ORLANDO – Officials for Sylvan Learning, a leading provider of tutoring to students of all ages and skill levels with more than 800 centers in North America, wanted to create a systematic and scalable loyalty program that embraces word-of-mouth opportunities across the full customer lifecycle.

Sara Costello, Senior Director of Marketing for Sylvan Learning, and Francesca Muhlbaier, Local Marketing Manager, shared their loyalty program strategy during a Thursday session, “Optimizing Your Referral/Loyalty Program Through Integrated Marketing and Operations.”

Given the fact that 42% of Sylvan Learning’s customers were influenced by a referral source, Costello and Muhlbaier wanted to create a loyalty program because they said referred families enroll faster, stay longer, and are more satisfied.

As a franchise organization, Sylvan Learning sought to develop a new operational process to span person-to-person referrals, plus online reputation management (one-to-many influence). The full process includes: marketing automation, in-center sales and operations training, branded marketing support, and reporting and analytics.

Company objectives were:

•Pilot in front half 2013, refine, and then launch to system in back half 2013.

•Drive Incremental Referred Inquiries and Enrollments.

Launch Tactics

•Find interested and motivated franchisees.

•Train center staff.

•Track with them on an ongoing basis.

•Refine program for system launch.

The program, “Rewards for Life,” comprises free family lifetime assessments which build lifetime value. Referral rewards operate as follows: If a Sylvan family’s friends/family enroll at Sylvan, both families earn a free week at Sylvan.

Addressing its online reputation, Sylvan’s referral/loyalty program rewards families for posting online reviews and sharing referrals socially.

A new operational process was developed for center staff. For their in-center activities, Pilot Centers received: an operations manual, training, collateral, job aids, an action item checklist, and brochures that explain the program to customers, and includes ‘Gift of Learning Certificates’.

Sylvan Learning’s philosophy for the program is:

Make it easy and valuable for the customer.

Start the conversation early on.

Keep it top of mind.

Make sure all staff knows it’s vital to the business.

Make it part of daily center operations.

Since the pilot program launched, customers like the program, franchisees like the structure and reporting, and center staff appreciate the support and materials.

The goals of the full program launch scheduled for the fourth quarter include establishing two key promotional times of the year, and integrating the program into the mySylvan parent and student portals to automate the program nationally and reward additional behaviors.

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