Why we hate the phrase “It’s on our website”
As we conduct more and more mystery shops this seems to be the answer we are hearing time and time again when we ask for specific information. The website now holds the answer to almost all questions you have as a prospective parent, however is that enough?
When you go to buy a luxury product, such as a car, you are given the key details that matter to you when you ask. They are all available in a brochure and additionally the person you speak to during the sales process will answer these questions directly, they won’t say “it’s all in the brochure”. With schools it is a rather more complicated matter. Each and every parent is different, not to mention the wealth of information that is, indeed, “available on our website”. Registrars are busy enough and usually have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the school, however even the best Registrar cannot be expected to know the exact details of everything on the school website.
To illustrate the point I recently counted the number of pages on three schools we have mystery shopped last term. One prep school had 81 different pages, the all through day school had 142 and the all through day and boarding school had 186. I am sure there are schools with much larger sites, and it has to be said, in each of these cases, the information and layout of the website was excellent. It is not the web design that is a problem, it is the sheer volume of information that modern day parents want to know plus a testament to the sheer range of activity taking place in our independent schools that gives rise to such large websites.
The breadth and depth of information on a school website is fantastic, and as a parent, I love the fact I can go on to the website and find out whatever it is I need to know about the school, whether it’s the bus routes, email for a teacher or term dates. To me, it is like referring to the instruction manual, which is great once you’ve made a purchase and are using something, however not that relevant before you buy it. As a prospective parent it can be difficult to find what you want to know.
Every prospective parent has different needs – your google analytics will show you your most popular pages (term dates and fees usually) which helps to some extent with website structure – however beyond the obvious it is a minefield. Each prospective parent will be looking for something different – and where to find this can be tricky. One of the tests we sometimes carry out for schools is to see how easily we can find certain information, modelling ourselves on a specific parent profile.
A good example would be:
Mother of two sporty boys living in X village. She wants to know:
Before the internet, this information would have been hand picked by the Registrar or Heads PA and sent to them – personalised and specific for their needs. They would not have had to sift through information they weren’t interested in. They would have been sent information about what they wanted to know.
Whilst I’m not suggesting we revert back to this method I do think we can go beyond saying “It’s on the website”. Parents are looking at buying a luxury product which is going to cost them thousands of pounds; it is also a highly emotional decision. The more RELEVANT information you can give them, and the more that you can show you treat every child as an individual the more likely they will join your school.
So, how do you solve this issue? A couple of ideas:
You are selling a premium product in a tough economic climate and this personal follow up is an excellent opportunity to show that your school offers an individual experience for each and every pupil no matter where their strengths and weaknesses lie. The follow up process is as key as the marketing effort to get parents into the school. If a family has given up the time to visit your school do not be afraid of continuing the conversation – many schools seem to put the ball back fully into the court of the prospective family. The more proactive and helpful you can be the better – and what better way than by sending through interesting information tailored to the needs and interests of their child?
If you would like to book a demo with Kampus24 (well worth your time), you can do so here. All those who do so through this form will receive a £25 Amazon voucher on completion of the demo as a thank you for reading this blog and supporting the Independent Schools Portal.
One of the questions we regularly get asked is “Will the Head feel like I’m checking up on them if I commission a mystery shop?” Our answer to this is very simple, let them know it’s happening. The whole point of a mystery shop is to look for improvements and quick easy wins for your prospective parent journey. Knowing what style your Head is when they are with prospective parents can help improve that process. Let me explain…
There is no wrong or right to the Head’s meeting. It is why I love the sector so much! We are selling more than a product, we are selling an experience, a feel, an aspiration. Every Head is different, so is every school, and whilst every parent is different – ultimately all want the same – “the best possible experience for their child.” The role of the visit is to show that your school will fulfil that desire.
This is why knowing what style of Head you have when it comes to prospective parents can really help. Breaking Heads down into three core types is unrealistic as most will be a little of each, however as this is a brief light hearted blog, we will look at three Head types and how knowing their approach can improve your tour experience. It really is like scaffolding – you need to put processes in place that support your Head.
