When In Doubt, Simplify (part 1)

This is part one in a 3-part series about simplifying the workflows at your studio.

Any studio owner can tell you that a class management career is chaotic. You handle students & parents, instructors, employees, payments & payroll, building expenses, maintenance, and anything else that pops up (surprise!). Juggling this laundry-list of variables can be highly stressful for most people.

My blanket advice when someone is stressed out by their business is this: “When in doubt, simplify”. Of course that’s easier said than done. How? How can I simplify things and still continue to better my product and grow my business, you ask?

There’s good news: even if you run a tight ship and are wildly successful, there are likely some opportunities to simplify things and allow the business to run more smoothly, reducing your stress levels in the process.

Give Your Customers Fewer Options

Yep, you read that right. It’s not a typo. Give people fewer options.

Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? You want to provide anything and everything to your customers. You want to satisfy their needs so they keep coming back. You should bend over backwards to make sure they’re happy, right?

Not exactly.

When you start adding options onto your core offerings, you’re likely doing it to satisfy customer requests. Nothing wrong with that in theory: “the customer is always right” and you’re a conscientious business owner. Problems occur, though, when these isolated customer accommodations start to pile up over time. Here’s an example:

Studio A wanted to reward their current students by offering a 20% discount for enrollment in the next term. They added the stipulation that the student would have to take 2 classes in order to qualify for the discount.

20% off next term for current students!


A few weeks later, a brand new family showed up and inquired about nabbing the discount as well. The studio owner wanted to accommodate this request, so she agreed to a 10% discount for new families.

10% off next term for new families!


The next week a parent came to the studio because her oldest daughter was already a student, but her younger daughter was just starting, and the older daughter was only going to take 1 class while the younger daughter was going to take 3. She thought they should qualify for some kind of discount, given their loyalty to the studio and the fact that their tuition bill (4 classes total) was quite high. The studio then adopted a sibling discount of 25% for a brand new sibling, and 20% for a sibling that had taken classes before.

Now Offering Sibling Discounts!
25% for existing families, 20% for new families :)


Another new parent came in wanting to sign her daughter up for 6 classes, but wondered why her discount was only 10% when a different family that enrolled in 4 classes got a 20% discount just because a sibling was involved. After all “I’m spending a LOT more money than them!”

Taking more than 5 hours? Inquire about a volume discount.


Then a family asked about their 3rd sibling. What about her?

More than 2 siblings? Inquire within.


Then a NEW family inquired about stacking the new family discount on top of the sibling discount.

Some discounts stackable. Inquire about eligibility.


You can see where this is going.

So, what’s the problem here? Sure there are many options now, but how is it a bad thing that the studio was responsive to its customers in this way?

There’s just too many variables to handle (while retaining your sanity, anyway). You’re like a juggler adding balls to his act until he drops them all. By letting the discounts snowball the way they did, the studio put itself in an unwieldy situation. They are over-saturated with options now, and managing those options has become a job and takes up valuable administrative time. Because of their muddled discount policies, the studio:

  • Spends admin hours training & retraining staff on this complicated policy
  • Spends admin hours articulating the policy correctly on their website, emails, forms and marketing materials
  • Frustrates their customers who don’t understand the complex policy initially
  • Spends time fielding calls & emails explaining the policy to frustrated customers
  • Spends time calculating the discounts correctly for each individual registration
  • Lengthens the registration process unintentionally
  • Incorrectly discounts some people due the complexity of the policy, then backtracks and issues refunds later
  • Opens itself up to mistakes in other areas because of the distractions this policy creates

And so on.

This example is somewhat severe, but it’s isolated. Just imagine if there were several different workflows at the business with similar complexity. Suddenly we’re talking about managing burned-out employees and customers and a business that can’t sustain its client base.

Finding a solution to the problem above (or something similar) can be difficult. I like to start by thinking back to the core principals behind the policy. Why are we doing this? What are the main goals here?

In this case, the goals can be articulated thusly:

“We want to offer discounts to our customers to incentivize new signups and continuity, while making sure the policy is fair for all.”

Every studio is different, but having outlined the goal, I would do something like this:

For Next Term:
New customers receive 20% off family tuition of $500 or more!
Existing customers receive 10% off family tuition of $500 or more!

Simple, fair and addresses your goals. It won’t confuse your customers or staff, and it’s easy to articulate on a form.



Matt Conway is the founder of ClassBug, the easiest way to manage a studio and sell classes online. He writes code, plays music and acts as a consultant for performing arts schools.

Published on 04/03/2015 at 17:23 by Matt Conway, tags , , ,

Powered by Publify | Photo Startup stock photos