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Parent Care or Parent Beware?

author:David Shearer

Parent care or parent beware?

Picture this...

You?ve just walked into your hairdresser?s. The secretary ignores you when you arrive. After she?s got off the phone from her boyfriend, you discover you?ve been double-booked. When you complain the indifferent response causes you to walk out.

Unthinkable, isn?t it?

Yet this is precisely how some education institutions appear to treat prospective customers (read parents, students, teachers?.). But why? Customers don?t come cheap.

As anyone at your local hairdressers will tell you, retaining a customer is far simpler ? and cheaper ? than acquiring one. Hairdressers don?t have elaborate advertising budgets. And to continue the analogy, acquiring a potential student is certainly more expensive and time-consuming than attracting a customer to get a $25 haircut. So why do so many institutions appear to attach so little importance to providing high quality customer care to prospective parents, students, teachers and other members of their community?  

In fairness, most marketing-savvy institutions at least create an attractive ?shop window?, in the form of their brand identity, prospectus and website. Yet how much effort is paid to handling telephone enquiries with a smile, despatching communications quickly and efficiently, addressing parents personally etc? I could go on, but the point is how much emphasis are you putting on your Customer Care ABCs (Attitude, Behaviour and Communication)?

Parents and students undertake a lengthy enquiry journey when they register interest in attending. This journey could begin with a recommendation from a friend, culminating in a personal interview with the principal three years later. During this time, they will have visited your website at least 10 times, repeatedly asked friends about your institution and compared it to your competitors, attended open days, read your brochure (probably at least four times), and in some cases completed ?drive-bys? to imagine themselves there.


Of course, as quantitative research has demonstrated, parents and students select education on rational criteria such as the courses offered, educational standards, facilities and locations. Yet emotional experiences have a very important part to play.

In education marketing terms, these emotional experiences are known as ?critical points of contact?. Missing out any of these stages, or getting them badly wrong, can have extremely serious consequences. Just as customer care is central to the classroom, a well thought out, enacted and monitored customer care plan it is critical to your school.


Until next time ? prosperous promoting. 2012