If you want the unvarnished truth about your business, ask your customers. We did that, but we also wanted to create a platform where they could share their experiences with others. So, Zipwhip hosted its first-ever virtual summit on business texting called ConText.
It was a huge success. Over the course of two days, we introduced dozens of Zipwhip customers to a virtual audience that was eager to hear how they use business texting to connect with their customers. There were so many great stories to feature, but for this blog post we narrowed down the scope to focus only on businesses that specialize in education—specifically the growing tutoring franchise industry.
Today, with remote learning being the primary teaching method for a lot of school districts across the country due to COVID-19, many parents are seeking tutoring services for their children to supplement the teacher-led instruction they receive via Zoom calls with their class. Not all schools are closed, but the pandemic has put some parents in a challenging position, juggling their work-from-home job while also ensuring their child (or children) don’t fall behind as a result of a virtual learning environment.
Why business texting scores high marks with tutoring centers and parents
Just as tutoring services help students learn, build confidence and turn that knowledge into higher grades, business texting helps tutoring companies run more effectively, which saves them time and money. Instead of calling parents to confirm appointments, reschedule a session or share updated information, tutoring franchises can send texts using the desktop or mobile app tied to their landline phone number; the same number customers can call if they choose to speak with someone directly.
Not all tutoring companies use texting in the same way, but there are some common use cases that many of these learning centers use, such as texting parents to schedule appointments, sending reminder texts about upcoming sessions, and sending limited time offers to increase enrollment.
Texting tools help tutoring centers work smarter and faster
Scheduled Messages is a popular feature that allows employees to set up texts in advance so they can be sent at the right time, without needing to rush and send them during busy periods or run the risk of forgetting to send them entirely. Zipwhip’s two-way conversational texting makes communicating fast, easy and feel completely natural, unlike texting providers that only allow one-word replies, such as “yes,” “no” or “confirm.” And text exchanges with parents can be completed in minutes, providing both parties with a record of the conversation. You can’t get that with a phone call.
Group Messaging is a feature that lets a tutoring company send one text to multiple recipients (as a bcc), which is helpful when promoting a deal tailored for certain age groups or grade levels for better response rates.
Auto Replies help ensure a good customer service experience, especially when used at peak hours when a personal reply may take longer than usual or sent in response to texts received after the tutoring center is closed. Sending an autoreply lets a parent know their message was received and that it will be answered at the earliest opportunity.
Learn what these tutoring center professionals say about using Zipwhip
For a look into how business texting improves the way tutoring centers operate, read the following Q&A sessions that we recently conducted with three of our customers.
Director of Marketing and Offsite Contracts
Sylvan Learning Center, Pearland, TX
Could you tell us a bit about your tutoring business?
We’re a full-service tutoring center offering service s to kids from pre-K all the way up through college. Typically, the students arrive at our location after school for additional help. But with COVID and everything that’s been going on this year, we’re now also assisting with school support. We have kids in the center all day, on various days of the week. We meet with parents, sometimes daily and other times monthly. There is a lot of communication going on, which is why we love Zipwhip so much.
How else do you use texting in your learning center?
We use Zipwhip mainly for parent communication. Whether it’s rescheduling students, moving their tutoring hours. It’s been so easy for parents to shoot us a text message and say, “Hey so-and-so is not feeling well today, can we move it to Wednesday?” Or in the event they have something else going on, “Friday doesn’t work, let’s move it to next Tuesday.” We can then send a quick response, “Yep, sure. No problem. How does 3:30 sound?” It’s over and done in a matter of seconds instead of playing phone tag. It’s just so much faster.
Are there other ways that you use business texting?
Aside from parent meetings and schedule adjustments, we use it for marketing. We do sales every few months, and it’s an easy way for us to shoot out a text message to a group, usually our current families, and let them know about upcoming sales.
What was your inspiration for using Zipwhip? Were you trying to solve a problem?
We started using Zipwhip eight months ago. It came highly recommended from another Sylvan franchisee. They made it sound so easy to keep up communication with parents. The phone tag issue that I mentioned happens a lot, and so it eliminated that problem for them almost altogether. And so, we figured, “You know what, let’s give it a try and see how it goes.” And we love it.
What’s your favorite texting feature, and how do you use it?
Our favorite feature would be scheduling messages ahead of time. For myself, scheduling marketing messages out has been really great. But it’s also been great for the center director. If they’re sitting down with a parent and the parent says, “Oh, hey, can you remind me on this day that you’re having that sale?” or “Yeah, I want to move the hours next week, but I’m not sure which day yet. Can you remind me next week, and we’ll talk about it then?” The director can literally schedule the text message for next week. It’ll go out to the parent, and the parent can just reply, “Yep, let’s do 6:30.”
