Parents are an essential part of school learning, but engaging them can be a challenge! While many schools focus on nurturing new families into their community, a strategy for reaching existing families is often an afterthought.
The flow of information from the school to the parents (and back) is the key to creating productive relationships with each family, improving student outcomes, and ensuring families feel favourable about your school.
Thankfully it’s easier than ever to access and use technology that assists parent communication, from online parent portals to school apps. If you're looking to improve your relationships with parents, here are six tips to get you started.
1. Streamline your channels
From emails to learning management systems, paper notices and social media, it’s dizzying to consider the number of channels a school will use to communicate with a family. By streamlining all of your outreach into a centralised location, you will drastically increase your chances of reaching parents quickly and easily.
One popular option is to consolidate all of your parent communication into a school app. Parents can opt-in to receive notices about the things they care about (for example, their child’s extracurricular activities and grades) and ignore the things that don’t apply.
2. Cut through the clutter
It’s no secret that since Gen-Xers and millennials became the parents of this generation of students, schools have had to vie for families’ attention against social media, email and other distractions.
This means your school needs to offer effective communication that helps them to sort through the noise and prioritise. 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 a response straight away.
However, if they are receiving too many notifications from your school, they tune out, ignore messages and grow increasingly frustrated. Striking the right balance is tricky!
Schools can manage this by implementing time-saving tools, such as using push notifications to send urgent messages through their app straight onto the lock screen of parents' phones.
3. Optimise their experience
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 figure out how to make improvements.
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 follow their journey (from enrolment in your school through to graduation) from their perspectives. When you get stuck or come to a pain point, note it down as a step that you can optimise using the technology you have at your disposal.
4. 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 consider whether some activities could be turned into digital events, such as:
- Story hour through Skype
- Parent/teacher interviews
- Volunteering opportunities
- Informational evenings.
5. 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. Many schools use tools such as the Net Promoter Score (or NPS) to keep a finger on the pulse for how parents 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?'. Clients can then score you from 1 (not likely at all) to 10 (extremely likely). A free-text box follows this question to provide more information about why they chose to score that number, giving you greater insight into their opinions.
You can also investigate other survey tools to gauge parent satisfaction and pick up on pain points or complaints before they become a real problem. No matter how you gather your feedback, the important thing is that you put it to work. If your survey results are less than stellar, look into ways of improving. On the other hand, if you are getting consistently great feedback, consider asking parents if you can share it on your website or social platforms to provide other parents with helpful social proof.
6. Be patient!
Building a quality relationship takes time. If you’ve implemented new technology to facilitate better communication between families and your school, you will need to give it a little time to see any big shifts in behaviour.
In the meantime, it may help your cause to place emphasis on sharing positive stories using your technology. As GettingSmart notes, “Often, communication will focus on the basics such as daily schedules, homework assignments, upcoming events and in some cases behavioural updates. Parents may dread the rare phone call home, so it’s important to find opportunities to communicate good news, as well.”