This week we had an unhappy new student. We have had hundreds of students come through our studio since we opened a few years ago and I can count on one hand (without even using all of my fingers!) how many unhappy students and families we've had. One of the truths of this business is that if you do it long enough you are bound to have some unhappy families. Some of them REALLY unhappy.
Here is something that I have learned in 15 years of teaching lessons: Most of the time it has nothing to do with you. The issue isn't really about the issue. It's about something else going on in the person's life that makes them take something small and blow it out of context.
Before I opened my studio and was teaching at a church, I had a parent EXPLODE on me for not giving her a makeup she thought she deserved. She contacted all of my bosses, wrote the Better Business Bureau (before I even officially had a business), and generally tried to destroy me and my business. Over one makeup lesson.
The leadership of the church found a way to appease her and I never saw her again. Or so I thought. Six months later I got an email from her wanting to meet me at the church and apologize. I tried to side step it but she was insistent. We talked for about 15 minutes and she revealed to me that she had been abused her whole life and at the time of our spat was being abused by her husband. She moved to a new city and started receiving help and support and reached out to me six months later. Ultimately, it came down to the fact that she couldn't let one more person tell her what to do or how to live her life.
She exploded on me initially because I happened to be the straw that broke the camel's back. I was acting in accordance with the church's policies which she signed and was 100% in the right. But I held firm and it turned into a major event.
This week I decided to handle it differently. An adult student misunderstood some of our pricing and policies and wanted a refund. We don't do that. Ever. In 15 years of teaching I have never issued a refund.
But I decided to try something new. Instead of fighting and arguing with someone that would never concede my point even if proven wrong, I decided to just let it go.
Yes, I lost a student and the resulting wages from that. But they weren't happy and didn't want to be here. In that case, it's best not to have the student in the studio. Could I have held firm and argued my policies? Absolutely. Again, we were 100% in the right and have documented proof of it. It probably would have even felt justified and even a bit of self-righteousness as we proved that we were in the right.
But, is it worth the time and energy?
But here's what is. We had two walk-ins that day looking for lessons for siblings. We had another student that scheduled a tour come into our studio that wanted to start lessons. We had some awesome group classes that students loved and they're excited about signing up for the next group class. I talked to happy parents at the desk all day that love what we do and who we are.
That is where I chose to focus. When someone isn't a fit with us it is in our best interest to get them out of our studio (and my life) as quickly as possible so that I can focus on the positive things that our studio brings.
Why would I want to spend the time and energy on something that won't make us money and on someone who won't be happy in our studio? As a business owner your responsibility is to yourself and your clients. You need to focus on what makes you money and you need to focus on making your current clients happy and motivated.
Another important note: The "problem" families that we've had in our studio aren't bad people. They just weren't a good fit for our studio. And that's ok. You can't be all things to all people. When it isn't working, it's best to part ways and wish them well so that they can find a place that fits them and their needs.
So, that is my advice for the day. We're all going to have those families. If you haven't...don't worry, they're coming! You can't choose how people will treat you, but you can choose how you react to it. Choose to focus on the positive.