Why every great swim school needs a great form
Swim school owners work with hundreds of clients each week, and getting a new client onto the system needs to be handled as swiftly and simply as possible. For a larger swim school there is software available to simplify the process, allowing your clients to book onto their classes themselves, but for smaller swim schools who can’t justify the cost of bespoke software, and for swim schools who like to allocate swimmers to classes themselves, booking a new client can feel like a complicated procedure.
A good on-boarding system will cut admin time right down – if clients can book in quickly and easily, and they feel that they have had the opportunity to share everything they need to, they won’t need to contact you via phone or email. Adding payment links and an automated system will streamline the process even further.
I have to be honest here and share that my parents’ swim school have never embraced the digital age – when my mum started the school in the early eighties she would post out an application form which clients would fill out and post back. Her nod to IT was to introduce a pdf version of the same form which clients would often print, fill out, scan and return via email – it really did emphasise that if your teaching is good, clients will do whatever it takes to join your lessons. My parents have run a very successful swim school with over 500 swimmers enrolled and long waiting lists, so I absolutely know that a swim school can be run very successfully without the need for digital forms. My experience has taught me that all of that paperwork (and the phone calls that come with it) is incredibly time consuming, and improving it with a more efficient enrolment system saves hours each week.
Let’s discuss some options to simplify your client on-boarding process and get those swimmers into the pool.
Keep it Intuitive
If your client has children they wish to book for classes (and if they have the financial means to afford the classes), the likelihood is they will be busy people and they will be put off by seemingly endless forms and paperwork. Large swim schools and franchises have the on-boarding process down to a fine art, and they can afford the man hours to chase clients to make sure they are on the system. As a smaller swim school, we have a limited number of hours to dedicate to admin. Clients should understand how to use your on-boarding system, whether it’s a form or an online booking software, within seconds of seeing it. Forms should gather exactly the information you need from your clients without wasting any of their time, and they should be slick and bug-free to use. Clients should have the ability to book in multiple swimmers and they should be able to do so without needing to contact anyone for admin support. Try sketching out your on-boarding process on paper, along with everything you need from your client at each stage to work out ways to streamline the system you currently use. Are you getting enough information at each point? Are there snags to the system – do clients with particular needs in common tend to need a lot of extra support via email or phone and can you do anything to support them further and automate the process? Is there a field in your form that clients often use incorrectly? Why does that happen? Does the field need rewording? Which information on your form should be required (so that clients can’t proceed through the form without entering it) and which is optional? Are the buttons all easy to spot and visible on mobiles, tablets and desktops?
Break Down Information
If you offer classes for children, you need to collect contact information for the parents too (and you don’t need to know anything about the parents’ swimming ability). If an adult is booking classes for herself you need to know whether she can swim already and what she hopes to gain from her lessons with you. If you are booking a family onto a parent and child course you may wish to know about the medical details and swimming experience of both the adult and child. These various scenarios highlight the importance of a conditional form that shows only relevant fields to each client. Good form building software will show and hide sections of the form based on information entered by a client – think of it as leading your swimmer down a very specific path based on the information they have given you. A simple starting question would be:
“Are your booking lessons for an adult or a child?”
From there, you will only be asking questions relevant to your client and their situation. A long form with every possible field on display feels overwhelming and clients may give up before they’ve started – calling you to book their swimmers in person, or even worse giving up and finding another swim school. List out the client types who come to you for lessons and the information you need from them. Do you offer private classes and small group classes? Do you have different levels available on different days of the week – in which case you want to make sure people can select from only the slots that are actually running.
Various form builders offer the option of conditional forms (although it is usually a payable extra) so have a play and work out which fields work for your business.
“Do you wish to share any other information that will help us book your lessons?”
Adding this simple question to your form, along with a nice big box for a response, can save you hours. While some clients will enter only the most important facts into their form, others will have had experiences in the past or may have specific needs they want to share. You may have a client whose daughter has been put off swimming by a terrifying near-drowning experience, or another who wants to fast track her son to the top of the local squad by age nine. You may have an adult with a phobia of water, or a teenager who is embarrassed about the fact they have never learned to swim – or an ex-competitive swimmer with very specific coaching requirements. You may have a client who isn’t comfortable adding her daughter’s learning or behavioural difficulties to a “Medical Conditions” section on the form, but who does need those needs shared.
Clients want to be heard, and an opportunity for them to talk about their personal requirements can be such a game changer in terms of on-boarding and customer service. Some people won’t enter anything – someone else will write reams, but giving clients the option will streamline your on-boarding system and give you the opportunity to place clients in exactly the right class. Best of all, you get to read and respond to their needs in your own time – not if they catch you on the phone when you’re exhausted after a full day’s teaching.
Payment Options and Automated Emails
Form building software will often give you the paid option to accept money from your clients when you book them in. That may not suit every swim school – you may want to ensure there is a suitable available space before accepting any money, but it’s a really useful option to have. Any way of making sure clients can pay quickly and easily will always be a winner.
Whether you use a second form as a means of collecting payment (sending an offer of a place via email which includes a form link allowing clients to agree to terms and conditions and make a payment in one go) or not, it is important that payments are easy to make. Other options to simplify payment could include the use of pay links or direct debits via Go Cardless, or a payment window within your website allowing clients to accept the place and book online.
Automated emails can simplify your workflow, allowing clients to quickly receive the information and pay links they need to get started with you and you can send out an automated email with links and attachments when offering or confirming a booking. Take a look at MailChimp and Zapier for some great ideas for automated workflow solutions.
Good form building software will give you the option to add choices via drop down menus, check boxes or radio buttons to your form and these are a brilliant way to clarify your client’s needs and speed up the time it takes for them to complete the form – use them wherever possible, giving clients the option to add an “other” detail wherever necessary.
Add Hidden Fields
A hidden field contains information that only admin can see via the “backend” of the form – simply put, it means that when you access the clients’ form entries via the database on your form builder, you will be able to add or view information to each client’s submission that they won’t be able to see. A simple workaround using hidden fields is to add a calculation to work out a swimmer’s age in months or years based on the date of birth entered by the client. You can also add radio boxes so that you can record whether a client is booked in for a particular day and time or on the waiting list, and you can then use that information to filter your database to show you the details for clients enrolled on a particular day or at a particular level. You can add notes on clients files that will only be seen by the admin team, which is a great way to share information.
Your main goal is to simplify your workflow long term and get your on-boarding system as automated as it possibly can be. This always takes extra energy and time initially, but it saves hours moving forwards. I hope some of these ideas will be useful for your swim school – if you would like any support with designing an on-boarding system or a conditional form, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org, or use my contact form.