Top Test Prep is an elite private tutoring company with headquarters in Washington, DC — a sort of test prep and admissions counseling boutique. Our advantage in the market has always been the level of personalization we bring to our programs: our entire team gets to know the clients, we write customized study plans for every student, etc. Personalization is great in that it makes our job more rewarding and it definitely helps students learn better, but it takes a lot of extra work, and certain things are difficult to scale. This is where 37signals products have come in for our academic team.
How we use Basecamp
Before 37signals, we used email to interact with our clients and manage the tutoring. When you're a tiny company, this works — sort of. When we started scaling out, it was clear we needed a separate platform. We were sending homework, lesson plans, and college essays back and forth constantly, losing track of versions and sometimes losing files altogether. One really cool thing we do for students is have the tutor write a comment after every session. It lets them and their parents know how they're doing, forces the tutor to reflect actively on how the program is going, and keeps our academic team constantly up to date. As you can imagine, with over 100 active tutors, this would be an absolute nightmare by email.
So now we use Basecamp instead. We set up a new project for each student, and give access to the students, parents, tutors, and obviously our entire academic team. One great thing about Basecamp is that it's simple enough that we can send parents a two sentence message explaining how to use it. We post the customized lesson plan in the Files tab, where everybody can download it if they lose their hard copy. We also use this to edit admissions clients' college essays and to upload supplemental homework and cheat sheets for our students. We schedule each meeting as a milestone. And tutors log their hours in the Time tab. This is nice because it makes the process transparent — parents can see the exact same hours we use for payroll when they're being billed. Finally, we assign homework and keep track of various deadlines in the To-Dos.
How we use Highrise
Highrise is a nice sales tool, but we actually use it for a lot more than that. When we talk to prospects, we like to get a really good sense of the student before we recommend one of our tutoring programs. We find out about their academic history, testing experience, learning styles, and other interests. Then, if they sign up, our academic team needs all that information that the sales team already got.
In the course of signing up and starting a program, a student usually speaks to at least three people, and they all need to know everything about the student in order to bring the level of personalization we pride ourselves on. Being able to pass a student seamlessly from department to department (sales tells them about our program, admissions helps them set realistic goals, academics makes a recommendation for tutoring) has boosted our conversion rate substantially — we estimate it at a 44% increase. It's also huge for us that Highrise integrates with other web apps, including our form collector and chat feature on our website.
Again, our goal is to be able to scale the personalization that's helped us grow in the first place. We don't want to be an "education factory" like our competitors, and there's no way to fake knowing your students. Highrise and Basecamp organize things for us so we have more time to spend with our students and tutors, which is the core of our business and always will be.
Do you use a 37signals product in an interesting way? Let us know.