How We Eliminated Makeup Lessons

Running a successful music lessons program comes with its challenges, namely missed lessons and cancellations. At 2015 Summer NAMM, Carol Cook of The Music Room in Palatine, Ill., shared how she breathed new life into her program and business by revamping her lessons program and eliminating makeup lessons.

For Cook, the sheer magnitude of managing cancelled lessons, both online and by phone, was more than her team could handle and prevented them from doing what they do best—teaching. Rescheduling lessons also became a logistics tangle and kept staff from delivering value. “By agreeing to reschedule the lesson, we were devaluing the lesson,” Cook said.

Realizing that kids today are overscheduled, she wanted to raise the bar with her lessons program. Here’s how she did it:

Simplify lessons sign-up.
Cook recommended not taking lesson sign-ups over the phone. She shared that every new student (and his or her parents) must come in for a lesson registration mini-appointment. This lets Cook present her lesson offerings, answer questions and complete the sign-up process.

She also offers two ways of enrolling. Students can elect to take floating lessons, where they call to schedule one lesson at a time. Lessons are paid for when booked, not when the student comes in. Floating lessons are offered at regular price and can be rescheduled with 24-hour notice. Or, students can opt for weekly recurring lessons, where they sign up once a week for the same time, with the same teacher. These lessons cannot be rescheduled. If students can’t commit to a month, they must schedule on a floating basis (subject to openings).

Present lesson choices clearly.
According to Cook, there’s a psychology involved in how lesson options are presented to new students. She stated that it’s critical to offer customers a choice and to state the benefits of each one. She tells prospective students that they’ll see greater progress if they take lessons weekly and come regularly.

Weekly recurring lessons program features.
At the mini-appointment, Cook tells students all of the great benefits they get with weekly recurring lessons, including dated, weekly, written assignments and customized goal plans. During the NAMM U session, Cook showed attendees a sample technique and performance objectives plan—she has a skill-based online form that the teacher completes and parents can view. She commented that parents like this plan, as it helps measure their child’s progress and results. Students are involved in creating their goals, and this motivates them. Every six months, in April and October, students go through an evaluation process.

Additional tips.
• Cook also created the TMR Academy, a series of free, one-time, individual workshops and playing opportunities that run 30–45 minutes and are open for public enrollment, from ages 5–80. The Music Room holds four to six per month.

• She offers a perfect attendance rebate. On students’ one-year anniversary date, they get a substantial rebate if they haven’t missed any lessons.

• The Music Room offers family discounts on lessons.

Cook shared that she’s happy with how these changes have been received. Some students opted to change from a regular time slot to a floating basis, but they didn’t quit. The new structure has also helped both children and adult learners. “We were able to raise the level of the lesson experience,” Cook said.