Schools’ five-star service

  • 24th May 2024

Rachel Hadley-Leonard on the importance of ensuring that parents get an individual experience of your school


During the last Easter break, I was lucky enough to be able to experience a fabulous four-star hotel, offering five-star service. It was interesting to reflect on the fact that the shift from four to five stars wasn’t attributed to costly gimmicks or luxurious touches, but rather to the staff’s unwavering dedication to meeting and often surpassing my needs and preferences. The hotel got it right. So right in fact, that I have waxed lyrical about the hotel since returning, spread the word to many, and will almost certainly return next year.

In this increasingly uncertain future, where family finances are tight and expectations soar, the ability to tailor the customer journey to meet the unique needs and preferences of parents has become paramount within our sector. Indeed, providing an outstanding customer experience is no longer merely advantageous but essential for future-proofing our schools and to avoid joining those that are falling by the wayside, losing their identity through mergers, or shrinking in size.

Transformation needed

The transformative power that sits at the heart of this approach is a personalised customer experience for parents seeking the perfect educational fit for their children, but at a time when they are questioning every pound they spend.

Central to personalised customer journeys lie the recognition and understanding that no two families are alike. Each parent comes armed with their own set of aspirations, concerns and priorities, making the one-size-fits-all approach obsolete in today’s independent school sector. Instead, schools must embrace the art of personalisation, crafting bespoke experiences that resonate with the individual journey of each parent.

Gone are the days of a generic prospectus and mass mailings. Instead, parents crave authentic, meaningful interactions that speak directly to their interests and concerns. Whether it’s through personalised website landing pages, a tailored virtual tour specific to the child’s interests and needs, bespoke email communications, or targeted social media outreach, many schools are embracing the art of personalisation, and creating connections that feel personal and relevant to each family’s unique circumstances.

The basis

But personalisation extends far beyond the initial touchpoints of the customer journey. It permeates every facet of the parent-school relationship, from the admissions process to ongoing engagement and support. In other words, we can’t stop making families feel loved once they are through our doors. Personalisation doesn’t have to equal costly budgets, but it does mean having all staff on board.

Every single member of the school community must understand the value of each admission, and their role in ensuring that journey is outstanding for every family. And not least, embrace the underlying philosophy that an investment of a family’s two most precious commodities, their child and their income, deserves the very best customer experience.

Whether it’s addressing concerns about academic outcomes, wellbeing, or co-curricular opportunities, schools must demonstrate a genuine willingness to listen, adapt and evolve in response to parental feedback and input. I often talk with schools about becoming a ‘listening school’. Parents need to feel heard, they need to feel they have a voice, and their contributions need to be taken seriously. The sector is about to be squeezed, and parents will rightly want both value for money and exceptional service.

Get parents on board

In an era where parental involvement and advocacy play an increasingly pivotal role in a school’s success, the importance of nurturing these relationships cannot be overstated. Parent ambassadors and testimonials will always be the most effective form of marketing, and when parents feel they are part of something special they are more likely to become a lifelong advocate for the school.

Creating an exceptional customer journey is not a job for the registrar, or the marketing manager, or the head. It’s a collective endeavour for every member of the school community, together creating a five-star experience for every family along the whole journey, from first hearing about the school, to becoming a lifelong member of the alumni community.

By uniting efforts to create a five-star experience for every family, schools can foster trust, loyalty, and a sense of belonging that lasts a lifetime.

Just as the Hotel Josl in Obergurgl, Austria, left a lasting impression on me, schools have the opportunity to create similarly memorable experiences that might resonate with families for years to come, and turn moderately satisfied parents into passionate ambassadors for your school.


Rachel Hadley-Leonard is an independent marketing and admissions consultant.

Rachel Hadley-Leonard

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