Parents are getting younger. Each new generation of parents is more and more familiar with the bleeding edge technology. They’re constantly connected. They live and breathe online. It’s where they bank, where they shop, where they play, where they nurture friendships and where they post updates about their day. Without a single spoken word, they are constantly connected and up to date – not only with what is going on in the world, but with everyone they know. And it takes just a single glance at their smartphone.
So what does that have to so with school admissions?
Well, it means that “personal contact” has to be redefined to meet the expectations of the prospective and current parents, and future alumni and donors. They expect from you the same level of service they already get from their banks, their doctors, their frequent flyer programs – knowledge of who they are and the details of their relationship with you. They expect you to know about the conversations they’ve had with other members of your staff. They expect you to know about their family structure. They expect you to know that they just clicked “submit” on a completed application three minutes ago. They expect to be able to log into their parent account and see all aspects of the business they do with you including grades, billing, enrollment status and donation history. They expect immediate access to any “paperwork” they need. And, this is important – when they actually do pick up the phone to call you, or vice-versa, they expect that you’ll know all of this about them as if you had been thinking about them all day.
A personal connection is no longer purely about a face-to-face meeting. It’s also about how well you can demonstrate that you know your families, over the phone, through email and through organized communication. The only way this is possible is to use technology as often and as effectively as they do. Some things to think about:
1. Current, accurate information is crucial and it must be easy for your staff to access extremely quickly. For example, if a donor happens to call your Development director, they expect him or her to know – immediately – that earlier that morning his son, Little Johnny, got accepted into 6th grade and will be trying out for soccer.
2. You’d better have online forms, a parent portal and single sign-on. Give parents the immediate access to information they demand. They DO NOT want to have to call you find out the status of their application, whether or not their payment was received, or what their child’s homework assignment was. They also don’t want to handwrite anything (it makes their fingers hurt) and they definitely don’t want to mail anything. In fact, they might not even know HOW to mail anything.
3. Your communication plan should be as well defined and consistent as your disaster plan. For every impersonal connection with a parent, you should consistently and quickly follow-up with at least two more personal contacts. For example, if you receive an inquiry and that inquiry specifies that a prospective student has a particular interest in drama, within a few hours of the inquiry receipt, you send an invitation for that student to watch a rehearsal for the upcoming play and have the drama teacher connect with the parent. Sounds pretty easy, right? But spread that across the different types of inquiries… and even further across the different departments of your school and it gets complicated quick. To be able to respond to a variety of different scenarios in a consistent and timely fashion, you need to plan for each one and the action you will take.
And, what about social media? There’s more to know. Stay tuned.
Posted by Elyn Roberts