Cancellation Policies (All Teachers)
MemberNovember 12, 2015 at 3:23 am
This is probably my least favourite thing about teaching. That moment when you get a no-show and you have to call them up and remind them about your policy. Usually this is the moment where the great students apologise and offer to pay straight away, but I’ve had some people just not reply and disappear off the map. My only technique thus far is to have a written version of the policy that students sign right at the start at the end of the first lesson. But when push comes to shove, this still makes me feel awkward.
Any tips on how to get around this? (Especially for teachers who are usually paid cash)
MemberNovember 12, 2015 at 10:13 am
Get them to pay one week in advance so they are always one week in front. x
MemberNovember 13, 2015 at 12:20 am
Great idea! Do you introduce this right at the start? Are people nervous about paying for two classes at once when they’ve just joined up?
ModeratorNovember 14, 2015 at 7:43 pm
Due to a strict and clearly communicated system, I am rarely messed around. Sometimes you just can’t avoid the odd let down, which Matthew refers to as “bad debt” which you just write off and move on as you can’t exactly go to court for the sake of £30.
My system is: Upon booking a first lesson, I inform the student straight away that the first lesson is cash in hand and that 48 hours’ notice is required for cancellations. I also inform them that upfront monthly payments are required after their initial lesson if they’re happy to continue.
For first lessons though, there’s literally nothing you can do except trust them. I haven’t had a problem too often though, but if you need to cover yourself for those first lesson no-shows, I have a teacher that takes upfront paypal payment online even for first lessons, which also includes a £10 deposit.
ModeratorNovember 14, 2015 at 7:45 pm
I would like to add that you should never be shy of detailing the policy at the start. This is how you can gage how serious and committed the student is. And it’s your business after all, and most people understand and respect that 🙂
MemberNovember 14, 2015 at 10:13 pm
I take all new bookings through my online booking system, where they pay for a lesson via Paypal. Since implementing this system I have completely removed the problem of ‘no shows’ – I generally like to think that if they won’t pay in advance for a lesson then they are not serious or committed for the lessons. I also ask for 48 hours notice for cancellation to be entitled to a refund.
In the first lesson I let the student know that I ask for them to pay a lesson in advance from the second lesson. Most people have been understanding of this and I never really have a problem with it. If they do ask why I do this I tell them that it is to secure their lesson in advance as well as provides them with security knowing that the lesson is already paid for if they for example, forget to bring payment on one lesson, they can then pay the lesson in advance from the next time to put them back to where they were. I also get everyone to sign a pre-prepared student agreement which I make a copy of for them to take home 🙂
MemberNovember 16, 2015 at 5:30 am
Becki, that’s a great way of doing things! Very clever. Do people keep paying for lessons via paypal after that first booking, or do you get them to pay cash once that deposit is down? I always shy away from using paypal in an ongoing way for fear they take too much of a cut from my incomings…
MemberNovember 16, 2015 at 11:26 pm
After the initial lesson most pay in cash and some by cheque. I also offer block bookings with a discount and I have just in the past month introduced a loyalty scheme which has received really good feedback 🙂
But I know what you mean about Paypal taking a cut, which is why I prefer cash/cheque in the lessons but by paying online it just secures that first lesson and I know I am not wasting my time waiting around for people!
MemberDecember 2, 2015 at 10:23 am
I hate to think of how much money I have lost via no shows.Even when the policy of 48 hours notice there is the problem of irregular attendance. For instance three 49 hour notice cancellations in a row. I have a rule not always explicit. Three no shows with no payment in a row the student may need to be asked to find a more accomodating teacher or take a floating spot i.e. Email them with free times for the week ahead. This can suit busy/erratic students as well as the teacher.
ModeratorDecember 2, 2015 at 10:59 am
3 no shows in a row?! Tell them to stop wasting your time and bugger off!!
MemberDecember 28, 2015 at 10:14 am
OK, so I’m going to enforce a new cancellation policy next year because I’m finding that the 24 hour one isn’t working for me (i’m getting people cancelling exactly 25 hours in advance ha! And it’s still not enough time to reschedule someone else in that spot). So I want to go to 48 hours. I think it’s also a good idea to take monthly payments at the start of the month or at least to have people paying a week in advance…
I’m not sure about charging people 100% of the fee though with 48 hours. Because with 48 hours if people get sick they definitely won’t know that far in advance. So I’m thinking I should make the cancellation fee 75% (I charge a fair bit here so maybe this is more reasonable).
I’m not sure if I’m being too soft. What do you guys think? do you have a problem with your policies when people get sick?
ModeratorDecember 28, 2015 at 12:54 pm
My 48 hour policy has never been a problem and people still pay full price if they are ill! You could always trial it?
MemberDecember 29, 2015 at 10:14 pm
True! I don’t know why I get so nervous over this stuff! Good to have y’all here backing me up!
MemberDecember 30, 2015 at 10:28 am
Hey Beckie, what’s your loyalty scheme? It sounds like a really good idea.
MemberDecember 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm
As becky has mentioned, we introduced the online booking system for new starters a while ago and its very successful.
If you were to tackle it from another angle it would be to offer the *first lesson free* which is like a consultation in which builds trust and attracts more students, you would then at the end of the lesson get them to pay for the next lesson and then always be one week in front, this way if they stop lessons you are covered etc, I would do this if you have slots you need to fill but if you are full vet them on the phone and if in doubt don’t book them in without some form of security
the block booking of ten lessons with ten percent discount can work out the same as first lesson free I would make sure they know to book within 28 days etc if its a gift voucher
MemberDecember 30, 2015 at 1:55 pm
I have had some loyalty cards made up from Vistaprint (pretty much your generic card you get from coffee shops for example), and once the student has got 10 stamps on the card they get a free half hour lesson, or I do an hour lesson for £10 as then it works out the same.
I only give them out after they have been coming for lessons for 6 months or more though, but I suppose you could give them out whenever you want!
