As over 100+ Aussie schools tell us: families are asking more questions, and have higher expectations of the enrolment journey than ever before. The integration between Digistorm Funnel and the Feesable School Fee Calculator helps schools to deliver transparent fee structures so they can grow leads from digitally savvy families, who expect a simple experience when finding fee information online.
We recently sat down with Anthony McCausland, Founder at Feesable, to chat about the 2021 School Fee Data Insights report they’ve recently released:
Timo: Tell us a little about the report - what was the overall goal?
Anthony: We created the School Fee Data Insights report to be a useful reference for school marketing, business, and admissions teams. We’re really hoping that the insights will be helpful to improve the fee experience of schools, and hence the overall customer experience. Plus, it can be useful for benchmarking and using trends to help shape future strategies and marketing campaigns.
Timo: Tell us a bit more about the data, and why this report might be a little different from other similar reports.
Anthony: The data is unique; all generated directly from the Feesable Fee Calculator. So the report shows real-world data from interactions with the Fee Calculator from thousands of families. The data represents actual trends of families as they research private school education.
As we continue to gather more data (including data on parent sentiment) we aim to keep drawing more insights, and continue to share this with schools to help them with future strategies.
Timo: So what sort of trends and insights for school fees are you seeing from the data, and your interactions with schools?
Anthony: We were able to pull some interesting demographic data. For example, women are doing the majority of research on schools early in the week, during the afternoon or early evening. This kind of information can obviously be useful for planning your school marketing campaigns.
This report was for 2021, so in terms of fee levels they were fairly static from previous years, mainly due to COVID pressures. But we know that in 2022 most schools have now moved ahead with fee increases.
We also see a wide range of fee structures. In fact, no two schools are the same (unless they’re part of a group of schools who share the same model). Every school seems to have some unique element that they apply to their fee structure, which makes building fee calculators quite interesting for us!
What we’ve found, however, is that there’s a general trend towards simplifying fee structures, with many schools moving towards an ‘all-inclusive’ fee model. We fully support this, as one of the goals of the Feesable Fee Calculator is to help simplify complex fees for parents, which ultimately leads to a better customer experience.
Timo: What does the ‘all-inclusive’ fee structure look like, and why do you think schools might be moving towards that model?
Anthony: Traditionally, schools have had all sorts of extra fees and levies, in addition to tuition fees. These can often catch parents out. The main focus is usually on the tuition fee element, so parents can get hit with all sorts of surprise costs once they’ve enrolled - technology levies, elective fees, camp fees, excursion costs, extra curricular fees, and so on. These costs are generally all listed on a fee schedule, but let’s be honest; when there are pages of small print, not many people these days take the time to read it all!
Some of these are unavoidable and need to be separated from the main tuition fee line, but in many cases, we now see that schools are bundling up the fees as much as possible and presenting an ‘all-inclusive’ school fee per student, which includes most, and in some cases, everything a family will need to pay.
We’ve been seeking to promote the idea of ‘fee transparency’, and I believe that this move towards the ‘all-inclusive’ model really helps to foster transparency, which in turn builds immediate trust in the school. We all know how important trust is to any relationship…
Timo: You mentioned that the Feesable Fee Calculator helps to simplify the fee experience. How do digital tools like this help schools improve customer experience?
Anthony: If you’re running any sort of organisation these days, digital is unavoidable. Schools are no different, and this is largely driven by customer expectations. Everyday parents deal with top brands using the best technology available, so when they come to look at a school, or even engage with their current school, they expect no less.
Schools are still somewhat playing catch up in the digital & tech world, but I think we’ve seen some great leaps forward in recent years, and have been introduced to smart tools like Digistorm Funnel and school apps.
And the Feesable Fee Calculator is another example of using technology to help schools deliver a better customer experience. Offering a PDF where a parent needs to work out the fees themselves just isn’t enough these days.
Timo: What sort of challenges do you see ahead for schools regarding fees, or just more broadly?
Anthony: There’ll no doubt be ongoing pressure on school fee levels, as families bear with the rising cost of living, particularly in metropolitan areas. So we’ve seen a trend of regional schools growing, with some now experiencing wait lists for the first time in a while or ever, which is great. That’ll put more pressure on metro school fees, as education is obviously a major expense for families and hence a driver for decisions to move to the regions.
Plus this means that regional schools will need to ‘up their game’ to meet the expectations of new metro customers - again, digital has a big part to play in this.
We also know that managing data through the enrolment journey is a genuine challenge that many schools face. Managing and nurturing customers isn’t something many schools are good at, but with the right tools and support, they can easily get on board to deliver better customer experiences.
Timo: How can schools set themselves apart and make the fee conversation more positive?
Anthony: Schools need innovative ways to engage with prospective families. Facebook ads, events, or outdoor bus ads are all good and can be useful, but these days there are also smarter ways to engage and connect with families.
The key here is engagement. Every part of the customer journey is an opportunity for engagement, and the same goes for interactions with fees.
The Feesable Fee Calculator does a great job creating a positive fee experience for families. It also makes all the other advertising involved even more effective by helping to convert visitors into genuine enquiries schools can follow up on. Feesable is integrated into the natural process a parent will take when researching a school, and parents are guaranteed to look at fees at some stage in the enrolment journey. We believe the earlier in the journey the better. Again, this hearkens back to transparency and trust.
Timo: Did the report shed any light on the level of online engagement that families have with schools in regards to fees?
Anthony: From the report, we know for any given school using Feesable, the Fee Calculator is used by families almost every day, resulting in an increase in enrolment enquiries and bolstering overall enrolments. We think this shows that online fee experiences need to be a fundamental part of how schools engage with parents and carers.
This again all comes back to delivering excellent customer experiences to both your current community to breed brand advocates, and obviously to prospective families to build trust, and ideally help them to choose your school.
Timo: Thanks so much for your time, and for sharing what you’ve learnt with our community!
Anthony: No problem, happy to help.