From parents' evening updates to information about upcoming day trips, schools want to make sure that every message sent reaches every parent. But it’s often not the case in reality. Our recent survey of schools showed that a fifth of respondents could safely say that 90-100% of parents had received and read a message. For most schools, it typically ranges from between 50% and 75%.
The consequence of these hard-to-reach parents is significant; the admin work associated with tracking down those parents places a burden on school staff. Often, letters will need to be printed out and sent, which costs time and money, endless phone calls will need to be made and, in some cases, teachers might even have to chase parents down on the playground.
To improve the all-important figure of engaged parents, a quarter (25%) of schools surveyed said that the use of better school communications software would likely make a difference. But before they go about a major switch, how do they assess the value they are getting from their current solution and how do they ensure that their new one fits their needs? Below is our checklist that schools should be running through before they take the plunge.
Does the software enable seamless communications across every channel?
The prevalence of slick, intuitive apps and social media interfaces has paved the way for new means of communication, meaning schools can’t rely on just texts and emails in 2023. In fact, a fifth (20%) of schools say that increasing the number of channels they use would help them to reach more parents as people consume information from new sources. This presents a challenge, however, as messages need to be replicated across both traditional means of communication, such as text and on the school website, and more modern channels, like social media. It’s added wasted time for staff.
The cure is software that enables messages to be posted through every channel simultaneously, including email, SMS, in-app messages, social media and the website, which simplifies the whole process and saves a significant amount of manual admin time.
What other features does the software offer?
Alongside the ability to post messages via a number of different channels, schools should be on the lookout for additional features. For example, does the software offer a multimedia newsfeed where photos and videos can be shared? What about smart messaging capabilities that can automatically direct messages to where parents are most likely to read them? Is there an online noticeboard, language translations and functionality to brand the app with the school’s colours? Unlike big providers that are more worried about shareholder returns, the software offered by a customer-focused provider will include these features and more to match the ways in which people now communicate.
What support does the provider give?
Once new software has been deployed, school staff might need help navigating new features and making the best use of the technology. A support line that requires them to raise a ticket and then wait 48 hours for a response is unlikely to fill them with confidence. In this scenario, the support agent usually then sifts through information to find the answer among a wide portfolio of products, with little first-hand knowledge of how they work. Instead, schools need instant access to real people who know the product inside-out and will help them with their problems.
How does the provider assist the parents themselves?
New software means that not only are school staff becoming accustomed to new ways of communicating, but so are the parents. If they need support, such as forgetting a password, it’s an admin-heavy responsibility for the school to assist. The ideal provider will offer direct support to parents via a helpline to ensure they can access the software and stay connected, giving valuable time back to staff and enabling them to focus on what matters most.
Does the provider help achieve the best ROI?
Every penny counts in the cash-strapped public sector. By sharing best practices and tips and spending time with the school right through the implementation phase and beyond, the right provider will focus on helping the school maximise their investment in the software as budgets come under strain. Unlimited training should also be provided to ensure everyone is getting the most value out of the software as possible and using it to its best potential.
Another example of a way schools can reduce costs by switching to communication software in the first instance is by cutting stationery expenditure by converting paper forms into digital versions and making use of communication channels that don’t have any hidden costs such as fair use policies.
The process of switching a software solution can seem daunting initially, but with a specialist, customer-focused partner on the side to guide staff through the process, schools can engage more parents faster and ultimately help students in their journey through education.
Discover how you can reach more parents while achieving optimum ROI. Chat with our team here.