If you are either in the market to start using dance studio management software or in the market to switch from your current dance studio software provider, comparing their costs can be tricky. Some may appear to be cheaper but actually have hidden costs that you should consider before making a decision. To make sure you are comparing “apples to apples,” so to speak, make sure you factor in these 5 hidden fees, or avoid them altogether. Jon Koerber from ClassJuggler Dance explains.
#1: Low entry on monthly fee with accelerating per-student pricing
Most of the leading online dance school software providers charge based on the number of students you have. Pricing is structured this way to cover the provider’s costs for data storage, servers, service providers, and the employees that provide you with service and support.
But watch out: To get your business, some providers will entice you with a super-low cost for that first tier, but then ratchet up the price significantly for the next tiers instead of a fair and gradual increase as you grow. Consequently, you end up paying more per student the more your school grows. An increase of one student shouldn’t double or triple your costs!
The solution: Don’t get sucked in by the provider with the lowest per-month price for a small school without first making sure that each new pricing tier is straightforward math. Look for a provider that increases the monthly rate over the base price in equal, gradual increments. For example, at ClassJuggler, we charge $5/month over the base rate for each extra 150 students you have in the system. If a provider is not able to show that their pricing model is fairly graduated like this, steer clear!
#2: How the provider handles multiple locations
Do you have more than one location, or plan to in the future? That’s great! Having a full-featured dance studio software service will save you a tremendous amount of time.
But watch out: Not all providers handle multiple locations the same way. For example, some offer a discount (and some don’t) if you have multiple locations and manage them each separately.
The solution: If so, ask the provider how they handle this cost. For example:
- Do they offer you a discount if you have multiple locations? Ours is 10 percent, for example.
- Do they allow you the option of operating two or more locations from a single account? While there are advantages to running each location separately (for bookkeeping reasons you may use different merchant processing accounts for each location, for instance) there could be significant cost savings monthly if you don’t need to run them separately. At ClassJuggler, we give you the choice.
# 3: The hidden cost of poor usability or poor customer support
Just about any full-featured dance studio software service can be a little overwhelming the first time you start learning it. Some providers simplify the process by giving you access to video tutorials, online manuals, or access to customer support specialists.
But watch out: If the software is difficult to use (nonintuitive, confusing, etc.), you had better hope the dance studio software provider has great customer service options, because it could cost you time. And lost time costs you money. Consider, for example:
- If it takes 6 steps to do a certain process with provider A but only 2 steps to do the same thing with provider B, and that procedure is something you and your staff must do several times a day, this usability issue will not merely frustrate you but also cost you.
- If a provider does not have live customer service (some don’t!), trying to solve it yourself could take you 30 minutes to do something that a three-minute phone call may have solved.
The solution: There are a few things you can do to minimize your risk:
- Try before you buy! Most (but not all) dance software service providers let you test out the program before you start investing time and money. Some even have a fully guided product tour so you can ask questions with a live agent as they show you around. Try a couple of the processes you think you will need to do daily and see how many steps it takes. Try the same thing with another software provider, and see how it compares.
- Test out the live support! If the provider does allow you to try before buying, use their live customer support at this time to test the quality and availability. Do they have support specialists at all? Are they available by phone or just email? If you don’t reach someone live, and they have to get back to you, how much time does it take before you get a response?
- Test out their self-service support options. If they have a try-before-you-buy period, investigate how easy or hard it is to find and understand how to use certain features. Can you find the support info in their help files? Do they offer video tutorials to walk you through the process?
# 4: Look for qualifying discounts
Depending upon the nature of your business, you may be able to get bonus discounts with some providers, but not with others. Here are some to consider looking for if they apply to your business:
- Not-for-profit discounts: If yours is a non-profit business, see if the provider gives you a discount for this.
- Switcher discounts: Ask if the provider gives you a discount if you are currently using a competitive product.
- Multi-location discounts: Check and see if the provider shaves some off the monthly fees if you have several locations that you manage separately.
- Bulk discounts for franchises: If you run or are part of a franchise operation, some providers will give each franchisee a discount. Make sure and ask!
# 5: Investigate the extra costs if you add merchant processing
All modern, full-featured dance software providers offer integrated credit card processing as an add-on to their studio management software. You’ll want to choose a software provider with a reputable merchant processing partner that has good pricing and solid customer support.
But watch out: There are a couple questions to consider when choosing a dance software company and their merchant provider:
- Will the dance studio software company provide direct support to me for my merchant account or will I have to contact them myself if I have questions?
- Will they charge me a service fee to add merchant processing to my studio software account?
While there are always merchant processing costs associated with accepting credit card payments (per item fees, percentage fees, PCI compliance, regulatory fees, etc.), some dance software providers add their own monthly service fee on top of all the other fees you pay – sometimes as much as $30 extra each month! I call this “double dipping” since the software provider is already receiving a portion of your processing fees on the backside in royalties.
On the question of support, many software providers don’t have the expertise and tools to support their partner merchant services, so will simply direct you to call into the merchant provider’s 800# where you could spend hours trying to get an answer to your questions.
The solution: Ask upfront if the software provider is charging any fees on top of your merchant processing fees. Shy away from those companies who are double dipping on fees. Also ask if your software provider will handle all of your support needs for your merchant account. While most providers can’t provide that extra level of service, that is one of the extras our company has always provided to our clients.
By Jon Koerber, ClassJuggler Dance