The Charisma Head
The Charisma Head is charm personified – you leave the room feeling excited and positive about the school. Then on reflection, realise you didn’t get any of the answers you wanted to your questions, nor did you learn much about the school or how it could support your child in particular. No matter – the overwhelming factor is you left the room feeling positive. It is now the role of the admissions team to harness that positivity and back it up with the facts you are looking for; class size, extra-curricular opportunities, academic standards. With a charismatic Head at the helm it may be that you use a member of the admissions team to give the tour, or you offer a further meeting after the Head’s meeting to answer any questions and give key information. Making reference to the Head’s enthusiasm, you can show that as Registrar, you are a steady, calming influence that can contrast and work well with this style of Head.
The Detailed Head
The Detailed Head is, yes you’ve guessed it, all about the detail. They ask very specific questions about your child and discuss in depth as to how the school will support them. This could be from explaining the setting of lessons, language choices, number of children doing latin, times of the football club, minutiae of the catering choices! As a parent you leave the room feeling impressed and overloaded with information. In this instance a tour by younger pupils or a very informal chatty approach from the Registrar can compliment the Head well. The Registrar should probably hold back on more facts and talk more generally about the school and its ethos.
The Philosophical Head
The Philosophical Head will talk all about their views on teaching and learning and what education should be like and what indeed, an education at their school, looks like. This can be inspiring and intimidating at the same time for a parent who has no particular views on the educational system and a lack of understanding of words such as “pedagogy”. It is important with this style of Head that the parent feels listened to with regards to their own child and own questions – and the Registrar can tailor questions afterwards in this vein.
I’m sure many reading this will recognise a little of each in themselves or their Head and will have adapted accordingly. That said, Heads change over time – not just in terms of moving schools – also in terms of how they approach things based on how long they have been at a school. A mystery shop can be really useful in giving you that impetus to review how you might conduct your prospective parent visits. As schools evolve and develop so should the prospective parent experience – and this is why we support mystery shopping.
Do you think your school could benefit from a mystery shop? Click here for full details or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Key considerations for mystery shopping your school.
1.Why mystery shop?
There are usually two key reasons as to why schools conduct a mystery shop of their admissions process. The first is to enable the school to gain external evidence to support their plans, for example, an external voice reporting back that the waiting room was shabby or it was difficult to book a visit. This external impartial evidence can provide the catalyst to change. The other reason is best practice. All areas of a school are constantly evaluated, from the quality of teaching, standard of food, appearance of the grounds and so on. Evaluating the prospective parent experience internally is practically impossible as it is not an authentic situation. Equally gaining feedback from non-joiner families is very difficult, the best way to gain independent impartial insight is via a mystery shop. 3. What parent profile should the mystery shopper have?
2. Who to tell about the shop?
Often schools choose to keep the fact the school is being mystery shopped a secret. This can be to relieve stress on those who may worry if they know such a process is happening and to stop them guessing who the visitor is. . However telling your staff that you are having a mystery shop can be beneficial. It is a strong signal to all staff that the school tour process is important, and thus promotes the concept that recruitment of pupils is important to the school and at the heart of its success. A great way to start building a marketing and recruitment culture amongst staff.
3. What parent profile should the mystery shopper have?
It is important that the profile of the mystery shopper fits that of the school. As this is a review of the actual admissions process, the mystery shopper must fit a demographic of parents that you are already successfully bringing into the building. If you are receiving no enquiries of a certain type of target family the work needs to be done on marketing your school to get them through the door. The first step is attracting them, the second is converting them on the visits.
4. What should a mystery shop of a school cover?
The mystery shopper should mirror the behaviour of a typical parent. The shop should therefore cover typical parental research, e.g. looking on social media, the school website and searching via google. It should also include details of the booking process for a tour, in order that this can be evaluated. The tour process itself needs to be looking at key areas such as: Who the parent meets, How personalised it is to their requirements, How long it takes, Rating of the facilities and overall impression. Monitoring any follow up after the tour also needs to be part of the process.
We hope this has given you some food for thought if you are looking at mystery shopping your school. Our prices for a mystery shop start from £595. For further details please call us on 07971 101088 or email email@example.com or complete our online enquiry form here.