How Customer-Centric is Your Music School?
How customer-centric are you really? We all would like to think of ourselves as being all about the customer, being customer-centric, but it’s actually harder than one might think, especially with a music school. A music school is typically centered around the musical passions of the school’s founder. It is our passion for music that leads us to open a music school in the first place. Sometimes, our customers aren’t as passionate about it as we are, or they’re passionate about it in a different way. Ultimately, we’re here to serve our customers. Sometimes that means actually revisiting your business model so it can better serve them, so it can better be centered around their passions as opposed to your own.
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3 Ways to Be More Customer-Centric
There are really three different ways that you can be customer-centric.
- Your Business model
- Customer Experience
Being customer-centric in your marketing is pretty easy. It all begins with moving away from marketing language such as, “Our music school offers quality music lessons, our music teachers are passionate about music, our music teachers are the best.” Marketing that focuses on you and your music school and trying to win business over by talking about your music school, is product-centric marketing.
You can easily shift it over to customer-centric marketing by talking about the customer in your marketing.
- “Your child”
- “Your child will experience…”
- “Our hope for your child is…”
Get to Better Know Your Customers
This approach requires a little more creativity in terms of shifting or flipping all of your marketing on its head and making all of your marketing language be all about ap the customer and not all about you. In order to do that, you have to really understand your customer better. It’s easy to take for granted your customer, it’s easy to assume you understand what motivates them and what makes them tick when it comes to seeking out music lessons for their child. Years ago, I began interviewing a lot of my customers or a lot of the parents in my music school, and I really was shocked to realize how out of touch I was with what was driving them and what their motivations were and what their hopes, fears, and dreams were for their child.
The better you understand it, the easier it is to make your marketing more customer-centric. My number two point is actually looking at your business model itself, asking yourself, how can you make it more customer-centric? Somebody in the Music Lessons and Marketing Facebook group was talking about how they had this idea of inviting the parents to come into the school a couple of times a year for a meeting to go over how their child’s progress in the lessons, how well they’re meeting their goals, and this person talked about the importance of trying to get the parents more engaged in the child’s music lesson and at-home practice. I loved everything this person said, it really resonated with me. I too tried a very similar approach in my music school. We call them, student-parent-instructor conferences.
How to Better Listen to Your Customers
My hope was to do it twice a year, once in the fall season, and then once in the spring season, use it as an opportunity for the teacher to really connect with the parent and go over what has been covered in the lesson, talk about the student’s accomplishments and areas that they’d like the child to work on more. We scheduled, we picked a week out and we schedule these meetings and I bet you, 20, maybe 30% of the parents showed up for it. My initial response is, “What’s wrong with our customers? Why don’t they value their child’s music education?” And then, talking to parents afterward, it’s sad that they didn’t value it. They really don’t care so much about music lessons.
The parents I talked to said, “Look, we really trust you guys, and we think you’re doing a great job, and we’re just, we’re so busy as parents. I’ve got two other kids that I’m shuffling around town, my kid’s school has certain expectations on us as parents. This is an extracurricular activity. As a parent, this is just something I’m not interested in having any more involvement in other than dropping my child off for lessons, paying for their lessons. I just don’t have the energy to get involved with what my child’s doing with their at-home practice.”
Parents Measure Music Lesson Success in Their Own Way
I really listened to my customers. It was through this experience that I realized that there’s something else that my customers value. They’re just interested in the outcome. They’re looking at how their child’s growing as a person, growing in their confidence. They can see that for themselves at home, they don’t need to come in for an extra meeting.
This was really tough for me. I felt like I need to offer a quality music lesson. I need to differentiate myself from my competitors by going the extra mile in terms of the child’s music education.” I still believe that that’s an important thing to do, but I just don’t think it’s going to give you a competitive edge. In my case, with these parent-teacher conferences, I was adding a dimension to my business that created stress for my customers. They revealed just how interested they were in these conferences and just how interested they were in being more engaged at home by not showing up to the conferences, and virtually, I don’t think a single parent followed through on the at-home involvement we wanted from them with their child’s practice.
