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Dealing with difficult dance parents at your studio

Having to deal with difficult (or even angry parents on occasion) is part of the job if you own a dance studio. But there are ways of addressing unhappy customers that can actually help to reduce the number of difficult situations you'll face at your studio.

All studios have customers and sooner or later you will have to deal with a difficult or unhappy one. You may even be dealing with one right now!

As we prepare to head into the traditionally busy second half of the year, I thought it would be a great time to share some tips for handling “feedback” when it comes your way. Learning how to deal with an unhappy parent at your dance studio is an essential skill and how you choose to deal with it will be a huge factor in how you and your studio will thrive.

1. Have a plan

The last thing you want is an angry parent confronting you in front of your team and students, so it’s important to establish a system for any concerns/complaints and stick to it. A good method of communication is to have parent/student concern forms readily available in the studio. This gives you a chance to review the problem, decide on a plan of action and set up an appropriate meeting time with all parties involved. It can also a good idea to make appointment slots available at certain times of the term. If parents raise an issue at the studio or via email, invite them to make an appointment to see you. This will help avoid waiting room confrontations at inappropriate times.

2. Be proactive and accountable

Often teachers can sense a problem within a class before it's raised by a parent - little comments, eye rolls, awkward conversations. You can tell! Get ahead of it before it becomes a larger issue and be proactive by regularly checking-in with your team to ask them if there's anything you need to be aware of. If there's an issue brewing, send a clear email to the parents concerned acknowledging what you suspect the problem may be and what you plan to do about it. Let parents know if you are open to feedback OR not. Give them a time frame for when you will follow up again with progress related to the issue. Sometimes all parents need is your acknowledgment!

3. Address concerns with respect & remember everyone has bad days

You may have seen the issue resolve itself a number of times in the past. You may not view a complaint as something serious. While not every parent is right and not every concern is urgent, treat all of them with respect. Parents don’t always see the big picture the way you do. And remember dance parents are people with full lives, jobs, multiple children, and stress of their own. Sometimes (OK, maybe a lot of time!), it’s not about you at all.

4. Promote your values - consistently!

One of the ways you can decrease unhappy parents is to create a culture where your studio values are well-known and guide every major decision you make. While it is true that you can’t make everyone happy, do your best to deliver all that you say that you will. For example, start classes on time, and make sure facilities are clean and safe. Having your values clear and accessible at the time of enrollment will show parents what your stand for. If and/or when problems arise, consider reaching out to all parents to remind them of the studio values.

5. Killer communication

A lot of problems arise when parents feel like they're "out of the loop". It’s not enough to send out a monthly newsletter and sporadic email correspondence. Parents want to know what’s going on. If you're getting information parents need out to them in a timely manner, you are setting yourself up for success. When you DO get a confused or angry parent, you have a communication trail to reference. Create a communication schedule (especially around big events) and stick to it. In my studio, we implemented a Friday news update. Parents knew to expect an app alert each Friday during the dance year with a link to a closed Google site where we posted a news feed with important information and links.

6. Reframe

When you do receive criticism, it can be SO hard to not get defensive or take things personally. Buttry to remember most criticisms or uncomfortable encounters DO have a take away that might actually help you and your team grow. Give yourself the time you need for your emotions to settle down then take time to reflect and take ownership. You don’t have to be perfect! It is ok to mess up and make mistakes. This is an opportunity to hone your resilience!

7. Have a support system away from the studio

Being a studio owner is tough so it's important to have someone outside the studio that supports YOU above all else and doesn’t mind letting you vent. It can sometimes take the perspective of someone on the outside to bring you back to reality.


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