ModeratorDecember 30, 2015 at 3:47 pm
Vouchers have to be booked within 28 days?! Goodness, mine are 3 months, and my Dad even thought that was too tight!! But actually, any meal voucher usually requires a month for you to book, come to think of it…
MemberDecember 30, 2015 at 7:12 pm
Yes I will put that on them from now on not all lessons have to be used just mean at least book them in because, How strange is this, LAST YEAR someone brought ten lessons I must have forgotten about it and they didn’t book in, they have contacted me THIS year asking about the lessons as the mum brought them for her son and he never booked in, sof I’m not really sure what to say they have sent me credit card bill in which they had 10 lessons for price of nine, strange one!
MemberJanuary 4, 2016 at 2:41 am
The vista print loyalty card idea is a really good one! I might even use it for people who pay for “9 lessons, get one free” bundle up front, so they can keep track of how many lessons they’ve used. Awesome 🙂
MemberJanuary 4, 2016 at 2:18 pm
I have had some issues with this over the 13 years I’ve taught.
1) Tried the week in advance. People forget, especially when they have had lessons without issue for a long period of time. You still don’t avoid the conversation of “You missed your lesson so now need to pay a week ahead again before I will book you in”. So really it’s quite a short term solution, ie. for one missed lesson.
2) Charging in advance is great, given an incentive, I do 5 lessons for the price of 4 as a startup plan, then you can pay monthly if you’d like. I stipulate from the get go – if you miss a lesson I will charge you for it. It does not work both ways if I cancel you – you do not lose a wage.
3) A written agreement – I am just putting these out now after having it out over the course of 3 weeks or so with a very difficult parent. The trick I found was be ready and willing to let that lesson go if they do not abide by your rules. Once the weak link in the chain – they will always be the weak link in the chain. Why should you take a fee off a lovely lesson and let them off? If word gets around (which is easy to happen) – you look bad. I always say “It’s the same rules for everyone, and no different if this was a dentist or solicitor appointment, I can’t take a fee off others and not you, I can recommend another tutor if you really don’t want to continue, but I wouldn’t want you to do that…. etc.
4) I offer this: You must pay for your lesson if you cancel within 48 hours, or don’t show up, unless you can rearrange it to another day. I say “I would rather you get what you pay for and I’m not in the business of taking money off people who didn’t have a lesson, however I am very busy so it’s not always possible”. This way, I look good to the student/parent, and if they cancel on Monday, and I can fit them in Thursday the same week – no problem. Most of the time I can rearrange, but I won’t put myself out to do so, it’s more of a gesture, and most of my students are spot on. I’ll post my agreement in here shortly. Hope this helps some of you.
Stand your ground, it’s your business, your rules, your way – or they can go elsewhere, which won’t be as good anyway.
MemberJanuary 4, 2016 at 2:42 pm
There’s been some incredibly good points raised on this thread!
I think for me personally, the key above all else is just maintaining a good personal relationship with the student and ensuring they feel like they can approach you at any time.
I use the whole 48 hours or be charged the full price idea, but sometimes showing that you’re human and understand does go a long way. For example, if you have someone booked in first thing in the morning, say 10am. They wake up at 8:30am vomiting and ring you to cancel, in my opinion charging someone for this (despite the fact it’s only business) would diminish my relationship with that student. Thus, in future, they’re more likely to lie to you, or just not show up even though they’re genuinely ill because they’re thinking ‘Crap, I don’t want to pay £25 out again for being sick’.
For me personally, I have found being like this right from the get go seems to minimalize the number of no shows I have gotten. 🙂
Hope this helps!
ModeratorJanuary 4, 2016 at 3:17 pm
@Dave – you are bang on and I live by this. It works and there are hardly any problems because everyone I teach respects this system and the fact that this is my job!
It’s like the endless debate of venues not paying musicians and treating them as if they’re doing them a favour giving them exposure etc. Why is a music teaching job any different to any other job? It drives me mad when you get people now and then who just don’t understand why they have to pay for a last minute cancelled lesson. I would rather not work with those people anyway, so it’s no loss to me, apart from the actual money lost, which I would rather pay to get rid of them anyway. People like that aren’t worth my time.
@Danny – of course there’s a human element yes (at risk of me sounding like a heartless robot above!) but that’s for those who you’ve got to know and already trust, or in the case of death or something…
MemberJanuary 4, 2016 at 3:58 pm
number 2 That five lessons for four is great!!!!! similar to the first lesson free thing I ma try that out thanks for that!
if it helps the musicians union have free teachers contract templates if anyones a member.
Completley agree the one week in front students are on an online payment system similar to a direct debit so i can request payment for the week in advance straight away.
this forum is great gonna try number 2 out this week! thanks
MemberJanuary 4, 2016 at 9:36 pm
@Dave, some really great points there. You seem to be pretty level-headed on this one and have some great ideas.
@Danny, you’re right. Sometimes it’s just difficult to draw the line… You definitely need to be already on good terms with someone for this to work, and if someone is sly enough, they’ll try to use the “i’m sick” reasoning in future. I know with some of the best students I’ve had over the years (incidentally also the ones who were more committed to practicing and getting the most out of lessons), if they were sick and had to cancel at the last minute, they’d apologise for putting me out and OFFER to pay the cancellation fee because they understand that otherwise it’s a loss to a small business that they support. That’s how you know you’ve got some good eggs 🙂
OK, so for me personally in 2015 I ended up basically having NO policy because I was so lax, and it was definitely to my own detriment. And one person in particular who knew about my (thinly held) 24 hour policy would cancel repeatedly 25 hours in advance. Not really showing respect for my time!
In 2016 I’m taking advice from a lot of you and completely restructuring everything! I think this is what I’m going to do:
1. lessons have to be paid at least 48 hours in advance to confirm booking. I was worried this would be a logistical nightmare but then I realised many of my students pay by bank transfer anyway, so they can just set up the transfer to come through earlier each week/fortnight.
2. Serious 48 hour cancellation policy. I’ll have a sign up n my studio, I’ll send an email about it to all my current students, and I’m in the process now of putting together a welcome pack pdf for new students! This is exciting as I think I can put in a fair bit of useful info, and the policy stuff can be couched in between “What to bring to lessons” and “How to get the most out of your lessons” so it doesn’t look so harsh all by itself haha!
