Making the decision of which early childhood education centre to trust with their children’s education is a huge decision for many parents. For some, early childhood education centres may be the first time their child has been cared for by someone else.
In many cases for parents, it’s not about which centre is most conveniently located or the most affordable — but which centre can be trusted to provide the highest quality care. The best way for parents to find this information is through customer feedback and online reviews from the families who already use your service.
Online customer feedback is the new word of mouth and is essential for your early childhood education centre’s marketing strategy. With 91% of 18 to 34-year olds putting as much trust in online reviews as they do in personal recommendations, mums and dads are taking to the internet to decide whether your centre is the right choice for their children.
Customer feedback for business success
Data from across a range of sources highlights the importance of customer feedback for businesses to thrive. The message is clear — positive customer feedback and reviews online can help your centre attract more families. In a U.S. study, 93% of consumers confirmed that online reviews have an impact when it comes to choosing where to direct their time and money. If you think your competitive pricing will be the difference for your centre, consider this: 63% of consumers were willing to spend up to 15% more for the same product or service if they believed that the quality would be higher.
Feedback doesn’t have to be visible to everyone for it to improve or grow your business either. Just hearing what you’re doing right — or what you could be doing better — directly from the families who already use your service can help you to assess and update the way your centre runs.
Getting feedback from families
If you are ready for your centre to start gathering customer feedback online, you might be wondering how you can go about it. It’s one thing to know that feedback is important, but the next step is to create ways for your families to get the feedback to you.
Customer feedback can be gathered through a variety of means, including:
- Online surveys and feedback forms: You can make a free online survey for your centre’s families, past and/or present, with a tool like Google Forms or Survey Monkey and email it to them for feedback delivered in a private space.
- Social media feedback: Facebook recommendations are easy for people to leave and are a commonly viewed place for prospective families to research your business and its culture.
- Online reviews on relevant sites: There are many websites that list child care centres and provide families with the opportunity to rate and review the services. For example, consider the importance of your ratings on Care For Kids.
- Google reviews: As the world’s most popular search engine, the quality of your listing on Google can have a huge impact on your business. More on this later.
So, how do you get customer feedback rolling in from your families? It’s simple — just ask them!
Asking for customer feedback
You can ask in person, via email or over the phone. Some businesses might opt to outline the ways that feedback can be left online on signage in the reception area or noticeboard, or it can be included on brochures, newsletters or business cards. Feedback forms and surveys can be sent out to your families at various points in the year to provide the opportunity for people to provide feedback privately if they prefer. If you’re hoping to share feedback provided privately for marketing purposes, best to make your intentions clear and ask for permission.
When you are asking for customer feedback in the form of online reviews, it is important to familiarise yourself with the legalities that should be considered. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) makes these three points, stating that businesses should NOT:
- encourage family and friends to write reviews about your business without disclosing their personal connection with your business in that review
- write reviews when you have not experienced the good or service reviewed or which do not reflect a genuinely held opinion
- solicit others to write reviews about your business or a competitor’s business if they have not experienced the good or service.
Offering incentives in exchange for customer feedback can be tempting, but if you choose to do this then you must ensure that your incentives are offered regardless of the nature of the feedback. The ACCC explains that incentives can be used only if:
- incentives are offered equally to consumers likely to be complimentary and consumers likely to be critical, and positive and negative reviews are treated the same
- the reviewer is expressly told that the incentive is available whether the review is positive or negative
- the incentive is prominently disclosed to users who rely on affected reviews
Google Reviews to help business grow
We know that online reviews are important to parents who are in the research phase of finding an early childhood education centre that fits their criteria and they feel comfortable with. So, where are they doing this research? While Facebook is popular, for most people, it’s via Google.
To be able to ask for Google reviews from your customers, you will need to be searchable via Google Maps. This requires you to have a Google Maps listing, plus if you want to be able to reply to your customers’ reviews (which you definitely do), you will need to verify your business with Google. This process involves Google sending your business a verification code usually by post, though phone and email verification is possible for select businesses. Once verified, you can begin to receive Google reviews, edit your business listing including name, hours and phone number, or even claim an existing listing if one already exists for your business.
Once your business is set up to receive Google reviews, you can start asking your customers to leave reviews by providing them with your personalised link that takes them right where they need to go.
Get the most from good feedback (and bad)
It would be ideal to be able to request only positive feedback from your families, but chances are you will face some negative reviews or less than ideal ratings from time to time. While this might distress you, try to take it on as a learning opportunity. Is there something you can do to avoid this type of feedback in the future? Feedback that is less than glowing can provide your business with the chance to learn and grow. Discuss with educators how your centre can prevent similar issues occurring in the future, or how you can improve families’ experiences.
Sometimes customer reviews may appear online that seem unlikely or simply untrue. These situations can be frustrating, but they also give you the opportunity to showcase your professionalism and quality service through a thoughtful and carefully worded reply. This shows your prospective families that even if issues do arise, your team is capable of handling things with care and competence.
With customer feedback incorporated into your marketing strategy, your happy families can showcase your child care centre to other families in your community. This powerful tool also helps you to understand what you are doing right and what areas might need work. Start gathering online reviews to grow and enhance your business!
Get in touch today or check out early childhood education courses.