Ideas to Create that Program WOW

Ideas to Create that Program WOW

By Sara Perry
Published On Jan 08, 2015

This is the first part in a 2 part series from our Adoption Team Lead Jay about creating programs that will excite participating members and non-members. In this first installment, Jay goes over ways to deliver exceptional experiences through the registration process and when providing reminders during your programs.When we think about a truly exceptional experience for program participants, there should be four distinct components – registration, a reminder, participation, and follow up. Let’s look at each of these areas sequentially for tweaks we can make to improve the member experience – and deliver that program WOW!

Program Registration:

Use your website to your, and to your program participants’ advantage. We live in a world where information is easily accessible from pretty much anywhere. We’ve been conditioned to expect the same from everything else we consume. For this reason, it is important to keep program descriptions and information up-to-date online. Make sure programs are easily searchable by using intuitive naming conventions in your operations software and entering descriptions during set-up that contain certain keywords. For example, using the term “swim lessons” versus “aquatics” during set up can save frustration for registrants.Your in-house registration can also be influenced by what you provide online. Some of the biggest registration pains that people will have involve paperwork. Why not expedite the program process and make all paperwork available online so parents can get a jump-start on the process before walking in the door. It’s also a good practice to create a landing page on your site with all the necessary program paperwork and reminders that will appear at the end of the online registration process.

Program Reminders:

Having a coach or instructor reach out just before the start of the program session is a great way to ensure participants are prepared for the first day and it also helps build rapport and ease any nerves the parent or participant may have. Give the key highlights, like the date and time to arrive for the first day, the easiest area to park/enter the facility, appropriate dress, and anything else they need to bring like snacks, a towel, or a change of clothes. A personal touch is a huge win in connecting with participants and it also ensures an easier first day for everyone.If reminder texts, mobile application messages, or a personal touch is just not an option, reminder emails are also a great way to connect with participants just prior to the start of your program. Email also may work better if you have a lot of detailed information to impart. Whether your email is a professionally designed piece to send to program participants or a personal email message from the instructor to the student, both can have a lot of impact and help create that WOW experience for program participants.In the next installment of the series, posting later this week, Jay will discuss ideas to improve programs during the participation phase and the followup phase. Stay tuned.

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.

Participation: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.

Follow-Up: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.

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