5 Lesson Program Crises and How to Fix Them
At 2019 Summer NAMM, Melissa Loggins of Music Authority presented a candid and down-to-earth NAMM U session about lesson program crises. She acknowledged that even though you can’t avoid problems, you can change your perspective. Loggins then identified her company’s top five lesson program crises and her unique solutions for them. Watch the video to view the full session.
1. Frustrated parents.
Loggins noted that parent frustration usually revolves around financial issues, including billing, late fees and absence policies. She described her billing system as straightforward and simple. Her company bills students in the middle of the month, and payments are due on the last lesson of the month for the next month in advance. Music Authority charges a late fee if payments are 10 days late. It also requires a cancellation notice, a doctor’s note or a school note 24 hours before the lesson.
Solution: Loggins advised being kind, courteous and, if possible, removing any barriers between you and the parent, including physical barriers. Get out from behind the counter or desk, and get on the same side as the parent. She added that humor won’t necessarily help with a frustrated parent.
2. Teacher is leaving.
This can be perceived as the end of the world for some students. They may get attached to a teacher and be afraid to start with a new one.
Solution: Loggins shared that they listen and empathize with students and parents, and don’t react in kind, so as to keep the fear from escalating. She recommended making a personal phone call and giving the student and parent a solution (the new teacher’s name) before they ever have a problem (their teacher is leaving to pursue a music career). This goes a long way to alleviate worries and issues that will come up with a teacher leaving. Loggins noted that her student drop rate went down dramatically when they implemented reaching out with a personal phone call.
3. You don’t like my child.
Loggins stated that her company teaches more than 600 students per week in the winter months, and this problem almost always arises with a certain percentage of students. Some common parent complaints include: Why does my child have a lame song? Why are you making my child wear a tie? My child is a better than that child, so why does that child get the solo?
Solution: Loggins advised that you start by being sympathetic. Give parents the opportunity to be heard and a platform to start a conversation. Be factual in your conversations. She added that every student’s recital information is recorded in a database, so she and her team can speak knowledgeably with parents about a child’s progress. Come up with a constructive solution to move forward. If a parent doesn’t a child’s student-showcase song, ask the parent to remind you with a note about what you discussed when he or she signs up for the next showcase, so the parent is invested in the solution.
4. It’s spring show time, and everything is going wrong.
Loggins mentioned that this can apply to rock camp time, fall recital season or any time you have an event that involves a lot of students, especially teens. Music Authority does between three and 15 productions every month, ranging from small piano recitals to large off-site events involving 40–50 students. Loggins shared some of the issues she’s faced: the venue made a mistake and you don’t have anywhere to play; you have a missing student with no understudy; bad weather prevents you from getting to your contracted event; and the sewer system backed up and you have no working bathrooms at your scheduled facility.
Solution: Loggins stressed the importance of staying calm and being the leader. What you do is what your parents, staff, students and everyone involved will do. If you have to excuse yourself to take a moment, do it. Solve one problem at a time. Use your resources. Loggins shared that they have a PTO, so they can call on parents and teachers in an emergency. Find those people, and use them.
5. A new music store or music school is opening nearby.
Loggins described her own experience from a year ago when a new music store opened down the street. She lost four teachers and three staff and administrators. She added that a year later she can say it turned out to the be the best thing to happen to her business.
Solution: Don’t be afraid of competition. It motivates you to do better. Let competition inspire you to innovate. Every two years, Loggins sits down and re-invents her programs (rock camp, piano, Broadway camp and so forth). Be creative and willing to try something new. Control your message. When you focus on you and not everyone else, you will provide the best possible message for your business. Share what you’re doing on social media to get the word out.
Loggins ended by saying, “The better a job you do at controlling a crisis, the better you will retain students.” Stay calm, keep smiling and focus on solutions. Again, remove barriers to success—get out from behind the desk when dealing with a frustrated parent. And pick up the phone! Always stay in communication with customers.