This past summer during one of my business seminars at the Dance Teacher Web Live Conference on customer satisfaction we had an open discussion about how did the studio owners in my class go about receiving feedback from their customers. Many of the teachers there expressed their concerns about soliciting feedback because they were worried that it could open a can of worms, or even worse that they would hear something horrible about their business.
That got me thinking!
Why is it that most studio owners are afraid of what their parents may say or think? We do so much for their kids, not only teaching them to dance but by giving them life lessons and skills they won't get anywhere else. Especially at home!
I know one studio owner who is part of our VIP consulting program who has told me in the past that the parents at her studio are harsh, abrasive and in general not very friendly. I told her what I am going to tell you, first of all try to talk to them and find out what the problems are that cause them to react in this way. If after doing your best to find amicable solutions they are still treating you in the same way, Get new customers: for real!
Yes, your customers are paying you. Yes, you appreciate that and they deserve a good customer experience, wonderful classes and excellent value for their patronage. What they don't deserve is the right to bully, abuse and misuse you or your staff! Having an open door policy with your customers is a BIG key to your growth as a studio. However, boundaries need to be set and adhered to. In other words you should not be available 24/7 for their complaints. Set times when you will return calls and have appointments for a sit down. And make sure you and your staff adhere to those times, no exception!
Your studio environment is set by you!
If you don't like where your studio atmosphere is heading remember, you are in control. Now is the time to take the reins and lead! Although we would all like to have everyone in our communities who have children come to our studios, the reality is some people are just not the right fit. If you find that you have a few bad apples it may be time to show them the door.
If I have any regrets over the past 29 years of owning our studio it is that we have in the past kept holding on to bad customers, bad staff and bad faculty for too long. You know when something is not right. When you are dealing with a problem person you need to face it, try to fix it and then if it is lost cause then do everyone a favor, especially you, and gracefully tell them it is time to move on.
To find out what your customers think about you do a survey. There are great online tools like Survey Monkey that allow you to do a survey digitally. You can send out an email encouraging your customers to help you to be the best studio in town by giving you some honest and if they prefer, anonymous feedback.
I know the anonymous part is not fun but it is a way to see behind what some are thinking, even the ones who don't like you or what you are doing. We always have an incentive so that if they do put their name under their comments and let us use some of their positive feedback in our testimonials they will be added to a list that will entitle one person to win a free class for the year! This has definitely worked well for us.
The good news is that you will also discover what they really love about you and your business. When we do these surveys there are always a few eye openers of things that we may have overlooked. You will also find out what your best customers like and you can find ways to use that in your marketing material.
Get your front desk staff in listening mode!
Whether you have one person or several people who man the front desk they always need to be in listening mode. Sometimes customers just want to vent. That's is fine, tell your staff to let them get it out. Some complaints are valid. If notes are taken you can deal with it at the appropriate time.
Also if someone is raving about your studio or your faculty member have an index card file behind the desk and the person working the desk can ask the customer if they would be willing to give you a testimonial.
During your recital you may even consider doing a few video testimonials with your best customers. Since you most likely will have someone taking a video for your show they could do a few right after the show or perhaps during your dress rehearsal. Just have a question ready that you give them in advance so that they are prepared with a great answer. Something like: What do you love most about this dance school? Or, why did you choose this dance school over the others in the area? Or, what makes this dance school the right choice for you? Customers giving you rave reviews is the best advertising you can get! You can say your studio is this and that but it is so much better when other people, like your customers say it about you!
Finding out what your customers think about you does not have to be scary after all. Yes there may be some unpleasant things that are said about your business or about you but try not to take them too personally, even if they are personal attacks. Most people who do that are unhappy people just taking it out on anyone who comes their way. The more you know about your customers the better you can serve them!