Music Lessons: How to End No-Shows Forever

At 2019 Summer NAMM, powerhouse husband-and-wife team Mike and Miriam Risko of Mike Risko Music shared their creative approach for eliminating no-shows in music lesson programs. They discovered their best practices to work with students, parents, staff and teachers to ensure consistent attendance and continued success. Here are highlights from the session and simple tips to follow. (Watch the video for the full session.)

Have a policy. Mike advised that you create a no-show and same day (within 24 hours) cancellation policy for your lesson program. Take the time to explain the policy at registration and answer any questions parents or students might have. Make sure parents and students sign the policy at registration, and give them a copy.

Communicate the policy. Miriam recommended that the policy be simple, clearly written and appear in multiple locations, such as brochures, calendars and on the lesson registration form. Post the policy in your physical location and on your website. Send email reminders home that clearly explain the policy, but put a positive spin on it. Explain why you have the policy: to support teachers and students alike.

Offer options. Mike shared that online live video lessons have been key to eliminating no-shows, as they give students options. The Riskos also invite students to come to a group class or for part of the lesson rather than miss it altogether.

Mike commented that one of their most popular teachers moved to California and continues to teach via live video lessons, which has been working well. Miriam added that it works both ways, if either a teacher or student can’t make it. The Riskos also give students the option to take from another teacher in their program if a teacher isn’t available. Many times, students choose the video lesson.

Mike also mentioned that the number of video lessons weekly is growing. He said he prefers to have the students come in and sit with the teacher, but this option does help cut down on no-shows.

Miriam shared that they give students the option to sit in on a class that’s not the instrument they’re registered for. This may lead to a student signing up for another instrument or voice lessons. Students are also asked if they have a family member or a friend who’d like to take the lesson instead of them. Mike stated that they’ve registered additional students this way.

Plus, the Riskos have created tiny stages in their classrooms that fit three or more students. (They created a tiny stage hashtag.) Miriam Risko described the tiny stages as popular for vocal classes and a great teaching tool.

The Riskos encourage adult students to come in even if they haven’t practiced, so they can still learn and not feel pressured. It’s important to talk with them to find out why they’re canceling or not showing up.

Help customers visualize their options. When the Riskos register students, they give them a tour and show the online live video lesson room, called the Zoom Room. (They use Zoom for their video conferencing software.) The Riskos created a YouTube video explaining how a video lesson works and send the link to students, so students can visualize video lessons. Mike shared that it’s easier than ever to use Zoom via a nine-digit code typed into the Zoom website—the student even doesn’t have to download software. You can have several codes for students logging on at the same time, but he said it’s uncommon that you’ll need them.

There’s also an option that lets the teacher decide what sections of the lesson to record. The Riskos then send students a personalized email with the lesson link and song. They also use student feedback to tighten up the process of video conferencing.

Be creative and flexible. The Riskos explained that customers are happy to have options, such as the Zoom lessons. Know your customers and create a relationship with them, so you can better understand their situation and are able to help them with options and keep your teachers in the loop. Stay open to creative solutions.