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#2039721 - 02/26/13 04:18 PM What's Your Cancellation Policy?
pianoSD Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 57
Loc: San Diego, CA
I've been struggling recently with my cancellation policy. I don't want to offend students and parents, but I obviously have a schedule to keep and piano lesson business to run.

I used to have a 24-hour cancellation policy where if students did not cancel outside of 24 hours, I charged them the full price of the lesson at the next lesson. However, this created some awkward moments, and I even lost two students who were upset that they had to pay.

The website in my signature where my piano lessons are hosted has a blanket 24 hour cancellation policy where the student is automatically charged if they cancel within 24 hours. If its outside 24 hours, the student is refunded. I also like the idea of the student paying upfront (reduces no shows.)

I am going to give this some time to see if it works, but what are your cancellation policies? Do they work?
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My Piano Lessons - Schedule Me Online!

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#2039732 - 02/26/13 04:33 PM Re: What's Your Cancellation Policy? [Re: pianoSD]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
I gradually tightened up my policy over three years, and here is how it stands now:

"A lesson time is reserved for the student each week whether or not the student attends. Your tuition pays for this scheduled time as well as planning time and studio costs. Therefore, it is not possible to make up lessons missed. Exchanging lesson times with another student may avoid the need to miss a lesson. I will provide a swap list with
which students may arrange trades. If you would not like to be listed on the swap list, please let me know in writing. Performance classes can be viewed as a form of makeup lessons. Lessons missed by the teacher will be made up at a mutually convenient time. For most weather events, the studio will be open and lessons will still go on
even if schools are closed. I’m available to Skype a lesson if you can’t get here because of weather or travel."

I actually did four skype lessons last week because of snow. Worked out great! My students pay their tuition in advance, so that really helps too. I don't refund unless something catastrophic happens to me (surgery, etc.) and I haven't crossed that bridge yet!
_________________________
~Stanny~

Independent Music Teacher
Certified Piano Teacher, American College of Musicians
Member: MTNA, NGPT, ASMTA, NAMTA

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#2039757 - 02/26/13 05:24 PM Re: What's Your Cancellation Policy? [Re: pianoSD]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
In my area, I do not think swap list would work.
So far all my parents like my policy:
1. Monthly flat fee that cover 40 lessons in a 10-month period.
2. Make up lesson will be offer as long as I receive 15 minutes notification by texting or emailing.
3. Only 5 chances of make up available to each student in a 10-month period
4. I won't ask what is the reason for make up and I wouldn't want to know either, sometimes parents offer to tell me. If they just want to cancel without telling me reasons, I am fine with it.
5. Tuition will not be lower or credit over to next month due to cancellation.
6. Make up lesson has to be done at the time I am willing to teach. If they can't make it to current available slot, then they have to forfeit the money and the lesson.

Check out

https://sites.google.com/site/ezpianoirvine/homework

and

https://sites.google.com/site/ezpianoirvine/homework/make-up-lesson
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http://ezpiano.org
Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
@ http://bit.ly/Ready123

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#2039788 - 02/26/13 06:07 PM Re: What's Your Cancellation Policy? [Re: pianoSD]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
I have been using this policy for the past few years and it works for me:

72 hours' notice to cancel a lesson, and no charge for such missed lessons.
Excessive absences will result in losing reserved lesson time.

Any cancellation within 72 hours may be made up during available open lesson time, but this is not guaranteed. No credits or refunds for such missed lessons.
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#2039945 - 02/27/13 01:27 AM Re: What's Your Cancellation Policy? [Re: pianoSD]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1267
Loc: California
I have a 'no-makeup' policy. The wording I use in my studio policy is similar to what Stanny has written above. I don't use a swap list. Too confusing for parents, and most missed lessons tend to happen at the last minute, not something planned way ahead. My students pay for a block of lessons (usually 8-10) so I don't have issues of deducting missed lessons.

It's worked for me for several years.
_________________________
Music School Owner
Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
Member of MTAC and Guild

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#2040019 - 02/27/13 08:17 AM Re: What's Your Cancellation Policy? [Re: pianoSD]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12141
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
We have a 24-hour cancellation policy, and students pay by the month or by the semester so lessons are paid for in advance. However, when the first "infraction" occurs, I sometimes will remind the parent (or student if they are driving themselves to lessons) of the policy. I'll say something like, "You know, we have a 24-hour cancellation notice unless it's an emergency or you're sick, and so normally we can't reschedule lessons on such short notice. I'll do it this once, but please keep that in mind in the future that I need that 24 hours notice."