3. Bulk booking discounts. Based on your suggestions and some things I’ve seen, I’m going to offer a discount on bundles of 4 lessons (useful for monthly payments), and also a more significant saving with “buy 9 lessons, get one free”. When students purchase this, I’ll give them a little card to stamp off the lessons as they go so students know how many they’ve got left. (Thanks Beckie for the great inspiration!!)
I’m really excited about implementing all these changes. But only time will tell how effective it all is!
ModeratorJanuary 4, 2016 at 10:10 pm
Good for you, Kat. I am particularly loving the Welcome Pack idea! I think I will be stealing this as my 2016 resolution too! 😉
MemberJanuary 4, 2016 at 10:14 pm
yes!! welcome pack!!!
MemberJanuary 5, 2016 at 12:12 am
I’ve done welcome packs right from the start and they are so useful, I managed to get some freebies from my local music shop to give out to new students too 🙂
MemberFebruary 3, 2016 at 1:18 pm
I used to be super chilled about people cancelling lessons i.e. i wouldn’t charge for cancellations at all, people would pay at the end of the lesson etc…. after a few years of teaching i encountered a few of students who seemed take my relaxed approach as a liberty. It seems that by me being super chilled they could be super chilled about too, in other words if i don’t value my time then how can i expect them to? I decided to implement a ‘pay when you book’ policy, with the understanding if they cancelled ahead of time within reason(Them forgetting doesn’t qualify!)I would always try to rearrange the lesson if possible to another day close to their original booking.
What i don’t indulge is someone who sees me on a weekly(or any other variable) recurrence to rearrange the missed lesson to the following week(or variable), that i explain respectfully is missing the point of the policy. I made people aware of this at the first lesson, and i explained v nicely that they were booking my time and that was their commitment to it. The implications of booking my time and not being able to make it for something unforeseen was: It stops other people being in that slot while they’ve booked it(so other people have to wait longer or goto a later slot in following weeks)and i also turn other engagements down(music or otherwise)when they have chosen to book my time. I want the student to have the lesson and for them to not feel like they’re missing out(i do have a <3), thats why i offer the solution of them being being able to rearrange if possible, they hopefully see the goodwill in me doing so, even though i might still miss out if i cant book someone else in the missed time slot booked.
Anyone student who respects this and truly understands, never quibbles and they offer before i have to nicely remind them of the understanding we came to when they began booking my time. Like all things in life there is room for mitigation, if i have a good relationship and their reasons are extraordinary(bereavement etc) i do often waive the lesson to the following recurrence or credit with the lesson i booked, I’m not a faceless business or complete robot, but thats personal to my judgement of the situation at that time.
Just my two cents worth. thanks
MemberFebruary 7, 2016 at 10:42 pm
Hahaha! Yes, that one really gets me. When people who have lessons weekly are like, “Is it ok if we just postpone today’s lesson to next week?” And inside I’m like, it’s not called POSTPONING if you’re just cancelling a week!
But yes, you’re right. It pays to be upfront and clear right from the start, but sometimes if you can rearrange the lesson, it shows a lot of empathy and can build the connection with the student if they realise you’re going out of your way to help them out; it’s always a fine balance.
MemberFebruary 7, 2016 at 10:54 pm
Ye but they wouldnt do that if things had been made clear to them.
So ye.. this is the welcome letter everyone gets in an email and printed out on there first lesson, if they aren’t one week in advance they don’t get booked in.. and they can easily bank transfer or paypal or i can send them a payment link if they don’t give the notice and need to pay to be back into one week in advance
.completley agree its a judgement call if they are a long standing student and they have been coming a long time and they never normally cancel..but i find if they do once and get away with it.. they will again.. or if you let them off one time you have to make it clear not again and then even when its harder to charge the second time.. you have to. it shows you respect yourself and your time as a teacher and are actually busy and can fill the slots if they you have a waiting list! which will only improve credibility
i struggled with it for years and its still hard sometimes but i think back to how much money i must have lost letting people off when now.. everyone is more than happy with the policy and its all fine!
I would like to welcome you to your first lesson, I will be teaching the highest standards of vocal coaching, with lessons tailored to your personal goals.
• Lessons for pay as you go students are payable weekly, one week in advance at the start of each lesson.
• If the student needs to cancel in the rare case of an emergency, for any
reason, at least 48 hours notice must be given. Failure to give this amount of
notice results in the missed lesson being chargeable.
• Due to the demand for vacant weekly slots, no exceptions can be made when
the required amount of notice is not given
I look forward to working with you to help you achieve your singing dreams!
edit as appropriate hope it helps!
and yes can i say showing you are human does go along way!
i guess it is at the end of the day a judgement call on an individual basis..how busy you are and how long they have been lessons etc but i feel and when i explain things to the students… it must be the exact same rule for everyone because if not..and certain students are “let off” because they have been attending lessons longer thats actually not fair to any of the students.. the ones that do pay for missed lessons being the main one! so i guess you either stick to your policy or you dont..so its fair for everyone.. and you
MemberFebruary 7, 2016 at 11:03 pm
Wow, Ruth! I love that letter! So straightforward and to the point. Tough but fair sounding.
I also love that it makes you seem really confident! I sometimes struggle with the balance between explaining my policies, but not sounding like I’m apologising for them haha! But yours just sounds friendly and assertive. I think I need to work on my confidence :P.
MemberFebruary 7, 2016 at 11:09 pm
kat.. believe me your doing really well..ye you dont need to like give them a telling off on there first lesson its just normalised like.. ok so this is how it works etc.. then its all fine.. its taken a long time to get to this stage and so if i can help you a little bit that makes me happy to know you may not be as stressed lol and i dont know everything.. but i know that works for me with the wording etc! 😀
MemberFebruary 7, 2016 at 11:58 pm
For sure! No, I know I’m doing ok. It’s just I’ve been finalising my welcome pack, but the policies section always looks really long because I’m giving umpteen reasons for each policy rather than just being straightforward. I think sometimes it’s just about finding a balance over time that works for you :). Thanks for the encouragement 🙂 xx
ModeratorFebruary 8, 2016 at 9:32 am
“When people who have lessons weekly are like, “Is it ok if we just postpone today’s lesson to next week?” And inside I’m like, it’s not called POSTPONING if you’re just cancelling a week!” OH MY GOD, YES. Sooo annoying!!! Haha
Nice one with the above. Ruth, I hope there’s stuff you say before that payment section?! It’s good though, straight to the point. I have my policy detailed in the invoice attached
MemberFebruary 8, 2016 at 11:23 am
what do you mean before they come to the first lesson? sometimes i do the first lesson free thing sometimes they pay a deposit before the first one they come to if they book in themselves online but ye i explain the cancellation on the phone before they come and they get it in the booking email x
MemberFebruary 8, 2016 at 11:24 am
on the invoice is a great idea!
