Please take this point in the right way. I am really trying to help you get more registrations and make more money in your studio.
One of the biggest mistakes I see studios do when using StudioAutoPilot is they try to schedule things too far in advance. This is counterintuitive because we as a society have been brainwashed for years to be prepared, plan ahead and never put anything off into the future. Seriously, why do ducks need to even be in a row? They’re ducks, who cares?
In the studio business time is our inventory. We sell blocks of time. We need to find the most efficient way to manage and sell our inventory. We are very similar to the hotel and airline industry in this regard. We looked at hotel booking sites and airline booking sites extensively when planning StudioAutoPilot.
If you look at many industries, they practice just in time inventory for maximum profit and efficiency. Just in time inventory is crucial for studios because we have a finite capacity of desirable bookable inventory. It does not matter if you have lots of 8:30 times open. 4:30 times on any day are pure gold. Don’t waste that prime inventory by spoiling it with non-paying advance events that do not need be scheduled so early. In our studios we call those events a NRP or “nerp”. NRP means Non-Revenue Producing. Keep the advance nerps off the schedule. Revenge of the Nerps – I can see it now.
With just in time inventory, you wait until the last minute to get supplies and sell product. Starbucks has small locations and gets supplies daily. They don’t have a massive back area for storing supplies for the month in prime expensive real estate. Just in time supply management works.
A lot of studios do the opposite. They use a “just in case” inventory system to manage their blocks of time. Their admin staff and a lot of times the owners too, like to plan way far ahead to get everything covered. From subbing to make-up lessons to holding times an existing student “might” want to move into 3 weeks in the future. When I see that on a studio’s schedule I cringe.
Blocking off future potential lesson times reduces the number of available spaces displaying for online registration today. You don’t want a student to register online, have a lesson this week then not have a lesson next week because that gap was pre-booked for a make-up or subbing and then have them restart again the following week. If a spot has an upcoming scheduled event the time does not display for online registration until the event has passed and the student can have continuous lessons. That makes sense. Online booking needs to be as logical as possible to the customer.
Our system is smart enough to let the student register if a pre-scheduled holiday is the week after they start. They can start, then not have a lesson on the holiday, then have a regular lesson the following week. It fully auto calculates billing and notifies the student that we are closed and there is no lesson the holiday week.
OK, let’s say it’s Wednesday. You are booking a sub for a teacher next week, and want to use a Tuesday 3:30 gap which is currently open on an active teachers schedule to sub a Tuesday 3:30 lesson for another teacher missing next week. You want to book a sub 6 days in advance. I highly urge you to add the sub on the day of the lesson – not in advance.
BUT SAM! We need to be prepared and plan ahead.
Ok plan to add them on that day, but don’t actually add them yet. I highly encourage leaving that empty 3:30 time slot open until the day of actual subbing. If the 3:30 time doesn’t fill with a new student, then formally add them.
If you do add the sub early, that time will be taken off your online booking inventory so a new student will not see it as a possibility to start this week. Covering a sub lesson, but missing a new student registration can cost you a lot of money, but some admins and studios insist that they need to “be organized”. Please be a little less organized. I really want you to get more students. If I make you more money you will like me more than you do now. At the rate I’m going in this book, the last rose petal is going to fall before the book is over and I will stay like this forever. Please. The Teapot keeps looking at me funny. I don’t like it.
Same thing with make-up lessons. Please use just in time inventory. At our studios we never actually book make-up lessons for people at all. If you run on StudioAutoPilot and your admins feel compelled to still manually book make-up lessons for people, just please, please do not let them book them too far in advance. Wait until the day of. You set your custom cut off time of how many hours in advance a brand-new student needs to have to register online. So, if your setting is a new student needs to book at least 8 hours in advance, then book subs and make-ups after the 8 hours cut off has passed. Plan to book them if you like but wait for a paying option to fill the spot first.
BUT SAM! We have lots of other open times! Why can’t I book it off for that make-up or subbing in advance?
You may have 5 other open times but that one time with that one teacher may be the only time a new searching parent wants. Don’t waste your inventory by early birding it.
Same thing with potential time switches from one time to another.
At our studio we let parents self-transfer through their account. You don’t need to allow self transfers, some studios don’t, but it my experience not enabling self-transfer decreases overall retention.
What chu talkin’ about Willis?
If you don’t allow lesson changes your parents will see this in their account dashboard as actions they can do.
If you do allow time changes, they will see this extra option
If, every time a parent logs into their account they see and know that they are able to permanently change their lesson time if they need to, that will increase your retention. You are showing your parents that options exist.
I just checked the last 6000 reasons for quitting in our system. The most common reason given by parents is the time didn’t work. What if you could eliminate that objection in advance by saying: “Hey parents if you ever find out a time is not going to work just search for new times immediately and see which other spot will work.” Remember, they get the reward. They will keep searching harder, more often and on weekends and holidays to make sure they can still stay in lessons at a convenient time. They will outwork your staff to get the reward. And they won’t forget that they need a new time.
It is staggering to think of how many parents have probably quit because an admin forgot to contact a parent who requested a time change, the new spot fills with a different student who would have taken any other slot and the original parent who needed to change quits. I can only imagine lots.
Showing transfer options is also huge if that family originally registered during a period when your schedule was super tight and there were very few other options. They may assume it is still very tight and they just can’t switch. If you let them know that they have options your retention will go up.
What if a parent self-switches times and there is a gap on the original teachers schedule?
It will fill eventually if their bio and the time is good. Also, if the parent asked in person you would probably let them switch instead of just letting them quit.
What if I let parents change their own time and they do it every week? What if they use it to weave their own evil tapestry of DIY make-up lessons by just constantly changing lesson times?
Well, you set the hours required before a transfer so the parents cannot self-transfer right before the lesson every week even if they wanted to. Also, when they switch lesson, their old other spot opens up for someone else to book into so there is no guarantee they can easily switch back.
The real answer is out of thousands of registrations this has never happened, even though studio owners feared it would. It’s the Phantom Make-up Menace.
But I wish a family would do that. You and your admins would love it.
If you saw a pattern of them switching their lessons to create a make-up then switching back, you would monitor it and just add a hold in their old time as soon as they transfer, so it looks like it was booked by another student. They won’t be able to tell it was you. Then they are stuck in their time. Check mate yo! Lesson hopscotch is over. And the admins all high five, mic drop and do other weird admin celebration stuff.
I know, despicable. But I know a lot of admins and studio owners who would love to play that little game of messing with people online like Zuckerberg does with the world every day. They all really need a therapy dog.