your camera this is the perfect day for photos with your dancer and her/his friends!”
So, this all boils down to communication. Keeping the customers you already have is a lot more cost effective than getting new ones! Take a pulse on your parents – are they happy? How are you communicating to them in good times and in bad?