ModeratorFebruary 8, 2016 at 11:42 am
So I meant in your email, does it go straight into payment policy like that? It’s good, straight to the point, but I’d imagine you’d talk about other benefits and things you offer, with payment details at the end? Just a thought
MemberFebruary 8, 2016 at 11:43 am
oh on the first lesson?
ye of course you have a chat with them sometimes make a cup of tea etc and just go everything.. ask what they want to get out of the lessons etc go over how the lessons work not just like… ok give me your money then lol
ModeratorFebruary 8, 2016 at 12:16 pm
Haha no I was talking about your above example email
MemberFebruary 8, 2016 at 1:32 pm
I put the cancellation policy in the booking email ye? otherwise your more likely to get no shows? or last min cancellations for there first lesson especially if they get nervous or change there mind. I don’t have it set out like that though i word it like.. so please bear this in mind so its not like.. terms and conditions of the lesson all strict like just clear
MemberMarch 9, 2016 at 7:49 pm
I would really appreciate some feedback from the MGR gang on my recently updated Terms and Conditions. http://lewisleemingmusic.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Terms-and-Conditions-Lewis-Leeming-Music.pdf
The general template is from the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ private tuition agreement document, and thus it looks very formal and perhaps even somewhat imposing/scary to new clients. Having had a couple of recently referred students discontinue lessons after the initial consult (due to not being able to pay 4 weeks ahead, or not willing to commit to a no cancellation policy) I am contemplating adding some clauses to soften it up a bit, or perhaps just simplify it altogether to make it more readable and friendly.
I would appreciate the input of those of you more experienced in this aspect of it. I know Matt has some great suggestions, which would be nice to hear in this thread…
Just some background…
When I was teaching in Kent my rules were very bendy (I didn’t have any T&Cs). I accepted payment by the lesson, on the day, usually after the lesson had taken place, and usually in cash. I had no cancellation policy whatsoever but instead would wing it and negotiate/compromise on any cancellations or re-arrangements. This ensured a great deal of flexibility for my students/parents, but it also meant that they could cancel lessons at short notice and I had no recourse for this contingency.
Whilst a handful of the parents were very disciplined (many times offering to pay for lessons they cancelled) there were also many who were not. It got worse over time to the point where lack of pupil’s attendance was so rife that it was not only adversely affecting their progress but also pushing my finances down to the very bottom line.
So, when I moved to York, I saw it as an opportunity to start afresh with some ground rules that would encourage a healthy attitude and commitment from my students and make my business viable. Which is why I came up with this!
MemberMarch 10, 2016 at 1:03 am
I’ve had a look at your T&Cs :). Here are my thoughts:
1. It’s very wordy. And still quite formal. The sheer wordiness of it has a chance of scaring people off! “Lessons will take place at the times and dates agreed between the teacher and the pupil (or parent/guardian) before each block of lessons” could just be “lessons will take place at an agreed time”. Or, on the basis that this would be assumed (when else would they take place?), you could just write: “lessons are paid for in blocks of four and are taught on a weekly basis. Lessons usually take place in the home of the student, unless a different venue has been agreed on.”
Note: I find it interesting that you’re teaching at THEIR house. Don’t you lose a lot of time (and therefore money) this way? I’d be interested to know why you chose this. Also I can imagine this might factor into why people don’t want to sign up for lessons indefinitely? Saying you’re willing to welcome a relative stranger into your home weekly for the foreseeable future, with no recourse to refunds if say there is an emergency in the home (illness/instability for example), could be pretty intense. Just some things to think about.
2. I’ve never seen 72 hours before! You’re really stepping out with that one! And “only one holiday will be acceptable”! Woah there. And one whole week’s notice for rescheduling! I’m not saying these are bad ideas, but have a think about how it would make you feel reading this as a new student, trying some scary brand new hobby for the first time, and all of a sudden you have to deal with only being able to take one holiday every so often.
3. If you wanted to make it even less formal (which I would urge you to think about; these are people you want to develop quick and friendly rapport with, after all), you could stop using third person to refer to yourself and/or your client. For example, you can use the word me, I or myself instead of “the teacher”. Also the word “invoice” could come across a bit icky. You’re trying to make this look like you’re offering a beautiful, homely encouraging service to people, not just a business transaction. Perhaps “payment reminder” or something along these lines is better. Also “ratified” is terrifying. This word is for UN protocols, not sole traders.
I could go on, but I’ve kind of already gone to town on your T&Cs. Sorry about this. I come from a family of academic editors, so it runs in the veins. The TL;DR is 1. Make it shorter 2. Consider whether YOU would take up lessons with someone who imposed these rules, and consider your target market (the reality is that if you teach all kids vs. uni students vs. adults, you need to be tailoring your policies so that THAT group of people will feel empathy and connection and safety towards your business). 3. Change the wording so that it’s more like you’re just having a conversation with a new student.
There’s the gist 😉
ModeratorMarch 10, 2016 at 2:40 pm
Well said, Kat. Was an interesting read though Lewis, makes me think I should write up an agreement a little more formally, although people seem to respect what’s already in place and has been for 3 years now. In fact, I do have the policy outlined in the invoice, but also most recently featured in a little more detail in my new Welcome Pack.. right at the end of the warm welcome! And it’s short and informal. With a little strictness of course.. here it is if it’s any help:
I have a 48 hour cancellation policy in place for all booked lessons. Due to the nature of my business, it’s important that I keep to this rule in order to enable the smooth-running of the business. When students come on board, they are assigned a slot that is theirs every week/fortnight. Lessons are paid for upfront monthly, preferably by bank transfer.
