12 Ways to Stop Attrition in its Tracks

12 Ways to Stop Attrition in its Tracks

by Rick Newberry
From Memberanda, Spring 2013

The most important indicator of your school’s overall health is its retention rate. While it’s true that this statistic reflects your school’s performance as a whole, the admission department is typically tasked with ensuring the retention of current families. While there are many strategies that influence retention, the most important are to offer a high-quality school experience, coupled with strong parent satisfaction. However, just because a family is enrolled this year doesn’t mean that they will enroll for next year! Implement these 12 tactics as part of your re-recruitment plan to keep current families enrolled.

1. Enlist a Retention Champion

While everyone has a responsibility for recruiting families back for another year, it is important to have a retention champion. The champion should lead the effort, as well as challenge and encourage everyone’s involvement in the plan.

2. Grade Your Families

It helps to know which parents to target in your re-recruitment effort. By grading them on their likelihood to return, you can focus on those that are in question. The retention champion should lead this effort with your principal and faculty. Families that are graded as "on the fence" should be the main emphasis of your re-recruitment effort.

3. Reach out "One Family at a Time"

Through the exercise of grading your families, you now have a target list of those that are on the fence. You can now reach out "one family at a time" to this target list of families to discuss their situation and to deal with any issues that might impact their future enrollment.

4. Roll out the Red Carpet

From the receptionist to the faculty member to the administrator, everyone is responsible for serving your parents with excellence. One of the best resources on the topic of customer service is Donna Cutting’s book, The Celebrity Experience, where she discusses how to roll out the red carpet for your customers—in our case, the parents.

5. Focus on the Transition Grades

The grade levels where you will most likely lose families are your transition grades. You should make every effort to reach out to the transitioning families and "sell" them on the next level. For example, parents could be invited to a "Next Year and Beyond" meeting to be informed about the transition from the lower school to the middle school.

6. Tell Stories

Our first internal marketing priority is to tell our story to our current families. As you tell compelling stories about your students, parents, faculty, coaches, and alumni, you reinforce for parents the reasons why they should continue their investment in your school.

7. Market Internally During Re-Enrollment

Re-enrollment is more than a process; it is also a time to market the school internally. From the letter that is sent to introduce re-enrollment to key video messages, testimonials, and banners, consideration should be placed on using this process to market your school to current families and to focus on their return on investment (known as "ROI" in business terms). It costs much less to retain a current family than to recruit a new one.

8. Send Personal Notes

Everyone likes to receive a personal note, especially one acknowledging something positive about their child. Consider what would happen if your faculty and staff wrote five personal notes every week to parents and students to celebrate their successes at your school. This personal approach would go a long way in helping to retain families.

9. Serve Coffee and Conversation

By providing regular coffee-and-conversation meetings with parents, you will have the opportunity to update them on the school and open a dialogue with them, creating a feeling of inclusion. This will also create positive internal word-of-mouth as they communicate with other parents in the school.

10. Make a State-of-the-School Address

Some schools will present a state-of-the-school address to parents as a way to update them on the school and to present a vision for the future. This event can be a powerful venue for keeping families enrolled.

11. Say Thank You

While it should seem obvious to say thank you after a parent re-enrolls their child, the power of a "thank you" can go a long way. In addition, giving a gift to the student can also be meaningful. For example, my two boys just received school t-shirts with their class year on the front and the privilege to wear this shirt for a week instead of their uniform.

12. Conduct an Annual Satisfaction Survey

Measuring your parent satisfaction level on an annual basis should be an important component in your re-recruitment plan. This will help you to identify areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, so that you can improve the quality of their experience and ultimately impact retention.

Rick Newberry partners with school administrators to provide coaching and consulting in the enrollment management and marketing systems, strategies, and solutions needed to reach their goals. He writes extensively on enrollment strategy in his blog at www.enrollmentcatalyst.com/blog.


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