9 Lies That Are Holding Your Studio Back and the System That Will Set It Free

Chapter 6

Lie 5
My Superstar admin is better at registrations and matching

I recently had a conversation with the owner of a busy studio. He said he was doing about 50 new registrations each month and asked if our system could “keep up”. We currently use under 2% of our server processing capacity at any given time and we are constantly monitoring it to scale up so we can handle surges but instead of explaining that, I just said yes, it can keep up.

He also wondered if our automated system would do as good of a job at registrations as his well-trained admin superstar.

Before running on StudioAutoPilot I used to believe that admin superstars existed. Now after seeing data of who is actually making mistakes, I don’t believe human superstars exist. We talked about data points in the last chapter. If this studio does 50 new registrations and there are 20 data points to enter, 20 points x 50 registrations = 1000 entries a person needs to do. If 1000 points are entered by a single person, I can almost guarantee a certain error percentage.

Also, a person entering in 50 registrations manually could take 5-7 hours of time easily at just 10 minute per registration. (50 registrations x 10minutes = 500 minutes, about 6 hours) Probably longer if there is email tag, phone calls and back and forth.

There is a multi million-dollar consulting industry based on human error reduction. The most successful companies in the world pay consultants huge fees to help some of their most competent, highest paid employees make less mistakes.

We humans are mistake making machines.

At our studio when we had 3 locations and about 3000 students, we were doing about 2.5 million dollars in business. We had 8 admin staffers. We had 3 admin staffers who considered themselves to be superstars. One actually said to me “don’t worry I’m a superstar” on several occasions.

When we closed 2 of our locations and downsized to 1, we laid off all 8 of our admin members and we took over their jobs in various states of completion, what we found was pretty shocking. Keep in mind these were well trained, intelligent, loyal people who were really trying to do a good job.   

When the dust settled, we found a lot of uncharged and undercharged fees. When I calculated the difference from our 2019 to 2020 numbers previous to the switch to StudioAutoPilot, I discovered previously to automation and parent registrations completion, 1 out of 26 registrations was billed incorrectly or not charged at all.

It can happen easily.  A student switches from a 30 to 60-minute lesson. Then the family decides it is too much money. Then they think about it and stay at 60 minutes and ask to switch it back. The billing gets confused and underbilled for the next year. This happens all the time.

A family with 3 kids adds a lesson, then stops a lesson, then adds a lesson but wants their other child to take it and come to piano twice a week. But the dad may come sometimes instead too. Then the family switches credit cards. Those ones get confusing and get incorrectly billed for months.

So, 3.84% of our registrations were not billed because of situations like that. No problem, right? Well 3.84% of 2.5 million is $96,153.84. That is a lot of hamburgers, no matter who you are. Straight bottom-line profit we were not getting. From the best efforts of 3 superstars.

Now the only superstar I believe in is a computer system that is a robot superstar.

If you are old enough to remember shopping in stores that typed things into a cash register instead of scanning them all to get the price that sums up the problem. The barcode was the biggest leap forward for retail efficiency and error reduction. Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot could have never grown to their current size profitably without the barcode and the scanner being the robot superstar that always got the right price for the right item. Errors cost a lot.

There is one other major issue with building your business around a superstar: You are being held hostage.

If your business depends on a highly trained, highly skilled person, you are constantly afraid of losing them. If they get a better offer or aren’t happy and leave, all that training and great efficiency you think have walks out the door.

Your studio’s greatest strength is also your greatest weakness.

Over the years as a studio business coach, I’ve seen studio owners get held hostage by a person who they believe is a superstar. “Pat’s just so organized. I couldn’t live without her.” Yes, and Pat knows that too, and she uses it to hold you hostage.

I’ve seen studios take managers, their superstars with them to my conferences and it was like Tony Danza in Who’s the Boss. The superstar admin had an answer for everything and was more confident that the owner.

Just can’t live without them.

Even if that superstar did not make as many entry mistakes (notice I did not say no mistakes) They were still a mental emotional and financial liability for the business. I say financial became they were being paid a premium, superstar always are.

Who’s the Boss? You are. With StudioAutoPilot you call the shots and will never feel held hostage by a human superstar again.

