5 Things To Do Right Now To Deal With No-Shows

By: Blink Lesson

No-shows can be the most frustrating part of running a lesson business. Really, any appointment-based business. You are sitting there, ready, and as the minutes tick by, you get more and more frustrated.

What can you do to deal with it? It's actually not that complex. Like most things in life, you need a plan that can be communicated, implemented, and evaluated.

Start Out Confident

Often, when starting out, teachers lack the confidence to set or enforce policies. This, of course, is completely natural. You've invested time and energy to get your lesson service or studio going, and you don't want to make people mad. You want good reviews and happy customers.

That attitude isn't all bad. When people start lining up for your lessons, you do have a lot more wiggle room, as far as what you expect from your students.

Still, people tend to put priority on appointments they think are a big deal. You have to set the tone from the beginning that having success with lessons requires showing up, and that your time is valuable. Be nice, be gracious, but be confident.

1) Deal With It

First off, the worst thing you can do is nothing. It's NOT bad customer service to hold your students accountable. Bad services would be if you're a jerk about it.

The best way to deal with no-shows is to do things to reduce them from happening in the first place. Rewind the tape and think about the attendance expectations you communicated from the beginning. If you didn't do anything, no worries. Now is a good time to start.

For new and existing students, make sure you have a clear and straightforward process of communicating expectations.

1)   Write a one-page attendance policy document, which includes cancels and no-shows. Use everyday language in it. Most people are not lawyers and may have trouble, or fall asleep, reading legalese. 

2)  Give this document to the student and or parent at their initial lesson, but don't just hand it to them. Highlight the main points. The point is that they show up, not just read the document.  Have them sign it.

3)   Lastly, their reality is your reality. Make sure they have a time slot each week that makes sense. Families, especially, are usually in a time crunch. If they have 5 minutes to get to your lesson from school it's probably not a good slot, even if they say it is.

2) Track Attendance

Make sure you are tracking your lesson studio's attendance stats. Some scheduling systems have reporting features that make this easy. If your scheduling system doesn't offer this, switch to Blink Lesson, which has this and many more features. Really, use Blink or something that has an attendance report.

Of course, you have to actually mark every lesson for the report to be accurate. Set a studio policy to mark each lesson as, "Complete" and so on at the end of the day.

Now, you don't need a system to know who the students that always miss are. You will remember them from your feelings of frustration. What you need the system for is to be systematic and logical about it. You might be surprised to find that some students, which you maybe love, have poor attendance.

3) Automate Lesson Reminders

You probably do not schedule lessons in a paper planner anymore. Maybe you use iCal or Google, but hopefully not. You need a scheduling system designed for lesson businesses with reminders.

This system, like that found in Blink Lesson, should send text and email reminders. Using the "Calendar Invite" in Google calendar or iCal is not appropriate. Those are designed for peer-to-peer meetings. Plus, you have no idea if your student even uses an online calendar, and if they don't, you are out of luck.

The fact is, students and their parents want reminders. Studies have shown that confirmation emails and text messages are associated with higher customer satisfaction. Not only are automated reminders helpful —they'll make your students and teachers happier too!

4) Have Some Grace

Remember that things happen — if the student didn't show up once, but called later to apologize — there should be some understanding. Students and teachers need to understand that we don't confuse being good at something with being perfect at something. Remembering that we are human beings will go a long way toward modeling for our students how to respond when we make a mistake. It will help them treat our business with respect when there are issues or conflicts.  However ….

5) Don't Be Afraid to Let Students Go

It may be challenging, but don't be afraid to let students go. You're running a business, and you and your teachers must make a living. Even if they've prepaid, it's not going to work out long-term if they don't show up. You don't want your business depending on people paying for stuff they don't use, because soon they won't be paying for it.

When a student no-shows, that's time that you could be filling with another student who would appreciate your services more. If the student is a consistent no-show, then their life schedule is not ready to commit to learning how to play an instrument. The most important thing is to remember that this isn't personal—it's about protecting yourself and your livelihood as a business owner.