Terms & Conditions
Payment must be made 48 hours before the start of the next batch of lessons. Cancellations and rescheduling must be made 48 hours in advance of the lesson, with no exception; otherwise the full price of the lesson has to be paid. This cancelled lesson will be deducted from one of your prepaid lessons. For any cancellations made by your teacher, that lesson would be carried over to the next scheduled appointment. In the case of a lesson being rescheduled by the teacher, which is then cancelled by the student, the 48 hour cancellation policy applies to the second rescheduled lesson.
MemberMarch 16, 2016 at 11:23 am
Just an update on the things I implemented earlier in the year:
I’m happy to say I went from a 24 hour to a 48 hour policy and it was no problem at all.
I’m also happy to say my welcome pack pdf has been a huge success! People who come to lessons know how professional it is, and are far more understanding and far more likely to offer to pay if they haven’t already, when they cancel. It’s single-handedly made business SO MUCH EASIER. Would highly recommend it 🙂
MemberMarch 17, 2016 at 8:36 am
I know this is a hot topic. I am thinking of implementing a ONE WEEK cancellation policy. This is about valuing my self worth. Realistically slots that have been cancelled can never normally be filled even 72 hours in advance. Hotels have a one week cancellation policy and so do business coaches. This is our livelihood and our clients must respect that. Also the one week cancellation policy encourages commitment. I am puturbed by flakey clients that put work or other things before their commitment our agreement. If they have to cancel, fine but they have to pay. Since most of us work from home clients think that we can just get on with something else or that it won’t matter because we don’t have any overheads… well the room that we are working in is an overhead. If I didn’t work from home, I’d be living in a 1 bed flat, not a two bed flat.
Up until now I’ve been flexible with my clients, but with the cost of living rising and the fact that there is so much competition for singing teachers in Brighton, I feel I need to up my game, value myself and get serious with them. The one week cancellation policy is standard practice throughout the hotel industry, I think something needs to be done within the music teaching profession to make the one week cancellation policy standard practice too. Musicians are generally too nice. Let’s get serious. Matthew can you help?
OrganizerMarch 17, 2016 at 11:05 am
Great to see this developing into a really interesting and valuable thread. Lots of interesting ideas here – personally I would agree a lot with Mark Palmer’s points above, in the sense that from my experience of teaching how you explain what it means to book a lesson to a student can impact the way they perceive that commitment and the way Mark describes it above is a very professional approach to that.
To respond to a few other teacher’s:
@Lewis Leeming, as mentioned in my email, it might be worth looking into a pay one in advance model during the first two months with new students – this gives you some guarantees for attendance & money in the bank should they cancel, while keeping the upfront costs for the students quite low (I have often found with new students and beginners they are reluctant to commit financially until they have got used to a teacher & know that they really want to play guitar). After two months moving students to a 4-week block-booking model is much easier as they know they like the lessons and the teacher. This is from experience with working with teachers from across the UK, as well as my own teaching – enabling the students to slowly buy into financial commitment, which ultimately makes the teacher more money even though earlier on it leads the teacher a little more exposed in terms of potential no shows etc. early on.
I have some very interesting examples of how a payment model can effect the revenue generated by a teacher. Specifically I worked with a very good guitar teacher in Sheffield during 2013, his policy was that all students had to book a 5 lesson block booking for £120 – this was the only option & students had to make that booking upon their first lesson. The conversion of enquiries to students was non-existant, despite high levels of enquiries. As this was early on in the business I was interesting in exploring the impact of changing the student payment model with him and I convinced him to reduce this initial commitment to 3 lessons for £75 – again the conversion of enquiries to students was absolutely minimal. After a few months of evidence that this high financial commitment model on the students behalf wasn’t working I re-approached the teacher with evidence from across the UK that a more flexible financial model for students actually generates the teacher far more money (he was in need of students and time slots he wanted to fill but was determined not to be “messed around by them”). Ultimately as this teacher wasn’t interested in moving to a more flexible approach to the student’s payment model I stopped working with him and appointed a new guitar teacher in Sheffield who had a more flexible approach to payments. This teacher is now one of the leading guitar teachers from across the UK in terms of student numbers and lessons taught per month and reaffirmed my understanding that creating the right payment model for our clients, in this case students, is absolutely critical to ensuring that as a music teacher you generate the revenue needed to continuing being a music teacher.
However, there is a very fine line to ensure that by offering less up front financial commitment clients don’t take advantage of that by cancelling or wasting your time. My advice for this (A) cancellation policies are vital in reducing the losses caused by “no shows”, but cannot entirely alleviate their occurrence (B) that the visibility of cancellation policies can impact the effectiveness of their existence – I would recommend all teachers to have their cancellation policy in the footer of all email communications to students (a strategy that has worked well across the UK), as well as on the wall in direct line of sight in your lesson room (something Amanda Pike’s singing studio in Sheffield does very well); (C) the communication of what it means to book a lesson to a student very early on, as well as when they “cancel a lesson” is very important – I always think of one teacher’s comments that “in a very loving way I explain that they have booked my time, reserving that slot preventing me from generating income from any other source during that hour” – (D) dramatically varying the the model from the payment of either a single lesson on “pay as you go”, or a lesson in advance or a deposit based system – all three of which have been proven to work across the UK – does not bring in the results desired and ultimately reduces the teacher’s income as it tends not to suit the clients. This excludes block bookings, which I think fulfil a different role whereby students who know that they are committed seek to gain a reduction in the lesson price by booking lessons on mass – this is also to the advantage of the teacher in the sense that they therefore have the arrangement pre-paid for, this is dramatically different to the majority of individuals commencing lessons who are not yet necessarily committed to learning the instrument or indeed learning it with that teacher.
@Sally thanks so much for you thoughts and getting involved with the thread. My personal thoughts in regard to your post are two fold (A) often it is not the cancellation policy that is the challenge but gaining the money from the client for a lesson missed, rather than them going MIA never to be heard from again. The length of your cancellation policy therefore might be less important than the process alongside it that needs to be implemented to ensure that clients that does miss a lesson both pays for that lesson and continue to return for lessons thereafter – my question to you would be if I cancelled within the 7 days what are you next steps as a teacher to ensure I make payment & come back for lessons?
