In an article entitled, "Who Survives a Downturn?" Lon Woodbury, publisher of the Woodbury Reports, gave some timely and prescient advice to therapeutic programs in his April 2008 issue when he spoke of possible rough spots ahead due to the slowing economy. He advised, rough spots or not, that:
- Programs must offer unique and individualized services to stay afloat.
- Services should be strong and a customer's (parent's) needs must also be met in order for the program services offered to be optimally effective.
- An aggressive marketing plan is crucial and should highlight what the program can provide (for services for the student and the family as well.)
These three suggestions are similar to what highly successful credit card companies do when they seek to gain business. These companies offer platinum memberships, which include special services and advantages such as frequent flyer miles and other rewards and benefits.
Why is this method so successful? It is because all consumers want optimum benefits for spending their time and money. Because of competition and costs, people expect platinum benefits from a company that ensures the highest level of service and in turn, the company will secure its clients' loyalty.
So how does a therapeutic school implement a platinum benefit package that ranks high with parents? As Lon suggested, individualized services are crucial to staying afloat in this business. Besides providing an excellent program for the child, it is also vital that parents receive instruction on the therapeutic process in terms of what to expect before, during and after their child's enrollment. Program client families also greatly benefit from learning effective parenting skills at their own pace and on their own schedule, while their child is away from home.
Ideally, the child's program, via administrator, counselor, teacher, or therapist, should be able to tailor a specific and unique learning program for the parent and be able to track each parent's progress. Another platinum benefit for parents would be the ability of their program to easily communicate with them electronically, supplying important periodic information about the child's progress, program-wide news, and even photo updates of the child. These types of strong benefits and services -- parent education, plus effective program-parent communication -- can help provide a customized and caring environment for the client parent, imparting feelings of renewed hope for a positive transition back into family life for everyone involved.
"Satisfied parents are a good source of referrals," says Lon Woodbury. Offering a platinum benefit package is a positive step in bringing more parents to your program and ensuring loyalty and further referrals. In addition, offering a continuing support system after the child has left the program will ensure positive results for everyone.
Does this sound like a lot of extra work for an already overworked staff? It does involve a great deal of design, implementation and, of course, money for a therapeutic program to tackle. However, there are companies in the adolescent therapeutic industry who have created unique and innovative ways to easily assist programs in the dissemination of educational materials and personalized services, while freeing up valuable time for therapists and staff. The platinum-type services for clients can be presented in a simple, cost-effective manner, allowing easy communication and tracking with program client families in a customized pre-packaged online service. Family IQ is a leading innovator at this.
About the author: Shari Landes works in Administration and Support at Family IQ, a leader in online parenting education which has worked out design and implementation of platinum-type services for clients in a cost-effective manner. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 888-249-9596 for more information on these services.