Giving them a one-time favor like that I think is fair, as people don't really keep track of policies. If they do it again, then they have no reason to be upset because you were very fair about the whole thing.

On a side note, I have never lost a student due to my cancellation policy, even in those instances where I did not give a student a "freebe" the first time. The fact that you did could mean simply that these people are unreasonable and probably would have left for any number of reasons, that they were not clearly told the cancellation policy when lessons began in person (vs. simply having it posted on your website and in the policy you hand them), or that the way in which you informed them you wouldn't be able to reschedule the lesson was undiplomatic. The latter two things are in your control and worth some self-reflection just to make sure that you are doing your best to communicate well to your families.


Edited by Morodiene (02/27/13 08:18 AM)
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2040048 - 02/27/13 09:11 AM Re: What's Your Cancellation Policy? [Re: pianoSD]
bmbutler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/15/10
Posts: 226
Loc: North Carolina
I use the same policy as Stanny, and it really cut down on the number of cancellations. Parents now have money vested in that time that they know they will not get back. They make the choice. No issues at all from parents.
_________________________
Bachelor of Music (church music)
Master of Church Music (organ, music education)
Piano Teacher since 1992
Church Musician since 1983

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#2040149 - 02/27/13 01:12 PM Re: What's Your Cancellation Policy? [Re: pianoSD]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1376
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
If you charge by the lesson and people pay you by the lesson (versus monthly or longer-term tuition in advance), it's trickier to make them pay for missed lessons. Or if not trickier, just tougher for most of us to look some parent in the eye and say, "Listen Lady, you also owe me $31 for last week when little Ludmila was a no-show due to her slumber party. Yes, I realize you asked me to change that lesson from Tuesday to Thursday, but I explained that I have my bowling league on Thursday nights, which is sacred, so I couldn't reschedule. You owe me $62. And please don't pay me with coins again, like you did last time."

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#2040163 - 02/27/13 01:32 PM Re: What's Your Cancellation Policy? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
pianoSD Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 57
Loc: San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
If you charge by the lesson and people pay you by the lesson (versus monthly or longer-term tuition in advance), it's trickier to make them pay for missed lessons.


Great point, Peter. However, most of my students are from lower income families who cannot afford to pay large sums in advance. I have been lenient with these students, but its the nature of who I teach I guess. It's very rewarding; I'm just trying to find a balance!

Thanks for the great suggestions everyone!
_________________________
My Piano Lessons - Schedule Me Online!

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#2040279 - 02/27/13 04:19 PM Re: What's Your Cancellation Policy? [Re: pianoSD]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1376
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
There's another way of doing business teaching piano, which is to charge by the lesson, and get paid at each lesson, and just accept that sometimes - or even often - students won't show and you will lose income because of this.

If your students are from lower income families, perhaps there are times when they don't show up simply because they cannot afford to show up. That's sad, but probably a reality. You could offer them partial scholarships, if you are willing to work for less money.

If your question is not about money but about advance notice for the cancelled lesson, just keep reminding people of your policy. Both verbally and in writing. They'll learn. And yet some students or their parents will always treat you better than other families: that's true for all private teachers.

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#2040291 - 02/27/13 04:50 PM Re: What's Your Cancellation Policy? [Re: pianoSD]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1267
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: pianoSD

Great point, Peter. However, most of my students are from lower income families who cannot afford to pay large sums in advance. I have been lenient with these students, but its the nature of who I teach I guess. It's very rewarding; I'm just trying to find a balance!
Thanks for the great suggestions everyone!


What's considered a large sum? One month paid in advance on the first lesson of the month? That's how most piano teachers charge, not by the lesson, where sometimes you get paid and sometimes you don't (depending on if they show up).

I can't think of any children's activity where the parent pays on the lesson day, for each lesson attended. If parents have their kids in gymnastics, karate, art class, dance, etc... they are paying by the month or by a block of lessons. And don't get me started on club sports, where parents are forking out hundreds of $$ for a season, usually all up front.