(B) business models evolve, I know you mentioned that hotels have a one week cancellation policy – however, many have 24 hour cancelation policies as it suits a different kind of client. In an area that is getting more competitive re-analysising what makes you different from your competitors is increasingly important – this is not to suggest you should be promoting your services on account of a flexible cancelation policy – but rather a continued and evolving look at how you are shaping the service that you are looking to sell to people in the form of 1-2-1 music lessons so that you both generate the highest level of income from it possible within a framework that you feel comfortable with as a teacher. For me increased competition should lead to increased innovation and flexibility on the businesses part to cater better for the clients that are more finite on account of more competition.
Ultimately my person view is that businesses succeed over the long term by continually ensuring that they cater for their clients in the most effective way, despite this at times leaving the business open to a degree of risk. I know in this thread we have talked about what is most beneficial for us, as teachers, to have in place in regard to student cancellations – but if we were students what could we reasonably expect from our music teachers?
ModeratorMarch 23, 2016 at 12:56 pm
Great points Matthew. Bang on about increased innovation. My system, prices and policy is in correlation to the new ideas I’m putting forward all the time (at least I hope it is!)
@Sally – I have to say, if there’s competition in Brighton for teachers, I wouldn’t have thought a 1 week cancellation policy would encourage students to pick you over someone else! While I completely agree that you have to value yourself and others have to respect the business, this would completely put me off booking if I was the client. At the same time, you know your worth and I’m sure you’re better than all the others!! Good for you for being strict..! However, I would say YES make sure students realise this is your income, but it’s still a services business, which, whether we like it or not, IS something that has to be at least a little flexible.. it’s just finding the line, isn’t it!
Having said that Sally, you’ve actually given me an idea! So as I’ve mentioned before, this is what I have in place: Cash in hand for the first lesson, then block monthly payments in advance, with 48 hours’ cancellation policy for any lesson. But maybe I should do a 1 week notice cancellation policy for those that don’t want to refresh the block?
Also, let’s elaborate more on putting ourselves in the student’s shoes, as Matthew suggests. I actually book lessons for myself with a vocal coach now and then. It’s funny – I am actually a total hypocrite, as I haven’t committed to a singing teacher before… but that’s because they haven’t minded me seeing them flexibly (quite bizarre that I’m using their skills to better myself and my teaching and with a better system in place than they have..!) but if they told me they had a policy that was the same as mine, I would totally respect this and be more than happy to pay for a month upfront because I know I would probably get a decent amount done in that time and it would probably be more beneficial than random lessons anyway! Then I would decide whether to do another month thereafter.
MemberApril 4, 2016 at 9:09 am
Great advices and ideas here guys.The matter of cancellation is always a difficult one and every student seems to have their own ideas but 48 cancellation I find is a must and always give me a good result Thank you all. 🙂
MemberMay 16, 2016 at 8:43 am
Another thing I have run into with cancellations that I just want to check out.
A lady who has a lesson with me tonight cancelled this morning because she has the flu.
I have a policy of if you cancel less than 48 hours in advance then I still charge for the lesson, which I see is pretty standard.
However, she is kicking up a fuss because it is the flu and out of her control, which I understand, but i’ve always been in the view that it is not in my control either but I’m committed so turn down other lessons and things that people ask me to do.
I have had this issue before and almost even lost a student because of it.
So I just want to know if you guys charge for cancellations even if it is because of illness or if I am being unfair?
MemberMay 16, 2016 at 9:05 am
Wes – that’s a really good point and one that comes up for me a lot. I’ve got quite a loose view on the cancellation policies – I’ll often let students off if they’re ill, especially if they kick up a fuss. You’ve got to take the long view – is charging this student now going to cost me in the future?
Because, yes, they’re nominally wasting your time (though you can usually spend it productively, hacking away at the admin mountain) but the real goal is about maximising the student’s value. You don’t want to alienate a student who might come for 10, 15, or even 20 more lessons – which is an astounding amount of time (and money) that they’re investing in you.
So I don’t know – maybe looseness is better?
EDIT: Having quickly scanned the forum above – I’ve noticed that this opinion is quite rare among us! Maybe I’m too soft-hearted. Must watch more Game Of Thrones.
MemberMay 16, 2016 at 9:16 am
I think you have to feel what’s right for you, but I don’t like letting people off when they’re sick. Sometimes if it’s a short term illness and it looks like they could come in for a makeup lesson later in the week I’ll do that so they don’t have to pay for lost time. But generally I still expect people who fall ill to pay for their time (although they’ve prepaid, so I usually get to skip this conversation), reason being:
1. If they’ve booked it then no-one else can have it. This is especially the case for evening times, which are usually booked out. And also I want to have a life, so if I’d known in advance that I’d have the evening off, I could have planned a nice dinner or something. Think about it from their perspective; if they were expecting to do an overtime shift at work, and cancelled all plans accordingly and then showed up at work and were told they didn’t need to come in after all, they’d be pretty pissed off. I think this is fair. But also because evenings are so popular, if I know in advance that someone isn’t coming in, I can successfully offer it to someone else.
2. If they know they can “get away with not paying” if they tell you they’re sick, then what’s to stop them taking advantage of that in future? Where’s the consistency. If I’m holding other people to the policy come hell or high water and let them off, then it doesn’t bode well. Of course as Matt indicates, it’s helpful to be flexible when it’s really necessary. But consistency builds trust and respect.
However, I have it so that my cancellation policy is only 75% of the lesson fee (which is prepaid), which means that either they get that 25% as a refund or as a discount off their next lesson. Framed like that, I’ve not had anyone have a problem with it.
MemberMay 16, 2016 at 9:25 am
Its always difficult when illness/out of control situations occur and cause cancellations. No one is really to blame, so why should they lose out?
The truth is, and as harsh as it might sound, thats their business. They have made a commitment to booking your time whether they can attend or not, thats your business. You rightly point out by them booking your time it stops others from doing so, plus maybe something else outside of teaching you might of chosen to do if that time wasn’t booked.
