We’ve all seen it, we’ve all experienced it, and we all have looked for ways to combat it - its friction in your studio! Friction is a complicated process that creates confusion for customers and difficulty for staff. Friction is something that leads to recurring frustrations. Friction makes your staff want to procrastinate. Friction creates phone calls and emails that clog your inbox. Friction makes people scratch their head and wonder if there is a better way to do things.
Friction In Your Enrollment Process
Have potential customers created portal logins and then abandoned registration? Have your current customers asked your Office Manager to “just put them in a class” because its too much work to navigate on your site? In addition to yourself, ask a friend or family member that is not involved with your studio to start at your website homepage and proceed to register a fictitious student. See how long it takes, what areas are confusing, which waivers are out of date, how easy it is to find the right class, and the language used - is it intuitive for a newbie, or do you use jargon? Once you identify areas of concern, fix them up right away! You may also want to assign a regular report for your customer service team to run to find out who your “abandoned carts” are and call them to help them with your system.
Friction In Payment Collection
By now, most Studio Owners have a system of regular payments using autopay, but you will still find a certain percentage of customer cards fail during this process, in addition, collecting fees for intensive or competitive dancers and for performances can be a process of follow-up for the few that don’t go through the expected deadlines and payment processes. Find a way to handle these scenarios. One easy solution may be changing the language of your autopay agreement - instead of “ABC Studio will run your autopay card on the first of each month” expand it to read “ABC Studio will run your autopay card on the first of the month. If the autopay card is declined, we will attempt to run the card on file each day for 5 days to collect the balance due before adding a late fee.” Let your autopay agreement encompass ease and clarity for your team and your customers.
For customers that may incur large balances for intensive study, multiple children or multiple costumes, create payment plans and consider a separate bank account for holding costume payments. Consider too, most studio software will allow you to change a setting that allows partial payments in the portal so a customer can start paying down a large balance in advance of the due dates.
Friction In the Follow-Up
How frustrating is it when someone expresses interest in classes and then they don’t get the necessary follow-up to actually enroll? Set-up a system so that no more leads fall through the cracks. If you use a webform for new leads on your website - make sure you turn on email notifications that get sent to your customer service team as well as receiving a backend spreadsheet. Ask your staff to track conversations and emails with the leads in a way that you can take a glance and see how many children are in your pipeline by age/grade and style that they’d like to study.
Friction With Scheduling
Dancers missing rehearsals, parents forgetting important dates, staff missing meetings and trial class students missing their appointments are huge symptoms of friction. So what can you do? First, if you haven’t already, create a Season At A Glance that has all important information for the entire season in one document and share it in print and online. Next, send calendar entries and text reminders to staff and potential customers. Matter of fact, use text reminders for your current customers too! At my studio, we do text reminders for the big items - we don’t want to bombard people, but really there is so much noise around us, important things need active reminders. I know many studios use apps or Facebook groups - these are great tools, but you must rely on the customer or staff person to go to that tool and enable notifications, so I suggest these become part of your larger strategy. You might also want to try sharing a public Google Calendar with your studio - parents can then subscribe to your calendar and all your studio events will populate into their calendars on their phones, tablets and computers.
Reducing Friction With Decision Making
One area that is often overlooked is the way the business owners are the problem. Ouch! I know it hurts to read that - but it’s true! We owners and directors can create friction when we are the only ones authorized to make decisions, issue refunds, talk to difficult customers, coach staff, create new programs or manage a budget. Some of the best friction reducing activities are ones that get your team properly structured with support at different levels. Could your Office Manager be authorized to handle refunds up to a certain limit? Could a trusted teacher or department head order supplies for camps or events with a set budget? Could your marketing assistant create designs and social media copy? What about training the front desk staff on how to handle common questions about recital, class placement, or screening vendors? How about your customer service team handles all incoming emails and phone calls, then things could escalate to an Office Manager, and then lastly, you are sought after for truly larger concerns - how much time would this get back for you?
There are endless possibilities when it comes to reducing friction in a studio. We have the power to make real change even on small things that simplify and improve processes for customers and staff. I urge you to start small and you’ll be hooked! Reduce friction and free up time to do more great things - like enjoying some rest.
Ginger Haithcox is a born leader. She graduated with high honors from Douglass College, Rutgers University with a BA in Religion, and a minor in Cultural Anthropology and completed an array of dance, performance, and production courses at Raritan Valley Community College.
Ginger is a consummate professional, collaborative team player, and creative colleague that consistently delivers programs and products of excellence. In addition to the above, she’s the principal owner of Haithcox Business Solutions, which offers mentoring and support services for aspiring entrepreneurs.