In Episode Two of The Admissions Club, we ran through how your school’s customer experience is one of the most powerful tools you have to attract and convert prospective families. By developing your customer experience to appeal to your target audience, you're putting yourself into the most favourable position for being considered by a family looking to enrol their children in a new school. In this article, we go through the ins and outs of customer experience, and how a school like yours can take its CX to the next level.
When most families think about a family brand like Disney, they immediately think of fun! This is an example of how a brand identity immediately evokes an emotional response. This emotional response is what gives the ‘customer’ a positive experience.
When it comes to a brand like Disney, we’re all well aware of just how immersive and interactive their experiences can be for families, and this type of emotional reaction is exactly what we want to inspire in families as schools. Creating a great customer experience will help you to attract new students, boost your retention rate, and inspire enthusiastic advocates who’ll go on to spread the word about your school. It’s helpful to think about customer experience as a really smart marketing tool that can sell for you over the long term.
It’s all about the feeling you impart to your families. When you’re heading off to Disneyland, you’re amazed and excited even before walking through the gates. We need to look for ways to bring that kind of feeling to our prospective families when they start considering your school.
We focus on customer experience because it’s a key factor in the decision-making process of families. You can have amazing facilities and programs, but if the experience isn’t memorable, families aren’t going to choose your school.
“Your program might look ‘dynamic’ on paper, but if the receptionist is rude, and parents feel like they’re just a number, you aren’t going to be a top choice.” - Aubrey Bursch
A family’s first interaction with your school has a profound impact on their ultimate opinion of you. If you’re considering buying a car and the salesperson is rude or doesn’t return your calls, you’re going to head to another dealership! In the same way, an education, like a car, is a big (and long-term) investment, and families want to know they’re in good hands, or they’ll look for other options.
So you can see where you’re going right (and where you can improve), you need to map out the entire customer journey, from the moment a family first comes into contact with you, all the way to graduation and beyond. If you enhance the experience for families, they’ll become raving fans and go on to spread positive word of mouth about you, which is one of the most powerful forms of marketing.
Purchasing decisions are largely driven by memorable customer experiences. If there’s a choice to be made between different schools, you’re always going to choose the one that you’re most emotionally connected to. However, even families who don’t end up enrolling with you can become brand ambassadors for your school. If you deliver exceptional customer experience, word will spread about you within the community!
When you start to increase conversion rates and initial inquiries, word of mouth spreads. When parents meet up at soccer games or at church, your school will inevitably become a topic of conversation, so it’s really important to make a good first impression.
After mapping out the customer experience journey, you can identify opportunities to improve your school’s communication with families. As a starting point, make sure your website has great CX because it acts as the central hub of your online presence. Also ensure that your social media, emails, and events are personalised and optimised for your audience and that your communications post-enrolment continues to be spot on.
Keeping prospective families informed and on email lists is a great way to maintain a level of customer experience, even if they choose not to enrol at your school. You can still invite them to community events and keep them in the loop of fun things happening on campus, which will make them feel valued. It’s likely that they’ll go on to tell friends and families about your caring and welcoming community, which is an ultimate win.
Now that millennials and Gen Z parents are considering their own children's education, expectations are changing. They have different values from their parents, interact differently with brands, and have different expectations of what a good customer experience looks like.
What may have been considered above and beyond for previous generations is now expected! Modern parents are used to doing everything online, from banking to booking travel. They expect to have seamless online experiences everywhere, and it’s no different for the enrolment process. With their active and busy lives, parents want and need convenience.
“They don’t want to fill in paper forms, they don’t want to talk on the phone; they want online access 24/7 so they can do what needs to be done, on their own schedule.”
Modern parents expect easy and simple administrative processes and want schools to be tech-savvy so their children can be tech-savvy too. These parents want a seamless experience, and definitely don’t want to print out paperwork, fill in paper forms, scan documents, or even find a pen! So make sure their expectations are met right from the start.
It’s also important to let them know regularly what’s going on in the school and to reach them through their preferred communication channels. Your website, for instance, is one of the first places they’ll look, and it needs to be mobile-friendly and easy to use. If it doesn’t work seamlessly on your phone or tablet, parents will lose their patience fast and ultimately go somewhere else. Without a strong digital experience at first contact, parents will judge your ability to adequately prepare your students for a digital world.
Focus on providing families with two main things with your website:
After looking up your school and landing on your homepage, within seconds parents will start judging your school’s experience. As far as design goes, your website should:
Maryland International School has some great strategies for establishing a positive customer experience at their school:
Swapping out your clunky paper forms for online applications is a great way to show that your school is forward-thinking when it comes to technology. Enquiry forms should be quick and easy to complete, and once you have their name in your system, treat it like gold. Every family has different priorities when it comes to finding the right school for their kids, so making them feel heard and understood throughout the enrolment journey is a great way to foster connection.
It’s a delicate balance between providing valuable communication without bombarding them with too much information. You need to evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses. If you rely too much on email, then a school app may be able to take some of the pressure off, and allow you to diversify your communication output.
Alumni are important parts of a school’s community, and many schools can improve their overall engagement with their alumni. A commonly used tactic is including alumni in your community newsletter, which is great for keeping them up to date on things happening on campus and involving them in the community.
Social platforms are also becoming increasingly relevant for engaging alumni, especially the more recent graduates.
“LinkedIn is a wonderful place for you to be connecting with your alumni. You can share events there, you can connect with them, and connect them with business opportunities and internships - so many opportunities!” - Aubrey Bursch
Schools can also get their graduating class to plan an event with the school’s recent alumni, where they can get together to create a special moment. This is effective because they’re actually planning the event they want to do. A common mistake is planning grand events for alumni for which they don’t attend because it’s not what they wanted. By effectively including your alumni in your customer experience journey, you’re only going to strengthen your school.
Schools like yours can achieve great levels of customer experience, and make it that much easier for prospective families to be attracted to your school. By creating long-lasting impressions, mapping out the customer journey, and improving your overall communication, you can take your customer experience to the next level.