Do you have any customer retention stories you can share?
We had a family that had been coming to us for tutoring services in the spring. When COVID hit they withdrew their students because nobody knew how long [the pandemic] was going to go on, or what was going to happen with the schools. But they continued to get our marketing text messages. I think that helped keep us in mind throughout the summer. They received a message from us about a back-to-school sale we were doing, and they replied and wanted to get their students back on the schedule. It just made it easy for them. We were always there, and all they had to do was reply to the text message. It was easy for us. There wasn’t really anything that we had to do to get them back. We just sent our normal marketing text message, and they replied, and now they’re back with us.
It sounds like you’re emphasizing the ease of using Zipwhip. Is that correct?
Yes. Everything is just so easy to use with text messaging. I mean, we used to spend so much time in the center following up with phone calls. It was a task that could take an hour to two hours a day, just going through inquiry phone calls or following up with families. And you don’t realize how much time you’re sitting there and it’s ring, ring, ring, “Leave a voicemail.” It’s just so much easier to shoot out a group text message or just text someone individually. And they typically respond instantly. We’ve cut that time at least in half. We snow pend about 30 minutes sending out a group text for marketing or individual family texts for scheduling or meetings and things like that.
What has your return on investment been related to business texting?
We’ve had a lot of success with Zipwhip. Text messages are so much faster to send, and they have saved us on labor. We don’t have to have someone sitting in the office going through phone calls for follow-up. Now it’s something that a director can do in just a few minutes. So that is our biggest return on investment. But also, just the ease of communication for parents. I feel like they are more likely to come back to us and schedule with us because they can just shoot us a text and not have to formally sit down and make a phone call. And it is not a whole conversation anymore that could last 10 to 15 minutes. It’s just a two-minute text, “Sure. No problem.” And you get on with your day.
What would you say to another tutoring center about adopting texting?
What are you waiting for? Just give it a try, seriously. If they try it for a month, I don’t think they’d go back to doing it the other way. Everybody is doing it now. I mean, retailers, I get text messages all the time. And I like it. I like being able to look at it quickly. It’s not bogging down my email. And I can look at it and discard it if I want or reply instantly. It’s just so much easier.
Owner (multiple locations)
Tutoring Club, Valencia, California
Could you tell us a bit about your tutoring business?
We work with kids K through 12. Tutoring explains itself, but we’re a professional organization that’s been around almost 30 years now. We do a lot of SAT, ACT prep. It’s just amazing, the benefits we offer to the community. Especially now with online learning, the kids need us so desperately now.
How do you use texting in your tutoring center?
We primarily use it for scheduling purposes and for following up on all of our social media advertising. It’s less invasive in a lot of cases than calling someone and having them off guard when they answer the phone. They may feel, “Oh my gosh, it’s whoever and I’m not ready for this call.” So, I’ve integrated it into my sales quite a bit, as a technique for relaxing the customers, to set them up for a call that I’m going to make to them. Zipwhip is going nonstop all day long with us. We use it constantly.
What inspired you to begin using Zipwhip
I don’t like to give my personal cell phone number out to people. So, if I wanted a customer to text me information or something, the only source I had was my personal cell phone. I don’t want to carry two phones anymore. I became familiar with Zipwhip and it has just made life so much easier. A lot of our customers will need to reschedule their kids’ appointments for the day. It was such a nightmare in the old days, where they would be calling in and you’d have customer after customer calling in. We ask everybody to call no later than noon to reschedule for that day. You can imagine between 11:45 and 12:00, the phone was ringing like crazy. That’s just uncomfortable. With Zipwhip, I’ve made everybody aware, just text us your changes. You’ve got a record of it. We’ve got a record of it and we don’t worry about it. It’s done. It’s saved us a ton of time, a ton of time.
How else does texting improve your tutoring business?
We mention it on our social media sites. We say that they can text the same number they call. It’s something that we found, a lot of the moms and dads that want our services, they’re sitting at work and they can’t necessarily hop on a phone call to talk about what and how we do things, but they can send out texts. So, we can communicate with people at work via text and not have to worry about them saying, “Oh, I’ve got to go because my boss is coming.”
What would you say your return on investment has been?
Well, that’s certainly something you must calculate in business with all your purchases, but in this case, it’s a no-brainer. In my case, payroll is one of my top two expenses, so by knowing in advance who’s not coming today I can adjust my employee schedule. It saves me tons of money. It’ll save me $80 to $100 a day in wages. Minimum. Probably twice that.
Can you tell us about any additional benefits of texting?
