It used to be that a satisfied customer/student/parent would share their experience with 3 people and an unsatisfied one would share with 11.
Now it’s more like a satisfied customer will share their experience with 3 people and an unsatisfied one will share with 3,000!
If you hadn’t noticed, there’s this thing called the internet that has sites like yelp that have a far reaching effect on your business. Especially when your business deals with working with other people’s children.
One of the biggest hurdles (which is also your biggest opportunity) you’ll face as a school owner is dealing with students’ parents. They are an interesting phenomenon.
After nearly 20 years of teaching, I wish I could say I’ve seen it all, but I continue to be surprised.
You will never be able to keep everyone happy all the time, but you can deal with every situation responsibly and productively, leaving parents heard and with the experience of being taken care of (even if they disagree with you)… every time.
When you are confronted with an upset parent, this is your opportunity to demonstrate the “DO”. It’s as if your courtesy and self-control are being tested.
There are any number of reasons you may have an upset parent. Maybe there was a schedule change, they’ve ordered something that hasn’t come in, they think their child should be testing, (enter your reason here), etc. The list could go on and on!
When there’s an upset parent, it usually looks like some version of this:
Something happens. Parent reacts. Instructor defends.
Now you have the perfect recipe for an argument. Each side has taken a position, and no matter how well intentioned they both are, they want to defend their position and be right. The parent may say, “You never told me!” The instructor may say, “Well, we announced it in class, sent an email and posted it on our facebook page.” Then the parent may say, “You should have called me.” Then the instructor may say, “I don’t have the time to call 150 students.”
And this could go on and on with the parent trying to convince the instructor that the instructor should have done what the parent thinks is best, while the instructor is trying to politely tell the parent that they should pay more attention to their child’s training.
At some point the argument somehow ends, the parent is still upset or at least somewhat annoyed, and the instructor now relates to the parent as a “pain in the ass parent”.
It’s just a matter of time until you’ve lost that student.
So what do you do… especially when you know you’re right?
It does no good to be standoff-ish and prove you’re right, or to take the “customer (student) is always right” approach where you leave every one of these interactions with your tail tucked between your legs and constantly scrambling to keep everyone happy. That just leaves you completely at the effect of your students. You also can’t just toss them out because soon no one will want to workout with the miserable “karate guy”.
There is a middle ground that will allow you to demonstrate that you practice what you preach. It will allow you to keep your dignity, allow your student’s parent to be heard and allow for the school to be stronger as a result.
When something happens and a parent gets upset (which inevitably will), the first thing you have to understand is, whatever upset the parent has, it is not about you and it’s not about your school.
It’s about THEIR REACTION to something happening at your school.
There’s nothing wrong with a schedule change or a student not being ready to test. But as human beings, we are just reactions waiting to happen. So when something like this occurs, the parent reacts. When it’s a negative reaction, instead of getting present to the reaction they are having and dealing with it powerfully, they just pop off and everything is your fault or the school’s fault.
1. So, the first thing you need to do in this situation is just listen and understand what they are experiencing. Ask them, “Could you please share with me what happened so that I can understand?” This automatically tends to diffuse some of the upset because now you are listening and they can be “sharing” with you, not yelling or accusing.
This immediately positions you as someone on their side. You’ve just given them an opportunity to say what they want and there’s no resistance or defensiveness coming from you. Also, when you are understanding of what they are experiencing you’ll tend to be more compassionate about what they are dealing with.
While they are sharing with you, be sure to stick to just the facts, just what happened. You’ll have to listen through all the drama, emotion and significance without being sucked in and reacting yourself, adding your own drama emotion and reaction. This way you can get the heart of exactly what happened.
2. Now that you’ve gotten clear about what the supposed problem was, you can say, “I understand why you are concerned, I apologize for the inconvenience this caused, and here’s what I’d like to do.” (IMPORTANT: you must actually understand, or else you’ll come off as patronizing, making the situation worse.)
3. Now your responsibility is to create a solution that takes care of whatever the problem was, possibly offer something to the parent as a gesture of good will (t-shirt, free seminar, discounted test fee, etc.) and let them know what actions you are taking to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
This way the parent gets that you care, feels like they are part of Taekwon-Do family, and that you truly are interested in making the school better for everyone.
It does no good to resist and argue, just listen from their perspective, understand them and create a solution that works for everyone moving forward.