I understand your sensitivity to those students who are lower income, but I've learned that if something is important to a parent, they will find a way to come up with the money. One month's tuition at the beginning of the month is usually doable.
_________________________
Music School Owner
Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
Member of MTAC and Guild

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#2040515 - 02/28/13 02:30 AM Re: What's Your Cancellation Policy? [Re: pianoSD]
re22 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/04/11
Posts: 147
Last year I lost around 35% of my potential income due to canceled lessons.

After reading so many posts on studio policies, having to reserve 60 lesson slots, and making so little money, and getting stepped on I needed to change my rules.

When I first started teaching my policy was if a student wanted to cancel the lesson they didn't have to pay (even if they forgot to show up...) After a few years of that I changed to asking for a 24hour notice. I later added that I did not receive a phone call/text/email before the start of the lesson that lesson would have to be paid for.

I found that this resulted in so many people just not coming because something else came up and I could never get them to do make up lessons. It was also really hurting the students progress and the kids were getting upset.

To be honest when I first started teaching I was doing it for fun and charging $11 per lesson. So, I think several parents of my original students didn't see it as important.

Fast forward to now. I'm running a serious business and it was time to make the policies reflect that.

As of September 12' all missed/skipped/forgotten lessons are still charged. Tuition is based of a 42 week schedule. Families can pay me monthly, quarterly, semester, yearly, etc. Missed lessons can be made up within the year on my schedule. If I am ill for a lesson I will credit the tuition.

All parents read the policy changes and discussed it with me before it went into effect. I only had 1 family that had an issue with it. Which I thought was ironic since the child goes to private school.

I'm very happy. My students are happy and progressing faster. There are less issues in my studio. I calculate that I will double my income this year too!!!

I hope that was helpful smile
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher

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#2040625 - 02/28/13 08:29 AM Re: What's Your Cancellation Policy? [Re: re22]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12141
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: re22
Last year I lost around 35% of my potential income due to canceled lessons.

After reading so many posts on studio policies, having to reserve 60 lesson slots, and making so little money, and getting stepped on I needed to change my rules.

When I first started teaching my policy was if a student wanted to cancel the lesson they didn't have to pay (even if they forgot to show up...) After a few years of that I changed to asking for a 24hour notice. I later added that I did not receive a phone call/text/email before the start of the lesson that lesson would have to be paid for.

I found that this resulted in so many people just not coming because something else came up and I could never get them to do make up lessons. It was also really hurting the students progress and the kids were getting upset.

To be honest when I first started teaching I was doing it for fun and charging $11 per lesson. So, I think several parents of my original students didn't see it as important.

Fast forward to now. I'm running a serious business and it was time to make the policies reflect that.

As of September 12' all missed/skipped/forgotten lessons are still charged. Tuition is based of a 42 week schedule. Families can pay me monthly, quarterly, semester, yearly, etc. Missed lessons can be made up within the year on my schedule. If I am ill for a lesson I will credit the tuition.

All parents read the policy changes and discussed it with me before it went into effect. I only had 1 family that had an issue with it. Which I thought was ironic since the child goes to private school.

I'm very happy. My students are happy and progressing faster. There are less issues in my studio. I calculate that I will double my income this year too!!!

I hope that was helpful smile


Part of being taken seriously I think comes first from the amount you charge. Then after that it's about communicating and educating your families on the fact that this is your main source of income, it's your profession, and you are highly skilled and trained (this is really where having degrees come into play). Then you have a policy that is fair but enforceable that you actually do adhere to, balanced with being reasonable enough to accommodate special circumstances.

I've been at both ends of the spectrum: having a very strict make-up policy (only 2 make-ups per semester) and being very flexible with lessons. The former method did wonders for creating a steady income and steady schedule, but was very restrictive for me as a teacher. The latter, of course, wreaked havoc on my schedule and my pocketbook.

As a performing teacher, I really need the flexibility, so my schedule is a bit more chaotic than I'd like, but I bill the same amount each month for lessons so that students are sure to still get the consistency of weekly lessons when at all possible, and if not, we make it up.

Each teacher has to consider what is necessary for them and how they wish to run their studio. I must say that when you put a limit on make-ups (or have no make-ups at all), lessons are seen as more of a priority.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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