Over the past year, we've sat down with dozens of marketing and admissions staff from independent schools around Australia to talk to them about their enrolments processes. There is a big focus on nurturing new families into the school community and encouraging them to enrol. This makes sense — schools need a flow of enrolment applications to keep running effectively. But your existing families are also a huge asset.
For one, they likely have younger children and will be deciding whether to enrol them in your school. They can also be a huge advocate in driving new business to your school through word of mouth recommendations to other families. If you're looking to improve your relationships with parents, here are six tips to get you started.
- Meet their communication expectations
Now that millennials are the parents of this generation, effective communication is more important than ever. Today's parents are more connected than before, and place high expectations on businesses (including their child's school!) to keep them in the loop.
According to research from Altitude:
- 80% of customers expect a response to their social media post within 24 hours
- 31% of customers expect a reply to an email within one hour
- 3 in 5 customers contact businesses through their mobile phone.
When something urgent happens at your school, parents expect to be notified immediately. When parents have a complaint or an issue with your school, they expect to be contacted straight away. Schools can manage these high expectations by implementing time-saving tools, such as a school app where schools can use push notifications to send urgent messages straight onto the lock screen of parents' phones.
Schools can also investigate setting up Facebook Business Manager for their marketing team and other staff who post on social and respond to messages. Facebook Business Manager is a great (free!) tool that helps you streamline your social media management.
- Understand their needs
Having a close relationship with parents means that you will be able to better anticipate their needs and tailor your communication to meet them. However, keeping tabs on the needs and requirements of every family in your school is a huge task. To do this easily, you will need to have a wealth of easily-accessible data at your fingertips to dive into whenever you communicate with a parent.
A good way to start is by gathering that important information during the enrolments process. When the parent is looking to enrol, you have the opportunity to ask targeted questions about the family, their preferences and the child's interests. You can then enter that information into a Customer Relationship Manager or CRM which should be accessible to any parent-facing members of your team.
- Create a customer experience strategy
Did you know that at Digistorm, we have a team member whose whole job is to look after customer experience? And we're not alone. A quick google search for 'Customer Experience job' brings up pages and pages of advertised roles to help businesses optimise customer interactions. Likewise, schools are starting to map out their parent experience and optimise it.
Even if you don't have a Customer Experience (CE) Specialist or a CE team, your school can take steps to manage your parents' "lifecycle" and foster parent loyalty. You can get started by mapping out your school's parent personas and then outlining the customer journey that parents take on the path to enrolling their child in your school. Once you have both of things in place, follow your customer journey (from awareness to consideration and finally to decision) from the perspective of each of your parent personas. When you get stuck or come to a pain point, note it down as a step that you can optimise.
- Think outside the box
When parents work full-time, it can be hard for them to connect with their child's education in traditional ways, such as helping out in the classroom or volunteering at every fundraiser. For those parents who are still keen to help out, get creative and brainstorm different ways that you can get working parents involved. One suggestion is to bundle a number of volunteering opportunities into one day and offer them to working parents who find it easier to take a whole day off, rather than leaving the office for a couple of hours.
Another suggestion is to consider whether some activities could be moved to after-hours time-slots or even be turned into digital events (e.g. story hour through Skype).
- Ask for feedback (and do something about it)
Feedback is the best way for all businesses (including your school) to get an idea of what you're doing well and where you can improve. At Digistorm, we use the Net Promotor Score (or NPS) to keep a finger on the pulse for how our clients are feeling. The NPS is a short survey where you ask your clients (or parents), 'How likely is it that you would recommend our [company/product/service/school] to a friend or colleague?' and then clients can score you from 1 (not likely at all) to 10 (extremely likely). This question is then followed by a free text box to provide more information about why they chose to score that number. Once you have your feedback, put it to work. If your feedback is less than stellar, look into ways of improving it. If you are getting great feedback, consider asking parents if you can share on your website or social platforms to provide other parents with helpful social proof.
- Be patient!
Building a quality relationship takes time. If your school is doing a good job in educating and caring for their children, parents will naturally start to open the lines of communication with teachers and leaders. As Forbes notes, "At the end of the day, no amount of personal connection can substitute for great work".
We have a range of software that can be customised to your school and that you can use for better communication with your school community. Contact us today to discuss a Digistorm software solution.