They are a great retention tool.
I know we all face survey fatigue from time to time. (Seems you can’t shop anywhere without being asked to complete a survey about the service you received.) This is probably true of your school's parents, too, but because such helpful information is at stake, I suggest you go ahead and ask them about their satisfaction with your school.
As you know, the more information you can get about your school’s situation, the better. It’s incredibly valuable to know the reality (rather than relying on assumptions) before starting any marketing efforts. Sending out a confidential parent satisfaction survey is wonderful for finding out how enrolled families feel. It also makes enrolled families feel good that the school cares about their experience and bettering it. So, even just the act of sending out the survey helps with retention (!)
1. Digital rules. Preferably you will use Survey Monkey or something similar. Some schools have put out paper surveys on chairs before events, such as a strings concert, for parents to complete while they are waiting. I understand the appeal of utilizing a captive audience, I really do, but digital is preferable in terms of efficiency, reliability and analysis. Perhaps instead you put a slip on the chairs asking parents to go to the survey online via their phones...
2. Include administration in drafting of survey. They may already have areas about which they are curious or concerned. This also helps get their buy-in to rectify problems. Plus, it's important to at least ask for their input.
3. Variety is good. Include questions about various aspects of the school, including programs, facilities and academic quality. Also include different question styles. Contact me for an example.
4. Parents/Guardians only. This survey's purpose is to gauge parent, not staff, satisfaction. If school administration is interested, they can send out a separate one to measure staff sentiment, and hopefully they will. Staff insight can prove invaluable.
5. Avoid holiday season. Send out Oct/Nov or Jan-March and do this annually. This information provides important information and is even better when you can compare responses from year-to-year. If possible, calendar it now for next year.
6. Manage your expectations. According to private school marketer Rick Newberry, a response rate of around 40% is considered great.
7. Share the results with your community. They want to know their responses are valued and were not a waste of time.
8. Address trouble spots. The survey responses will help you figure out where to focus your energy in retention and recruitment efforts. Hopefully your school administration will be on board to help, as well.
Want more data? Great! Be sure to review enrollment data with your school administration and check out the tips on exit surveys. If you’ve had enough with data, consider how you might deal with the known negatives at your school...we all have them...