Changing the score – thought leadership piece

4:00, 5th June 2019

Paritor specialises in innovative software solutions for tuition management in the music education and performing arts industries. Its portfolio of products includes Ensemble; which allows users to manage all the administrative and communication requirements for their music service in one integrated secure system. Paritor services over 90 music services, conservatoires and private music education organisations in the UK. In this piece, the company’s CEO Simon Dutton (pictured) talks us through how music services can evolve to deliver a better experience for parents and pupils alike

Customer experience has transformed business practice and elevated consumers’ expectations in recent years. The modern consumer, empowered by new technologies, demands more than value-for-money products. They expect fast digital interactions with companies as well as personalised service and, importantly, an emotional connection with brands.

The impact of customer experience is also palpable in music services. Music services and hubs now see greater involvement from teachers and parents in their tuition delivery and management, whether that is for timetabling, monitoring lesson progress or handling payments.

Historically, this level of interaction with end-users was not always the case. The focus for music services particularly in the early stages had been centred on the administrative relationship with schools and performing arts centres. Music services, like many other businesses, did not consider the wider customer experience. They did not need to address parent expectations or teacher requirements.

Music services are now tasked with evolving to meet the customer experience demand and providing a better service for end-users. With music education under increasing strain and changes coming in the successor to the National Plan for Music Education, it is more important than ever for music services to deliver a customer experience which strengthens the relationship with customers and teachers and improves their trust in the industry.

A new parent perspective 

The challenge is that music services have not traditionally thought of themselves as businesses. As with any modern business delivering a service, having a customer-centric ethos and the digital tools in place to maximise efficiency is key.

Crucially, music services must appreciate that their teachers and parents are also digital consumers. As customers of various services across different industries, they have become accustomed to great customer service, accessible communication channels and easy-to-use self-service options everywhere.

Music services’ customers expect a higher standard of service thanks to their interactions with retailers, insurance providers and beyond. With this mindset, music services should be no different. They must offer customers simple digital solutions which elevate their tuition management experience, especially considering that 67% of consumers will pay more for a great experience.

Building customer relationships 

Indeed, one of the key objectives from the recent Music Commission report is that, ‘parental engagement is supported as a priority from the earliest years onwards’, with tools that empower parents to track their child’s learning each step of the way. Ensuring that parents and pupils are fully involved and engaged with music tuition adds value to their experience and helps in developing a strong connection with music education. In other words, parental engagement can be achieved by considering the whole parent journey in the same way that customer experience is about the consumer’s entire journey with a brand.

Improving customer experience in music education requires solutions which are driven by the end-user and address the needs of the customer paying for tuition. Parents want a simple method of communicating with their tuition provider and accessing information so that they can stay up-to-date on their child’s lessons.

Customers appreciate retailers who, for instance, establish a personal relationship with them, communicating regularly about the latest news and sharing personalised discount vouchers to demonstrate their value for that customer. Music services might similarly reach out to customers with personalised pupil updates, relevant news and special tuition prices via email or social channels for a more personalised experience which fosters loyalty.

Providing accessible tuition options for customers

A recent report from PwC confirmed that speed, convenience and friendly service rank highly among 70% of consumers when dealing with companies. Improving the customer experience also involves making customer support available in a variety of ways for parents. Customers will naturally have questions regarding tuition and making the answers available can be as simple as an updated FAQ page on the music services’ website to a customer service telephone line or an online virtual assistant.

If more music services consider the parent as a customer first this can help ensure timely payments and encourage better communication. Online banking has revolutionised the way consumers pay and for many parents, making online tuition payments is a more convenient and on-the-go option. Empowering customers with digital lesson management systems so they can quickly pay bills and make changes to tuition will add real value to their experience, whilst reducing the build-up of bad debt and strain on music services.

Reliance on manual paper systems is a common recurrence for administrative staff in music services yet when teams have thousands of students’ data records and payments to manage, this is hardly an effective or secure method. Customers also want to be assured that their data is being handled safely and compliantly.

Putting customer experience at the core

Although music services have several different ‘customers’ to address, making customer experience core to their business practice will achieve the same goal and enable them to provide a better service for parents, teachers and schools alike. It is vital that music services facilitate online interaction between end-users from one single portal to make communication clearer and more accurate for everyone.

I believe that it is time for music services to change their perspective on parents and start seeing them as consumers too, providing them with personalised, digital services as standard to improve their customer engagement and loyalty. Delivering greater customer experiences which involve parents and teachers at each stage is vital for more efficient music tuition which delivers on customer satisfaction.

Thought leadership pieces are designed to provoke comment, conversation and debate around music education and do not necessarily reflect the editorial perspective of Music Teacher. If you are interested in contributing a similar piece, please get in touch with your ideas.

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