How customer satisfaction surveys can help drive big improvements and trust in your school.
It’s one thing to know your numbers: enrollment, results on standardized tests, or budgets.
But having insight into what your parents, staff, and even the broader community think about your school, in a blinded, anonymous way, is a critical part of ensuring you’re meeting the needs of all of your stakeholders as well as the educational needs of your students.
Many schools rely on anecdotal knowledge to understand how parents and faculty feel about them.
However, this approach has the potential to be swayed by the “loudest voice in the room.” It also lacks the quantifiable metrics that allow you to track over time how your school is improving (or getting worse) in the eyes of your families.
A consistent, yearly school satisfaction survey also allows you to track how perceptions change and gives you a good set of metrics for how your school is doing.
Online customer satisfaction surveys are an easy-to-disseminate way to gather this information.
Outline Your Objectives
In creating a school satisfaction survey, you must first consider what types of information you are trying to gather.
Writing out a set of research objectives is the first step and often the most critical step in crafting a good survey.
Do you want specific answers to questions? For example:
- How did parents hear about our school?
- Are they satisfied with the athletic program at the school?
Or do you need more open-ended questions to gather more detailed information, like “What kinds of things would make our school go from good to great?”
Chances are, it’s a combination of the two, and having specific research topics identified at the beginning will allow you to write questions that answer the specific questions you have of your customers.
DIY or Hire Out?
Tools like SurveyMonkey allow schools to easily conduct online surveys, but it’s also important to consider analysis and the fact that doing it yourself may not give you the most honest answers.
No matter how strongly you feel that parents trust you to be unbiased, there is always the perception that critical feedback will have negative consequences for their child.
Outside firms, especially those that conduct surveys for other schools, can bring experience in writing school survey questions correctly, and they also provide you with comparative data that shows how well you are performing against other schools.
Key Factors to Consider When Writing Your Questions
Once you’ve established your research objectives and decided on using a professional firm or a DIY approach, it’s now time to write the specific survey questions.
Writing effective questions is both a science and an art. And often, customers can misinterpret your intent. It’s important that you have somebody review all of your questions to ensure that they are easy to understand.
As you consider what questions to ask, make sure you’re prepared to do something with the data. Consider this:
- Is this just something interesting you want to know — or will this data be actionable?
- Are the questions reflective of the respondent’s feelings — or are you asking them to provide an opinion on how others feel?
Make sure you are asking questions that reflect only the respondent’s knowledge or feelings.
Next, identify certain questions that will remain constant year over year.
A school satisfaction survey executed once is reflective only of that point in time. Having standard questions that are asked every year gives you a great metric to see how you are improving or not. I always recommend that a customer satisfaction survey should be executed every year.
You will often find that your families are a wealth of information if you merely give them the opportunity to speak and give their opinion. But be careful that you don’t overwhelm them with the amount of information you’re asking them to provide. Use open-ended questions sparingly.
One of the best questions you can ask is “What can we do better?”
This allows you to get at the most pressing thing that families want to see in your school. This question can provide a wealth of information — but you need to ask.
It is important that once you have the data that you have a plan for how to use it.
I always recommend to clients that they share the results of the school satisfaction survey with their parental base along with an action plan for key issues raised in the survey. This transparency shows that you value the concerns and opinions of your parents and are actively working to make the school a better place for them and their children.
You can also use the results in your marketing. Being able to say that you have a 95% family satisfaction rate is a powerful data point that speaks to the quality of the educational experience you are providing to families.
Surveys are a great way to understand your parent community and should be a well-used tool in your school marketing toolbox.
Good luck, and happy surveying!
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