I used to have these very same problems before i implemented pay-when-you-book system, if they cant make the lesson you already have the money so you don’t lose out in that moment.
Will this cause you to lose a student even though you’ve been paid? Maybe, its a juggling act; lose a lessons pay or the potential further of successful lessons?
Ask yourself will you rue losing someone who clearly has no understanding/respect for your time? Cutting this kind of attitude out makes way for people with the right attitude, being frank from the get go eliminates the potential for people to object. If you’ve told them your policy(inc. illness)there isn’t much they can say if the situation arises.
I found the more it is indulged (letting people off) the more it will happen, it could be a goto excuse in the future and be abused in the wrong hands.
I hope it works out
ModeratorMay 16, 2016 at 8:30 pm
Bang on, Kat and Mark. I barely let people off if someone has died.
OK, maybe a little extreme. But the point is, that’s their business.
MemberJune 17, 2016 at 1:21 am
Sorry for the late feedback. I decided to charge her anyway but thankfully after explaining things from my point of view she saw my point and agreed that I wasn’t being unfair.
Thanks for the input
MemberOctober 4, 2016 at 10:00 am
Tough question! At the moment I am relying on trust and consistency. If parents are seeing me on a regular basis and offer a degree of flexibility then they will trust me more. I have been quite fortunate so far as I have only had one ‘cancellation’ and they paid straightaway as they acknowledged it is their fault.
At the moment I work on the basis of if I don’t turn up I don’t get paid. Though this is a slight risk, I like to think it gives both parties a chance to be consistent and trusting. I have given two clients a ‘contract’ which states stipulations such as 4 weeks notice, etc but in actual fact, it has so far not been needed.
Ironically enough, the only bad experience was when I just started and I received a text from a student who wanted lessons. NB this was not a referral from MGR!!! I arrived for an initial meet and the following week I taught a lesson. Then he cancelled the second lesson and didn’t respond to my texts for my 3rd and 4th so I just sacked him off. I found him a little irresponsible as he ‘manipulated’ this whole I am a ‘university student’ excuse too far!
All my current clients are working parents so I think they understand the fact that we as teachers need to work as well!
MemberFebruary 12, 2017 at 9:59 pm
Really great to hear that students are happy & willing to agree to such policies!
Thank you for your posts, this has helped me as I’m now going to send these Terms & Conditions to every student booked.
Best wishes, Gemma
MemberMarch 23, 2017 at 1:03 pm
So I’ve had one of those days this week with 5 out of 6 students cancel all because they were ill. I had turned down other lessons on this day because I was fully booked.
I have a 48 hour cancellation policy, that doesn’t apply in exceptional circumstances (but illness is still a grey area), and as of yet I haven’t had to deal with it. But 5 people in one day was certainly a shock to the system – I will definitely implement some of the brilliant above suggestions from the beginning of the new term, but looking for some advise what to do this week because I’m a bit stuck.
Nearly all my students pay up front, and the majority know about the cancellation policy.
Out of the 5 that cancelled:
I managed to rearrange 2 this week, but the second cancelled again (as this time his son was ill)
One of which offered to still pay for the lesson which I accepted
One (parent) refused to pay the cancellation fee, and asked me to ‘add the fee to the next lesson’ because it wasn’t fair to expect her to still pay for a lesson if her child was ill.
The fifth is a new, and very nice student, who I hadn’t got round to emailing my policies to yet, so I kind of feel that this one is my fault, and I should let it slide.
Just looking for some advise from other teachers as I’m quite a lot of money down this week and not great with confrontation so not sure where to start!
Any advise would be appreciated.
MemberMarch 23, 2017 at 1:17 pm
Adding to this, I had considered making the lesson fully chargeable if they have missed it without notice/forgotten/not told me they cant make it more than 48 hours in advance.
For illnesses and situations out of their control, what about implementing a “half fee” policy where they pay half the lesson price as compensation, understanding that we also have to make a living, but not putting the student off by paying having to pay for being ill?
Just a thought!
ModeratorMarch 23, 2017 at 3:11 pm
All cancellations including illnesses should all be fully charged. No exceptions. This is your business; you lose out when you’re ill too. Also, rearranging is literally the same as a cancelled slot.
MemberMarch 23, 2017 at 4:15 pm
I had the same problem a little while ago, I too have a 48 hour cancellation policy and have also battled with the illness and situations that are out of their control thing.
Two things have come to my attention when dealing with this:
The first thing is that whenever a student cancelled it became because they were ill even if they weren’t just because they knew thought that would get them out of paying.
The second thing is all my students have been happy to pay it. I had one student who kicked up a fuss because she said it was out of her control but after I explained that it is also out of my control and I had turned down other students because she had booked my time she understood and paid. Also what Eliza says about us losing out when we are ill is true. If we are ill and cancel then we lose money, if they are ill and cancel then they lose money. Simple as that.
Once people understood this they also stopped cancelling for feeling a bit tired or under the weather and only cancelled when they were really ill. Don’t be tempted to put in a half fee either because you will have the same problem, every time someone needs to cancel it will be because they are ill and you will lose money.
I always try to have sympathy and tell them that I hope they get better soon etc. but i don’t wave the fee.
Hope that helps
MemberMarch 23, 2017 at 4:21 pm
Thank you both!
Eliza – Thanks – the guy that rearranging did so within the same week so I don’t mind as long as I don’t then miss out on next weeks lesson money.
What would you do about the students earlier this week? Have I already blown my chances by not replying instantly about the cancellation fee? All I said at the time (each one was less than 2 hours notice, not even beginning of the day!) was ‘Thanks for letting me know, feel better soon’.
That was now 3 days ago, so would you leave it for this time and learn the lesson, or go back to them and say ‘on further thought…/btw my terms and conditions state…’
MemberMarch 23, 2017 at 4:26 pm
I have dealt with this for 14 years now. However… I feel I have it sorted now.
I do a 72 hour cancellation policy and always offer to rearrange the lesson, if they say “no we can’t do any other day”, I say something like this:
“Not a problem if you can’t do another time, however I must remind you all lessons are subject to a 72 hour cancellation policy, if you could bring today’s lesson fee along next week that would be fantastic”.
