This is the second part in a 2 part series from our Adoption Team Lead Jay about creating programs that will excite participating members and non-members. You can read the first installment or read on as Jay goes over ways to deliver exceptional experiences throughout the program and when providing followup after the program concludes.
There’s a popular saying that goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” There are multiple opportunities to make the first day of the program run more smoothly and make an impact on your participants/parents from the start. Do your best to organize the first day around the participants. This gives a personal touch and sense of security to both parents and participants. It allows participants/parents to put faces with names and gives them the opportunity to ask questions.
Have a program greater at the front desk or welcome center. This is just a friendly face that can direct people to the correct location and answer questions on the first day. Have your staff be easily identifiable. Coordinate a uniform and nametag or some other type of designation for the first day.
We know that most of the time, participants outnumber staff. For this reason, make sure you are using appropriate, plentiful, and clear signage. People will be looking for things to guide them and they feel more comfortable if they know where they are going.
Working in member engagement, we have heard program participants complain about lack of communication when it comes to programs. So, be sure to keep your participants well-informed throughout the program. Use technology to notify participants of last-minute updates or changes (the game got rained out!) and be sure to use multiple channels (email, social media, text) but text is king when it comes to communication – text messages are read on average within 5 seconds receiving them.
Aside from communicating change, participants also like to be informed about their progress. Consider using progress reports for each participant. These can be short and to the point (just a printed sheet with a few questions for the instructor to fill in) but they give both participants and parents more buy-in. At a glance you can see what the participant has been working on and what some of the next steps are. For example, if my child has been participating in guppy swim lessons – it would be great to know what swim skills she’s been learning – as well as what I can work with her on when we visit the pool in our free time. This creates a more engaging experience and it is a tool that could be delivered weekly or at the end of a session/program by hand or electronically. Another good idea with the progress reports is to include a section that promotes other programs, for example, a “you might be interested in…” section.
An obvious way to follow up on a program – and one that many already utilize – is to solicit feedback via surveys. Getting feedback is good, but following up on that feedback is the key to success. If people believe that nothing would change with their feedback, they’re less likely to give it. Claire Lew, CEO of Know Your Company, gives some good insight on feedback:
- Recognize the messenger – give participants incentive for giving feedback and come with a way to recognize them when they do. You can send a prelude email – or in some way – let participants know that you’ll be surveying them and that their feedback is important.
- Act on something small – People feel more comfortable giving feedback if they know that they are being “heard” and action is being taken. Find ways to broadcast some positive changes. Create a “you spoke, we listened” board.
Feedback is really important because it gives you another opportunity to connect with your program participants. Why is that important? The program isn’t really over on the last day of the program. This is your opportunity to use the feedback to evaluate and improve the following program areas:
- The people – In getting feedback, you get some insight into how the participant felt about the program. Would they participate again? Would they recommend it to a friend? How were the interactions with your staff? In doing this you get a very keen sense of areas where you can improve the program and whether you can retain these participants. Our personal experience in conducting participant surveys for organizations all over the country tells us that the number one driver in positive survey responses are your people.
- The program itself – This is how you found out if you have a viable program that can grow and be successful or if you need to rethink the program. Does it need to be held at a different time of day or a different time of the year?
- The process – You may find out that the people had a great experience, your program product itself is good, but there are some things lacking in the processes. For example, we’ve heard participants say that they would be more inclined to register for the program again if the childcare pickup was simply on a different side of the building with an awning when it’s raining. This sounds so small, but it really isn’t to your participants. Tweak these processes, and you’ll create even more demand for your programs – and a WOW program experience.
To review, there are 4 phases in which you can create a truly WOW experience for your program participants: Registration, Reminders, Participation, and Follow-up. Three final things to remember, communication is key, be personable, and success is in the follow-up.