But isn’t an experienced admin better at matching the student and teacher and getting better retention?

This one is counterintuitive. Most studio owners think an admin person matching a teacher and student will out convert and out retain a parent who is choosing and booking for themselves. I use to think that and even taught it to other studio owners, but based on what I have seen at my own studio over the last 3 years I know that parent self-bookings out perform admin bookings in both conversion and retention.

Of course, converting inquiring parents instantly online 24 hours a day helps to get more conversions online too, but there are a few others factors that most studios do not consider.

The whole idea of “matching” is a bit interesting to begin with. If you have a 12-year-old flute student who wants a Tuesday time and you have only one flute teacher, Wendy, on Tuesday what are the chances of a “match”?

I can’t believe it Mrs. Olsen your daughter and Wendy will be perfect together!
Wendy teaches flute, your daughter wants to learn flute, like so perfect together!

I have also noticed a subtle difference in questions from parents recently based on the non-offensive politically correct culture. Some parents are uncomfortable saying they want a female teacher or asking if Chris is a male teacher or female teacher. That added awkwardness has added an extra element of asking questions to matching that makes it even tricker. Photos and bios and online booking eliminates that whole issue.

 I’m not saying you should do this at your studio, but here’s what I do based on how confident I am in the system vs. a live superstar. On our own studio website, we don’t have a submit form. I also basically hide our email and phone number on our website. I don’t want phone calls or emails as the first response. You can find our contact info on our website, but unlike most other studio websites, on our site you need to dig for it a bit. I just showcase our online registration for these key reasons. Online converts and retains better and the registrations are error free.

You may think I’m crazy to do this, but Amazon and all airlines do not push you to call them. They structure it so you do things yourself. Tesla has sold over a million cars without the customer ever talking to a salesperson. Think of that - a car. It’s a much bigger decision and commitment than monthly music lessons.

If you were to call a travel agent (the few that exist still) and ask for flights, how many options would you be given? Probably 3-4 tops. If the travel agent gave you or discussed more options, it could be overwhelming.

But if you, the consumer, searched for flights online how many options would you look at? As many as you could. Consumers have an increased ability to absorb and process options if they are the ones in charge of the search. The last 20 years of Google has switched us from calling up 3 businesses in the phone book to searching websites for hours if we like.

When searching for your own flights you may check out several airlines or travel sites and see dozens or even over a hundred possible flight options.

When consumers are searching for themselves, they will search much longer.

Ever been on Amazon looking for a low-cost product you needed to fix a household issue but 35 minutes later after clicking a few “Products related to this item” suggestions you find something you did not know existed but that is the absolute best solution to your problem? It feels like a triumph.

That never would have happened if you visited a store which sells the item. If the item you are buying is only $11.99 it would be too expensive for a clerk to take 35 minutes to go through several suggestions to find something to fix your problem. But remember you the customer get the reward.

People want control. They want information. They want to make the decision. Even if that clerk in the store had the time to show you options, would they be getting the reward, or would you?

A searching parent will spend much more time looking for more options than an admin will suggest. It is like that in all online consumer transactions.

A StudioAutoPilot user in Iowa sums it up best when she said

We had 11 new students register online in our first full month of offering online registration with already full schedules, some even registering for early and late times that we don’t always offer when they call.

Just like that travel agent who does not want to give too many choices and “overwhelm” the consumer, this studios admin didn’t suggest the earlier or later times based on her own bias.

The other factor of matching is the bias of the admin on who they will suggest.

My top suggestion for a guitar teacher is Blake. He is my age, I hired him in 1997 and he is super cool and a great musician. When we went to online booking with pictures and bios, I thought 50-year-old Blake would get way more registrations than 23-year-old Tyler, who is a super nice guy and is married but, in my opinion, he looks 14 years old.

I was totally wrong. The bio and picture of Tyler converted more customers than the picture and bio of the “better” Blake. I am not the customer. Your admins are not the customer. We bring biases to our recommendations of who would be a better teacher. If you let the parent pick the age, experience and style of the instruction they get the best fit from the start.

I’m the owner who knew a great teacher for 25 years and I am not as good at “matching” for retention as the customer and the bio process. I hope you are getting how major this point is.