Comment by James Leggett, Research Director at mtmconsulting.

Have you ever called your school? Do you have to go through the switchboard or is there a friendly voice? How does it compliment the ‘admissions journey’ for potential parents? Does it reflect the school ‘brand’ and uphold the image you are trying to maintain? 

As Research Director of an SME undertaking a range of school marketing and research projects, I spend a significant amount of my time on the phone, speaking to marketers, bursars and heads of schools. This gives me a pretty unique insight into standard and best practice. 

Most schools now have an automated telephone exchange, but at what cost? We have recently installed a new telephone system and whilst I am pleased not to have to dial ‘9’ for an outside line, I do resent having to press ‘0’ everytime I ring in. I much preferred the days of speaking to the receptionist, with whom you build up a rapport overtime, before being transferred to relevant individual. 

As a ‘enquirer’, I often find automated exchanges difficult to navigate, particularly due to the constant challenge of knowing which option to press. Do I need to speak to the school office, the marketing team, the Registrar or the Bursar? On first inquiry to the school just to ask about an open day, its probably not the Bursar, but what number was the Registrar again? Or should be the school office? 

Of more concern to independent school marketers is who is answering the phone when the school is closed, particularly during school holidays. I am constantly amazed how many times I have been confronted with the message ‘The school is now closed’, then been cut off. Is the school closed permanently, or just for the summer? When will it reopen? How do I speak to someone about my child joining the school in September now we have moved house? We recommend a very minimum of an answerphone which is regularly checked. Ideally, the phone should be answered as normal throughout the year, even if this is through a transfer to a mobile. This ensures continuity for current and prospective parents alike. 

It might be too late to do something about it for this summer, but perhaps bear it in mind for half term – who is answering your phone?

mtmconsulting are school research and marketing specialists, providing unrivaled strategic advice to schools. 

mtmconsulting is brand of Education Market Research Solutions Ltd