You want referrals and testimonials that you can put on social media pages. So, we ask for testimonials by text. Customers can text them quite readily. It’s much easier. “Oh, you guys were so great, the kids enjoyed this or that, or we’ve come so far.” They can very easily text some great compliments to us. Whereas if we ask them to go to Google or Yelp, that requires them to go to this, go do that. It’s just not as convenient and they just don’t always do it.
How has texting changed how you communicate with your tutoring customers?
There’s this up-and-coming generation that doesn’t know how to communicate. They’re just not comfortable looking you in the eyes and talking to you. They’re much more comfortable sitting there and texting you. I’ll have people text me and they’re 20 feet away in the waiting room. Electronics are just the way they do business.
What would you say to other tutoring centers considering texting?
Some franchisees are so penny conscious that they’re just not thinking ahead. It reminds me of my early days. Franchisees would say, “Oh, I’m not going to accept credit cards because it costs so much money.” But when you get them to realize that you have to accept credit cards they don’t go back. Nowadays, texting has to be part of your business. It’s just what we do. It just has to be part of it.
How do you like using the group messaging feature?
It’s nice. We have our customers broken down into different categories. So, if we have something that we want to address towards families that have high school kids, we can text just those people. If it’s a different age group, we can text just those people. If it’s a mass text, then we’ll text it out to everybody, such as “We’re closed this Wednesday” or “We’re open this Friday.” It’s just invaluable. Everybody sees the text; they don’t always go to your Instagram or Facebook page for information.
Owner and Teacher
Sylvan Learning Center, Oak Harbor, Washington
Could you tell us a bit about your tutoring business?
Students come for a variety of reasons. They may need to get caught up because the remote learning environment isn’t working for them. Others come to have school support because the parents need to be at work and they’re not able to help their students to get online. We’re also here for afterschool hours. We work with students who need to catch up and keep up with homework support. We also work with students who want a place where they can just open up and just let the engine run and let their brain just feed as much as they want, not being limited by what the class is doing in school.
What frustration has texting eliminated in your tutoring business?
When we were only using emails and phone calls, we had to make sure we were tied to the phone to receive calls. And we needed to make sure we were calling to give reminders about appointments for students who were coming up for assessments or ongoing conferences or enrollment conferences. Most of the time those calls would go to voicemail. We would leave a message and hope it was listened to before the appointment. We would feel frustrated when we had people who didn’t show up for their assessments. And so, when we saw the opportunity to text, we knew that our society had really moved to it. It was a way for us to have instant communication with customers.
How has Zipwhip helped improve customer communications?
We now send out text reminders such as, “Hey, we’re looking forward to seeing you today at 3:00 for your assessment.” It’s an opportunity to provide more customer service. We found that we were getting better responses, customers were more consistent about coming in and making their appointments. We didn’t even know how it was going to pay off in terms of us communicating with our teachers. We only saw it as getting more customers to come and make their appointments. But with our teachers, it has blossomed and become something absolutely wonderful as well.
Do you have any benchmarks showing improved customer service?
In the past we relied on phone calls and email. Now, 45% of customers text us. With email, we had to wait an average of eight hours for them to respond, but with texting, it’s a matter of five minutes and we can get that response. We can find out what they need and how we can serve them. Our customer service marks are improving because it allows us to give them the service that we want to provide in the timeframe that they want us to give it. Our customer satisfaction level is great; it’s 4.9 out of 5. I’m happy about that.
What is your favorite feature and how are you using it?
I enjoy that I can schedule texts. I do work all day long and so when I’m thinking, oh, I need to text so-and-so and it’s 11 o’clock at night, I’m not going to text them right then. I can hope they have their “Do Not Disturb” on, but I don’t know that. And how rude would that be to communicate that late at night? So, I can schedule a text to go out at a reasonable hour the next morning to get as quick a response as I can. I also love that I can have Zipwhip on my phone. Being able to text our clients in real time is helpful. But also, I can set up texts to go out in the evening, the night before they’re going to come in for an appointment. Or I can set it up for the morning of an appointment. I can decide when they’re going to receive that text and I appreciate that.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about texting?
I’m thankful to Zipwhip for the customer service. Right from the get-go, [our rep] did a great job. And when I had questions or concerns, I called in for customer support and they have all been positive experiences. I also like that I can put emojis in there. I think it’s wise that texts have a character limit. There are times when I want to say a lot, but it holds me in check by letting me know when I’ve gone over the 600 character count limit. Texts should be short. So, I’m appreciative of that.
Get started with texting for your tutoring business today
To learn more about texting for independent or franchise tutoring companies, visit our solutions page for the educational industry. You’ll find that business texting is one of the most effective ways to connect with your customers. And with pricing plans that fit any size budget, it’s one of the best returns on investment you can receive.