It can be very disconcerting when families who loved you pre-COVID and even flexed with your school closings during the pandemic, may now choose NOT to come back. I call these COVID Drop-Outs. What can you do to try to salvage these enrollments, assure they have a positive customer experience, and encourage their retention and positive referrals?
First, find out why they are not re-enrolling. What has caused your non-returning families to choose not to register for the new school year. Until you know, you are assuming it is something out of your control to change, such as a change in parents’ work setting or finances, or a lingering fear of their child contracting COVID in your school. However, it could be for reasons you can manage in partnership with the family, such as a need for flexible scheduling or assurance of ongoing safety protocols.
Conduct a short online withdrawal survey with these families. Since you already have a personal relationship with them, take the time to text or call them, as well. Though your responses rate to a withdrawal survey will likely be low, you will see patterns that you may be able to address with these previous enrollees. And your personal conversations with these parents will give you more candid information than the standard survey will.
Keep this online withdrawal survey to no more than five questions, and tell recipients how long it will take them to complete it. Genevieve Carbone, Head of Marketing at Kangarootime, recommends using a free survey tool like Google Forms in the Google Workspace, or Typeform which has an affordable monthly cost.
Assure their satisfaction. If you have made some changes to accommodate the needs of this target audience, make sure it is meeting their needs. Do not assume that since they did come back, their needs will be met from their perspective. Remember to check in with them frequently, and to ask the question, “What did you expect that you are not yet receiving?”
Parent ambassadors can be very helpful in this stage of re-enrollment. You may want to assign a specific group of your Parent Ambassadors to support you in communicating exclusively with this group of returnees, and to report to you any information they shared that your team may still need to address to retain them.
Make them your marketing partners. Once you know you have successfully brought these families back into your center community and they are happy, this is a good group to remind about your Parent Referral Program. Those who say to another parent “I left, but here is what this school did to accommodate my post-COVID needs so well that we came back,” can be a powerful message to other prospects who want to know how you manage the user experience in your school.
Though the pandemic magnified reasons families might leave, parents enrolled in your center are always prospects for enrollment year to year. Use some of what you learn from conversations with COVID drop-outs to enhance the customer experience for all your enrollees.