In the increasingly online world, where consumer reviews play a significant part in decision making it's easy to get caught out. One disgruntled parent can have a huge impact on business by using social media and review websites to disseminate their views, quickly and easily.
While some forums offer providers an opportunity to respond and address queries, many do not and this can have disastrous consequences for business… especially in the early childhood sector where parents are reliant on each other for inside information.
Technology has fundamentally changed the way customers interact with businesses and the SalesForce 2019 State of the Connected Customer survey showed 75 per cent of companies expect businesses to use new technologies to create better experiences for them.
In addition, research by BrightLocal showed that 82 per cent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses with 52 per cent of 18-54 year olds saying they always read reviews before making a decision on something.
Their research also showed that a single negative review can drive away approximately 22 per cent of customers, whereas three negative comments can drive away up to 59 per cent of customers.
In the early education sector this situation is exacerbated by oversupply in some areas, which means unhappy parents are more likely than ever to vote with their feet when a provider doesn’t deliver a good experience, and they are likely to be noisy about it.
So how can early childhood providers best meet the needs of the connected customer and avoid far-reaching fallout in instances where something doesn’t go according to plan?
Sales Force, the company which conducted the Connected Customer survey has these suggestions:
1. Put customers at the centre of the business
Customers now have the power to fully determine the future of a business. Companies win loyalty with these customers by treating them like individuals and anticipating their needs. While technology makes it easier for customers to switch providers, it also makes it easier for providers to proactively engage with and understand customers.
2. Embrace the culture of immediacy
While the early education sector doesn't follow the same operating procedures and business model as other service providers, operators can still learn from best practice in other sectors and embrace the immediacy of connected customers. This means being prepared to respond to customer queries in real time and proactively pushing out information.
3. Get smart about personalisation
Be prepared to tailor your marketing communication to meet the individual needs of your customers and try and use your operating experience to understand and anticipate the needs of the different parent groups within your service. Parents of younger children may want different information to preschool age children and the same can be said for children with special needs or from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
4. Reinvent your sales process
Ensure the people answering your phone and responding to email/online questions from prospective parents have the information and training to deal with queries and provide timely answers. Proactively and quickly offering parents information, tours and an orientation kit will help you convert a query into a booking.
5. Lead with instant, varied and personal customer service
While many providers don't have access to a team of social media experts to advise on strategy, there are other ways to provide an enhanced customer service. You could set up a closed Facebook group and post real time updates during the day or you may like to use an online service to deliver learning journeys and children’s portfolios online. A real-time video stream available to parents only is another option.
6. Don't fear disruption – become a disruptor
The connected world is in its infancy and businesses are still working out the best ways to adapt and respond. Try and take a positive and proactive approach to staying abreast of innovation and change and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Read more from the SalesForce Survey here.
Remember CareforKifds.co.nz offers early education services a range of sophisticated technology based solutions to make it easier to connect with the parents, carers and whanau in your community. This includes tools to make it easy for parents to rate and review your service, request a tour functionality and the ability to showcase images, videos and social feeds on your CareforKids.co.nz profile page.