Ask the Experts: How Do I Reduce Attrition at My Studio?

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Q: We always seem to lose the most students after our recitals. How do I prevent post-show fallout?


A: Spring recitals are the culmination of our dance season, and even when we receive rave reviews from our students and parents, some do not re-enroll. We have seen attrition rates of 20 percent to 40 percent of recreational dancers who don't return from one season to the next. This can be a perplexing number, especially when parents and dancers report a positive experience, but the fact is supported by industry-wide data: An average number of students from any given year will not re-enroll regardless of their level of satisfaction from participation. The reality is that students' interests change, they try other activities or lose interest, or parents have financial barriers to participation.

Given the many diverse factors that influence enrollment that may fall outside our control, it is important to gain regular feedback from students by sending an in-season survey to see if and where any customer issues can be resolved as they pertain to class placement or teacher experience. Essentially, focus on what you can control and effect early, and be ready.

One strategy to consider during early spring registration is to offer incentives to secure a spot in the next season with preferred class-time requests, one-time or early-pay discounts or other perks such as studio-logo wear. Even if a parent can't select the exact date and time for class in the fall, this allows the studio to prepare a new schedule that best meets the needs of their student base. We also are seeing a trend toward a year-round schedule, with a shorter summer break, and many studios are introducing an auto-enroll feature for dancers until they opt out.

Today's parent also seeks ongoing feedback on the progress of their student. We find at our studio that extending a personalized invitation from the student's teacher to the next class or level makes a difference for retention. If you make your recital a celebration that culminates as a segue into the next season ahead versus an ending, it can be an event that recognizes the dancers for their hard work and also gives them a future to look forward to at the studio. There are always students who have a lesser commitment to dance or have fulfilled their investigation and participation in dance as an activity. Use the rate of attrition as a motivation to always be inviting and generating new enrollment while also showing your current students what's next for them when they stay with their dance training.

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