Creating Student Loyalty

Do you think students are loyal to the studio or the teacher? This question was posed by Leslie Nolen, CEO of The Radial Group, as we chatted about retaining students.

Loyalty, of course, is a huge issue. It can create a festering fear between teachers and studio owners. When a teacher leaves a studio to teach elsewhere, will the student stay with the studio, or move with the teacher? Who will the student be loyal to?

I love Leslie’s answer to that question. It adds a whole new perspective.

Her thought: people build loyalty to the experience rather than the teacher or the studio. I completely agree.

The student’s experience creates the expectation. Mess with that expectation and you risk losing the student, whether you are the teacher or the studio owner.

I recently bought an expensive course from a respected business expert. I’ve worked with her for years and have bought many products and services from her. My experience during that time has built a high expectation for future purchases. I’m loyal to that experience.

But so far this course is a disappointment. Rather than the high quality, well-rounded, neatly laid out and clearly written product I have come to expect, the many spiral bound books are filled with bullet points instead of full sentences, incomplete and missing content, spelling mistakes and an inconsistent flow. Some of the accompanying CDs have scratches and the sound quality is low. The aha’s I’m getting from the experience are interspersed with argh’s.

When a student builds loyalty to an experience, it’s a combination of factors from both the studio and the teacher. These factors include the

  • experience before and after the class, such as the check-in and exit process
  • physical space including comfort, temperature, and props
  • communication skills of the teacher and the staff
  • sense of community within the class and the larger studio community (a feeling of belonging)
  • quality of teaching
  • feeling of wellness upon class completion and leaving the studio

Feeling good is the best motivator to come back–to recreate that experience again and again. A student’s experience sets the expectation and, in turn, creates a brand. Are you aware of how your brand is perceived by your students? If you are unaware of how your brand is perceived by the students, changes can be met with unexpected resistance. Understand how the brand is perceived and changes can be communicated in a way that preserves brand integrity.

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