Customer Experience in ECE, Family Engagement Is Just The Beginning


Customer experience in ECE, what does this look like and how can we ensure that families are offered the best experience as a customer?  This blog post is the first in a series of family experience/customer experience resources designed to help you deliver the best possible experience and outcomes for families at your centre(s). These resources are produced in partnership with Sky Blue Customer Experience Services and supported with videos from Sky Blue CEO Tom Scantlebury. Here is the first video where Tom will talk about this very important topic!

We are living in a time where technology has completely transformed our world as a whole. The digital age is well and truly upon us, and much of the adult population were born “digital natives”. A digital native is a person who grew up with technology in their world. They are generally comfortable with and fluent in digital technology. When you consider this, it is easy to see why they use the power of the internet and its various tools to aid them in seeking information and making important decisions. It is important to remember that the parents of children in your learning service are digital natives.

When you consider the rapid advances seen in technology, it comes as no surprise that the digital age has had a massive impact on all education sectors. For those working in ECE, this has changed the way we operate in many different ways. Firstly, Storypark wouldn’t even exist if smartphones and digital devices were not part of our daily lives. Another impact the digital age has made in recent years is that consumers have more power than they ever have had before. Some are even saying that this is the age of the consumer. You may be wondering what this has to do with your early learning service, and why is it so important to consider? Well, your business reputation and brand is no longer solely in your hands. Instead, it is now in the hands of your customers, your staff and your local community. They have a digital voice, and they are using this opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences about your learning service. 

Research from Sky Blue Customer Experience Services tells us that 40% of families find out about your learning service through word of mouth. These recommendations come from current or past families, families that have visited your centre, current or past staff, suppliers you use for resources, and even the local community. The vital thing to consider is this; they share their opinions about your learning service, based primarily on how they feel about you. In addition to this, 23% of families find out about your early childhood centres online; in particular, they are looking for online reviews. With a whopping 88% of people trusting online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations, you can see that your centre’s reputation, and indeed success, is truly in the hands of others. In addition, ACECQA’s 2019 NQF Annual Performance Report found that a whopping 78% of respondents relied on word of mouth to inform them about the service quality of a learning service.

When considering purchasing an expensive or essential product or service, do you discuss it with family and friends? Do you look for reviews or more information online? Chances are, the answer is yes. Now consider families making the critical decision of finding a quality learning service for their children. It is highly likely that they do their “homework” and don’t just believe what they read on your website, or what you tell them when you visit. This decision is probably one of the most critical decisions they have made in a while, and they will likely listen to others’ opinions, whether in person or online. These opinions give families far more confidence in their decision. 

Tom Scantlebury from Sky Blue Customer Experience Services shared “This is where we have found a significant gap in the sector – the lack of visibility and awareness of a centre’s reputation is a blind spot. There might be a few Google reviews for reference, but apart from that, centre directors and owners have to go off what they THINK their impression is.”

The Sky Blue team also discovered that 1 in 10 parents are actively unhappy about something at their child’s learning service at any point in time. 10% are at risk of leaving their learning service. The critical thing to point out here is that whether these families go or not, they are likely to damage your reputation. They don’t necessarily share their concerns or worries with the learning service. However, they are likely to share them with others. 

When thinking about these families, think about all of their experiences at your learning service.  (This is called the customer journey). Things can go wrong during their time with you.  Their child may suffer from separation anxiety, or there may have been recent staff changes. Their child may have had multiple accidents or have caught several illnesses. So many highs and lows come with having a child in an early learning service. Things WILL go wrong at times, and when families aren’t willing to share these problems with you, this is a risk to your reputation. 

27% of families that leave a learning service do so because they are unhappy. The astonishing thing about this is that HALF of these families do not tell the centre the reasons why they are unhappy. 27%!! Don’t forget, though, as mentioned earlier, most of these families share their concerns with others. 

As if these figures aren’t daunting enough, it is not only the families of children enrolled at your learning service that can impact your reputation. It is their family and friends, community members, students and other external sources that can help shape the way the public perceives you. 

Let’s look at this in another way. Consider your reputation as a bank balance. Every interaction you have with someone within and outside of your learning community, earn you either a deposit, a withdrawal or zero change. The way people feel about your learning service is moulded by every interaction they have with you and your teaching team. From this, their impression can either stay the same, improve, or get worse. 

Understanding and improving your reputation is about managing customer experience (CX for short), which may mean challenging your thinking around what ‘family engagement’ means at your centre. CX is influenced by how your centre either meets or does not meet, customer expectations from each interaction in an early learning service. 

Tom from Sky Blue says that CX is made up of 3 parts:

  • Customer success – did the customer achieve what they aimed to achieve?
  • Customer effort – how hard was it for the customer to achieve it?
  • Customer emotion – how did they feel about it?

Mother holding daughter talking to educatorWe are excited to be working with the Sky Blue team, as they specialise in customer experience within the ECE sector. Together, We will be bringing you several more articles over the next few weeks to help you think about customer experience in YOUR learning service.

You’ll be able to learn about: 

  • Where to start when working on your CX
  • How to optimise your use of Storypark to improve CX
  • How you can improve CX when you have multiple learning services

If you’d like to learn more about Customer Experience in Early Learning from Sky Blue, click here to enrol in their free 5 lesson video introduction course, and keep an eye out in the coming weeks for more value-packed articles and resources.

We hope they’re useful in helping you create even stronger relationships with families, enhance outcomes for children and in building your reputation (and occupancy)! 

Peter Dixon

Storypark co-founder



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