How to Improve Student Retention | EP 208

2 Ways to Improve Retention

There are two ways to improve student retention.

  1. Improve the music lesson experience
  2. Enhance the culture of your music school


How Community and Culture Can Improve Retention

Improving the culture, fostering community, and creating memorable performance experiences all contribute to boosting student retention.


Enhance your music school’s ambiance and décor to make it welcoming and inspiring, aiming to create a transformative atmosphere. Think of how places like Starbucks, the Apple store, dance clubs, and restaurants transport people to another world with their design and ambiance.


The ambiance, the culture, and your community—these are all things outside of the music lesson that can help people form a deeper emotional connection with your music school.


Take a Closer Look at the Music Lesson

At the end of the day, the reason why people quit music lessons is because they just didn’t like or enjoy the music lesson as much as they had hoped.


When parents enroll their kids in music lessons, they often think, “If my child enjoys this, I’ll continue their enrollment season after season or semester after semester.”


Parents don’t approach music lessons with a seasonal mindset like they do other activities. Signing your child up for soccer in the fall is a seasonal sport. If a kid’s really into soccer, then maybe the parent’s going to look into an indoor league appearance.


Consider The Importance of Transparency

Parents typically don’t always express their true reasons for their child quitting music lessons. They might cite a scheduling conflict as the reason, but this is often not the real issue. While hearing the truth might be uncomfortable, it can be more helpful in addressing and improving any concerns they have, ultimately benefiting both parties.


An Exit Survey Provides Valuable Insights

One thing I encourage you to do is whenever anyone discontinues,  send them two or three questions. Just a very short exit survey. A small percentage of people are actually going to respond to that three-question survey. You wanna call them up and show them that you care.


You never want families in your school to feel like their relationship with you is purely a business transaction.


Form a Human Connection

That’s why I don’t love it when I hear music schools are making sales over email and text and not getting on the phone with prospects. It’s a business transaction. 


If someone signs up on your website without using the phone, that’s okay. However, it’s important to recognize that you didn’t establish a personal connection during onboarding. Ensure that at some point in the customer journey, even after the first lesson, you make a deliberate effort to connect with them.


Value All Relationships

When people leave your school, it’s easy at that point to kind of go like this: “We’ll forget them. They just dropped out. I need to focus on getting new students. I gotta replace this person.”


That’s a loss in revenue. You still want to show them that you value their relationship. Call them if they don’t fill out that survey. Then, if they don’t return your call, text them a few days later. It’s important that you figure out why specifically are people dropping out.


The real secret to exponential growth isn’t attracting new students. It’s keeping the students that you currently have.


Identify The Measure of Success Early On

First of all, when a parent says her kid’s not practicing, that could be a failure on your part for not catching it. Also, when a parent is using practice as a metric to measure success, and it’s not happening. It’s almost too late to kind of persuade him at that point to give it another try.


Discover The Real Reason People Dropout

Perhaps a parent simply says, “Yeah, my kid just didn’t love her lessons.” Okay, that’s helpful information. The following obvious follow-up questions to that would be:


      • How could the lessons have been taught differently so that they were more engaging?
      • What do you hope the lesson experience would be like versus what it actually was?


The answers to these questions will give you a little insight into how you can improve the actual music lesson experience. If one student drops out because she didn’t like her lessons, how many other students do you have in your school that are kind of moving in that direction? Maybe the kids are not enjoying the lessons, but the parents are saying, “We really want you to finish out the semester there.”


Check-In With Active Students

Another great idea is to check in with new students a couple of months after onboarding. This will help you see how things are going and sort of get out ahead of any potential issues.


Narrow Down Broad Questions

Have very specific questions as opposed to open-ended ones. For example, the question “How’s your child enjoying his lessons?” might be too broad. Instead, try some of these questions: 


      • Are there any aspects of the lesson that your child doesn’t enjoy?
      • What are some things we could do in the lessons enjoyable for your child?


Accommodate Different Learning Styles

Your teachers might need to learn how to pick up cues from students. You want them to be able to identify whether a child is enjoying their lessons or not.


When I notice a kid repeatedly checking the clock during class, it clearly tells me that this kid is wondering when is this thing over. When a kid checks the clock at 10 minutes in your 30-minute lesson, that’s not a good sign. You have to teach differently. We all like to make the claim that our lessons are tailored to fit each child’s needs. It’s one thing to say to a kid, “What music are you into? That’s what we’re gonna learn.” It’s another thing to be able to identify each child’s unique learning style.


Not All Kids Learn The Same Way

You might also want to give parents some survey questions about their child’s learning style before they start lessons. That would be helpful information. If a student has challenges with paying attention for long periods of time, I would teach that kid differently. 


By understanding your students, learning how to better pick up on cues from them, and discovering early on what aspects resonate with them and what don’t, you can better improve your retention rates.


Build a Transformative Environment

The more your space feels transformative, the more parents and kids will want to be in your space.


When you see parents sitting in their cars during that lesson time versus parents in the lobby often signals you different messages. A parent sitting in your lobby enjoys the ambiance of your music school. Some parents in the lobby each week enjoy seeing or even talking to you.


Even you as the owner, make it a point to set aside some time each day to sit in your waiting area for a few minutes and talk to them. You’re a high-status personality at your music school. Everybody likes speaking to the owner. Isn’t it great when the owner of a restaurant comes over to your table and introduces themselves to you? What an honor. Now, you got connections in high places at that restaurant.


The Experience Defines the Quality

Constantly focus on ways to enhance the physical experience of your school. Develop the culture that you create in your school. Focus on the music lesson experience. Instead of fixating on the quality of the music lesson experience, focus on building an emotional connection with the child. The more you do these, the better your retention is going to be.


Prioritize Emotional Engagement

A music lesson that’s centered around a teacher transmitting information to a student can be of a certain value and quality, but a music lesson where the child’s emotionally engaged is an even higher-quality music lesson experience.


The information being transmitted in that type of lesson might not be on the level of the first lesson model I was sharing.


Sings of Music Lesson Success

At the end of the day, you have to have kids engaged. Kids have to want to be there. Kids have to be excited to be there. Kids should be looking forward all week to their next lesson. If they aren’t, then you’ve got a potential retention problem.


Retention as a Growth Strategy

The better your retention, the less time, money, and effort you have to put into marketing and attracting new students. You’ll always have a leak in your gas tank. You’ll always one or two more students trickling out each month. You’ll never be able to fully close the hole in that gas tank, but you can get it smaller. The real secret to exponential growth isn’t attracting new students. It’s keeping the students that you currently have.

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