Why You Might Need to Adjust Your Business Model
We listened to our customers, their lack of interest, their refusal to even show up sent a message loud and clear to me. I adjusted my business model a bit. Then, a third way to be customer-centric is in how you communicate with your customers, or really, maybe more specifically, how you handle a sales situation that you feel is going to benefit you. You know it’s going to benefit you, but you’re not so sure it’s going to benefit the customer. What made me think about this is the other day, I was on the phone with the new Kidzrock licensing partner. I just closed the deal, and we were going to talk about the date that they were going to launch. Should they launch in mid-August or September?
I actually recommended that they launch in September and they said, “No, we’d rather launch mid-August.” I felt it was to their benefit to launch later, they’d be more inclined to be successful with their launch. But it was to my benefit or my short-term benefit that they launch earlier, that would allow me to collect a licensing fee from them in August, as opposed to putting it off to September.
Turning Down Business When It’s Best For The Child
This made me think of a customer I had years ago, it was a mom, she was calling me up about her eight-year-old son who really had expressed a lot of interest in the guitar, and I said, “Okay, great, we’re going to sign him up for 30-minute lessons.” And she said, “Is there any way that he could do an hour lesson? When he’s just really excited to play, and I think an hour lesson would be beneficial. I really think he’d be interested in that.”
Well, from a business perspective, that certainly would be to my advantage. Instead of making $135 a month from the student, I could make $220. I told her, “I recommend a 30-minute lesson,” hey, she wants to do an hour lesson, hey that’s on her, it’s more money for me. I don’t think the kid necessarily is going to do great in it, typically, that age group doesn’t do well in a hour lesson. It would have been easy for me to justify placing him in an hour lesson but I held my ground with her and I said, “Look, from my experience, an eight-year-old in a 30-minute lesson, and even that in of itself, can be a very intensive, focused instruction.”
Prioritizing The Child Over Profit
Kids start tuning out after 30 minutes in a lesson. I really firmly believe at them, I firmly believe during that phone call that it was in the child’s best interest to do a 30-minute lesson. I held my ground and I said to the mom, “Look, why don’t we do a month of 30-minute lessons, and then we’ll reevaluate. I’ll reach back out to you after a month and see then if maybe an hour lesson really makes sense, but I really would hate for your child to come into an hour lesson, feel overwhelmed, feel bored. Once boredom sets in, it’s over.” And the mom really appreciated my response. I mean, we all get the deal. When you’re a customer and you’re buying something, you know that the salesperson is interested in selling you something. That’s their job. Their job is to sell you something, and you understand that they’re driven and they’re motivated by that sale. When the salesperson puts your interest before their need to make the sale, trust begins to form, and trust is the name of the game.
When your customers see that you’re delaying a sale or that you’re opting out of making more money because you believe it’s in the child’s best interest to choose the lower-priced option, parents’ going to be impressed. That’s an example of being customer-centric, is really being focused on what is best for the customer, not what is best for the business. Actually, what is best for the customer is what is best for the business. Had I taken that eight-year-old and placed him in the hour lesson, it would have been a short-term gain. I would have had that higher-paying student, I would have been making more monthly revenue, and yet you know what, maybe it would’ve worked out, but I still think I established a level of trust with that parent that really set the foundation for our entire relationship.
I encourage you to ask yourself, how can you be more customer-centric? How can you be more customer-centric in your marketing? How can your marketing be all about the customer and less about you? And when it is about you, how can it be all about how you are going to help their child? And how willing are you to adjust your business model if your customers aren’t responding well to certain aspects of it?
Are You Playing the Long Game or the Short Game?
I used to have a testing program in my music school. Kids had to take these assessments. The kids weren’t excited about it, the parents weren’t excited about it. My staff was excited about it, I was excited about it, but ultimately, I eliminated it because the customers didn’t seem to care.
A truly customer-centric business focuses on what is best for the customer, not what is best for the business. A business that cares about its customers and wants them to be successful, wants them to achieve the outcome that they desire, is a business that is much more likely to thrive. That’s a business committed to playing the long game.