Usually, the reply is “I understand see you next week”. Typically short but not usually any real problems.
If I get a reply that’s along the lines of “sorry I wasn’t aware of that and I can’t help it if they’re ill”.
I would say “I do understand that, I can offer do do an hour next week to make it up (if the lesson is 30 minutes), or add half an hour onto your next two lessons (if it’s 60 minutes), otherwise sadly I’d have to still charge you.”
I give no explanation of “it’s my living, it would be same if it was a driving lesson – nothing. As if they don’t “get it” then it’s not a lesson I want long term.
I have spoken on the phone with a few who have asked to let it slide this one time and “now they’re aware” we can move forward with that in place, to thisi say I’m sorry, no, it’s how I run my business and I can’t charge other students and not you.
I have ” all lessons are subject to a 72 hour cancellation policy ” in small text in the header of all of my handouts, so they know. It’s also common courtesy.
Hospital visits, being sent home fo m school poorly, family emergencies I play ball and still offer a rearrange, but don’t charge.
No grief with it at all is key in the situation. Once you have charged the Said lessons once – they will quick smart stop messing you around.
I would pop it in the header of your handouts. You don’t have to offer a rearrange, I just do as I really want to students to get their lesson.
I hope that helps a bit!
MemberMarch 23, 2017 at 5:00 pm
It’s up to you what you do with the students from this week. If it was me though I would just send a follow up message and say something along the lines of “Hi blank, If forgot to say that you can either pay for the lesson you cancelled on a bank transfer or with cash the next lesson. I really don’t mind which just wanted to remind you that you had the option of either.” or a few days before their next lesson say something like, “Hi blank, this is just a friendly reminded that I require the amount of blank from the lesson you cancelled to be paid at your next lesson on blank or via a bank transfer/Paypal. See you on blank”
This way it’s not making it seem like you have changed your mind on your policies but making it seem like you expect them to know what your policy is. Then if they reply with any resistance you can just remind them of your policy and they can either accept that or move on.
I’m also with you, if something comes up and I can rearrange for another day when I am free in the same week then I will but only if they let me know before I am there waiting for them.
ModeratorMarch 23, 2017 at 7:04 pm
All good advice above – although I would tend to disagree with the add-on “make up for it” lesson or rearrangement in the same week. Surely you are still taking a loss by doing that?
MemberMarch 23, 2017 at 11:11 pm
I like some of the things I’ve read since I last posted on this thread.
Im always happy to rearrange a lesson(which are all pre paid as they are booked in) if I have the space to do so in the couple of days surrounding the original booking time, its a small mercy and I actually want the student to have their lesson.
Yes, I might of made a loss in some respect regarding the cancelled time slot. Worst case for all, I’m too busy or away and therefore cannot rearrange.
If they normally pay by bank transfer I ask for the next lessons payment assuming they’d like to book the following lesson as confirmation of their intention, or make it clear that ill take payment for the lesson on the day and the following lesson if they wish to book, this is a subtle way of reminding them of my payment policy.
I used to have all sorts of problems years ago, I do not have any problems any longer.
Value your own time and you invite people to do so too. If you don’t value your own time, you invite people to not value it equally.
Its a tough one, and you gotta be brave, you might lose some students…but then did you really want to teach people like that anyway?
These types of people bring alot of stress and discomfort, and they tend to be the kind who wouldn’t indulge it if the shoe was on the other foot with their source of income.
Just my cents worth peace 🙂
MemberMay 31, 2017 at 8:23 pm
Great tips! It’s always nice to share ideas. I always ask for 4 week advance payments and explain this even before we have a trial lesson. This normally gives a VERY clear indication of who is serious. Sometimes it gets a bit tricky where people claim they forget. I do send out a text message the day before the payment is due and remind them the week before the money is due as well. I also write in their notebooks ( I insist that they have a notebook) how many lessons they’ve had: from 1 – 4. That is a very clear way for both parties to know by keeping a record for the student to see. Occasionally, you will have those who disappear without advance payment, never to return. Those are rare. As any business, there are risks. I do provide a slightly longer lesson (without charge as I get carried away with music) every now and again as an incentive, which does keep my students happy.
MemberJuly 23, 2017 at 5:29 pm
Hey guys, just had a go over this thread as Summer has approached – more cancellations happen. I also think to kick start anything new September is a great month to do so when everyone is in ‘back to school’ mode.
I ask for 72 hours notice, and this is in the header that’s on all of my music sheets.
However, it is still becoming a problem, even though I am quite strict with it.
As an example, I let one guy off with his fee as him and his sons mother don’t get a long, and the lesson is their bonding/father-son time. His mother had messed him around and they cancelled 15 minutes beforehand. Since then, he has let me down more and more… and always says before I can say a word ‘I appreciate it mate you don’t charge me I know you know it’s difficult.’
On one hand – OK, on the other hand I am super busy, and a 6:30 slot on a weekday is like gold dust to some clients.
What I want to discuss, and develop, then put in here as a potential model for others, is a cancellation policy that covers as many bases as possible.
This would be the same message, in different formats, for example.
1) Website, the cancellation policy is clearly shown on the website Matt has for us, if anyone says they didn’t know – it’s on the site they came through ( I do all of my bookings via the site and do not use my own phone number until I know a student is who they say they are – personal choice / situation).
2) A printed copy of those terms upon the first lesson OR/AND
3) In the header of music sheets, a brief description of the policy, and ‘full cancellation details are available on http://www.guitarlessonsmiddlesbrough.com‘
4) In the footer of all email contact.
This to me covers new students, as well as existing ones. I use block bookings and they are very effective, however 9/10 students do not understand if they cancel they lose a slot off their booking, I have had an ongoing problem with this, I think the printed version would cover that.
5) Also to state if YOU cancel that it is not the other way around and they are not ‘owed a cancellation’ free of charge. I had that before too.
If I was to draft a general letter people could adjust it to their business terms and put their own letterhead on it.
Would anyone find this helpful?
MemberNovember 6, 2017 at 11:30 am
Hi everyone, if you are interested in reading more information about cancellation policies just read this thread – https://mgrmusic.com/community/groups/music-teachers/forum/topic/cancellation-policy-all-teachers/
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