Customer retention is one of the biggest concerns of any business. For a dance studio it is a tricky venture as it entails combining concrete information such as class availability, tuition/fee schedules, and uniform requirements with more delicate matters such as differing perceptions of dance skills, temperaments, and a myriad of random expectations. In order to create a bridge between these often conflicting issues, it helps to establish a mindset that transcends focusing on retaining customers and instead embraces the concept of generating and rewarding loyalty!
Loyalty begins with the infrastructure of the studio. Since front desk staff and/or instructors are the “face” of the studio representing the owner/director to those who walk in the door, how you relate to them is extremely important. It is vital that your staff captures the heart of their leader. The following ideas may create this important sense of comradery …
Monthly Meetings are great for discussing such things as: (1) currently running promotions, (2) procedures, (3) staffing needs and schedule changes, (4) enrollment and showcase status, etc. Include a small presentation on how to improve service to one another and/or the studio. This will help keep everyone uniform in handling customers’ needs and answering questions. It is also a great way to encourage an “I’ve got your back!” mentality between fellow staff members when confusion or conflict arises.
Beginning of season, mid-season, and/or year-end meetings can accomplish a lot too. Use these times to discuss renewing annual contract agreements, explain changes in tuition and/or studio procedures, discuss plans for seasonal showcases, etc., and most importantly, staff relationship development.
Play games, have prize drawings, and create a safe atmosphere for an appropriate level of transparency by allowing each person to reveal one or two bits of personal information (e.g.: favorite color, dream vacation, etc.) This creates a greater sense of family. Other ideas include individual and studio goal setting; sharing at least one area where the studio did a great job as well as where improvements are needed. Roll playing “staff/customer scenarios” by demonstrating right and wrong ways to handle given situations can be quite beneficial!
Follow each meeting with a meal – either brought in from a local sandwich shop, a pot-lunch, or a full blown dinner out at a nice restaurant! “Breaking bread” together often draws people closer.
Maintain staff devotion throughout the year with a system which allows each staff member to leave notes of encouragement and/or small gifts for their co-workers. These can be signed or through a “Secret Buddy” plan!
Staff to Student Outreach
During the mid-year staff meeting, carpool or take a limo to the homes of a handful of dancers whom the staff has deemed to be outstanding in several areas and bring them a certificate, balloons and/or a gift! This puts the focus on reaching out and blessing your dancers!
Student/Family Loyalty Enhancement
Incentive/Reward Program – Reward students who show up on time for class in the appropriate attire and hair style with a ticket. Have them put their name on the tickets and drop them in a bucket. At the end of a set period of time (monthly, by-monthly, year-end) hold a drawing. Give the winner(s) an age appropriate gift. Thematic gifts such as “Movie Night,” “Beach Fun,” etc. make the gifts that much more fun! Another fun idea is having a studio mascot that can be sent home with the winner.
Word of the Month – Character development is just as vital as skill improvement. Post a banner or sign with a slogan word such as friendship, patience, or loyalty! Have the instructors read a short paragraph that teaches that value, then hand out corresponding worksheets. Rewards for showing completed worksheets can include an extra ticket for the Reward Drawing or silicon wristbands embossed with the Word (add the studio name for advertising benefits).
Student Appreciation – Set a date to hold early registration for the following dance season. Invite your families to a fulfilled event which may include free food and drinks, and activities like face painting, bounce houses, etc. While there, give them an opportunity to register with incentives like free or reduced registration and/or discounts on paid-in-full tuition. Advertise any summer programs such as Dance Camp. Hold a drawing for all who register on this day. Give-a-ways can include such things as: (1) a free showcase costume, (2) free attendance to a Summer Program, and consider (3) free tuition for an entire family for the next season!
Loyalty Club – If you find it necessary to increase tuition rates, create a “Loyalty Club.” Give all families who have been enrolled with the studio for a set amount of time benefits such as continuing to pay the original rates as long as they registered on VIP Day or special rates for Summer Programs, Showcase tickets, uniforms, etc.
Bring a Friend – Set a week or two which allows current dancers to invite their family members, friends, and neighbors to attend class. Give everyone who invites someone and their guest a token gift from a grab bag of erasers, pencils, bouncy balls, stickers, etc. Hold a drawing of all who register during this week and give a gift to the new enrollee as well as their friend who invited them!
Spirit Week – During select months have “Spirit Week” which focuses on such things as sports, Hawaii/beach, and/or crazy hair week. As with BAFW, give all participants a token gift thematically connected to the week’s focus and have their pictures taken. You might also give them a ticket for the reward drawing.
Wall of Fame – This is a great place to post pictures of Winners of (1) Incentive/Reward drawings, (2) Early registration day winners, (3) BAFW winners, and (4) Spirit Week participants. You might also hang posters of dancers who have been featured in competition awards and those who are participating in local community activities such as plays and school events.
Once your families have partaken of one or more of these incentives, they will have a connection that creates a sense of loyalty to your staff and studio. This will make them more than just customers – they will begin to consider themselves part of your studio family. Because family tends to stick together, you will be better able to retain a core of dancers who return year after year!