Years ago, when I did large studio seminars like this with hundreds of studio owners in the room, I gave them some homework. I had them all ask this question to their admins:
What are the 3 most important things you do at the front desk?
I had just asked that same question to our own 8 admins at our 3-location studio and their answers shocked me.
Organize things, provide support to the teachers, make the parents feel welcome, give good customer service, were some of the answers.
“Doing new registrations” was way down on the list. Some didn’t even mention it at all. It was not the most important thing in their minds.
I had just assumed that we had sent a clear message that new registrations were the top priority. But I guess that broadcast got interrupted by all the other static of regular studio activity.
This shocked me because every studio, no matter how good is constantly losing students that need to be replaced. I don’t care how good your teachers are. Kids grow up. They go to college and quit music lessons. A music studio is a bucket with holes in the bottom that will always leak students. You can make the holes smaller with retention ideas but you can never fully plug them.
I used to worry about how to motivate my admins to do more registrations. How would I get them to follow up quickly with inquiries and do a better job “closing the deal”. More training. More meetings. Team building. We hired a customer service expert to train them. We took them out to dinners. Group bonuses. We rented limos and took them downtown to shows. We took them to cooking classes. We treated them as well as we could, hoping it would motivate them to do the best job possible.
Today, I don’t worry about the motivation of my admins. Over 90% of our registrations are done online.
The10% of parents who do ask for registration assistance end up completing the registration online themselves, so effectively we are a100% online registration studio with some minimal assistance.
The families who register online stay longer because the parent, many times with the child involved, picks the teacher they want the most by looking at teacher bios. This is a stark contrast to our old way of an admin asking a few questions and deciding for them mainly to just “fill a gap” (usually for a teacher who they really like or a teacher who they don’t like but who constantly bugs them by hanging out at the desk when they have a gap). There are no errors in the registration when the parent completes it. The parents are trained on how to self-manage their accounts during the registration process, which makes them easy to work with and less costly to service. It’s like a dream we have been living in since starting StudioAutoPilot in 2019.
What used to flow though admins now flows around them. We solved the unsolvable problem of motivation, human nature and not taking enough initiative by looking at it completely differently.
We asked this one key question:
Who gets the reward in your studio?
I remember walking into my studio once and asking my admin at the desk: How was everything today?
They said: It was really bad.
I got concerned and said: Oh no, what happened?
Well, it was super busy. We did a lot of registrations and it was hard to keep up.
What? That’s bad?
Busy is good, not bad. I want my business to be busy. That is why it is called a BUSY-NESS
That admin did not really think the same way.
I also remember asking my admin staff how everything was today at a different time and them responding Good! It was not busy at all.
My admin and I clearly have different priorities.
A busy surge of customers is not a reward for an admin staff. In fact, it is a liability. They do not get paid by commission. It is just more work and hassle for the same pay. No, I’m not saying you should pay admins on commission.
Most employees would rather have an easier, less stressful workday then a full pedal to the metal “I can’t even take a break to breathe” day.
I can’t really blame them. It’s getting harder and harder to find new admin employees who are motivated. Unfortunately, many of us have had younger admin employees who were more motivated to be on their phones during slower times than to look for ways to make the studio better.
In many businesses the “who gets the reward” psychology says a lot.
In 2020 something happened to me that illustrated the perfectly.
I custom designed an electric speedboat and I wanted it to match my Tesla Roadster. As you can see the boat steering wheel is on the left side like a car and it is designed to use a foot pedal as the motor is electric.
The problem is almost all boats have the wheel on the right side of the boat and the speed control is regulated with a cable hand lever (sorry non-boat people if I’m boing you).
In short, I needed a specialized outboard steering control arm that could steer opposite to the regular way. (Kind of the same opposite theme in many areas of my life.)
It’s a $60-$70 part but without it, you can’t steer your boat. I called a few local boat places and one guy said he would check and get back to me after I explained what I needed for a few minutes. He was friendly and seemed helpful.
That was over 2 years ago! I am still waiting for a call back.
After I hung up, I searched online and found a part and had it shipped to me. It took about a week from the online company and, if the local guy had got back to me sooner, I just would have returned that other online part unused so I was hedging my bets.
But he never got back to me, not even to say we don’t have anything. Why not?
He did not get the reward. I was the only one getting the reward.
To him I was an interruption. He was busy enough already probably. He was a parts desk clerk. He did not get paid any more if he sold that part. Maybe he was distracted or forgot. Maybe he wrote down my number wrong. Maybe he got sick for a few days and when he came back to work the message just got lost.
Basically, my item getting sold to me or not did not give him any upside or downside.
And the manager or owner would never find out if he got back to me or not.
Even if you, the owner, are the main admin and have a lot of motivation, you can’t work 24 hours a day. At StudioAutoPilot we see new registrations come in on Christmas Day and New Years Day. Getting back to inquires during those holidays, even if you wanted to, would be weird.
I’m not saying your staff are trying to not work. They just do not get a reward for doing everything perfectly all the time.
They may be trying, but most staff only really want to call an inquiry back one or two times then drop it.
Not one wants to impose, right?
To me, I was the customer so it was very important for me to have that small part.
Think of a prospective parent at your studio. If they want lessons at a certain time, they get the reward if they get that time. Their whole family schedule may revolve around getting that time for piano.
A lot of parents don’t just want piano lessons. They want piano lessons at 4:30 Tuesday - or we can’t take them.
I’ve seen this with my wife too. When she wanted to book a flight for her 87-year-old father to visit us over Christmas she spent hours looking for the best times, plane type, connections and seat assignments.
She gets the reward because she wants the best for her father.
Let the person who gets the reward do the work. They will work for you but it won’t feel like work. We all technically do “work” for Amazon. We do their shipping logistics and checkout. Some of us even work as “salespeople” for Amazon by doing reviews or answering questions for a customer who is asking about an item we have already bought.
This is the psychology behind StudioAutoPilot, and the psychology behind all online shopping and ecommerce. Let the individual who gets the reward do the work and they will thank you for letting them do it.
My minor in university was in psychology. My major was business. One of my mentors told me that business is just a combination of psychology and math. Just find out what motivates a person to take action and find a way to multiply that process.
In the chapters ahead you will see why StudioAutoPilot is a combination of technology and psychology that has made studio parents complete hundreds of thousands of transactions themselves, sometimes to the utter disbelief of the studio owner and admins. “It actually worked!”
Studio owners who were previously on software systems with portals that no one ever used are shocked when they see how many parents regularly use StudioAutoPilot. Our system is built around the principle understanding of who gets the reward and letting them easily, conveniently work for it 24 hours a day so we don’t have to.