When new families contact your child care or preschool program do you have a plan for what you’ll say, what you’ll do? Letting them know about your facility and what programs you offer is important, but there’s more to making a good first impression. Parents are trying to determine if your center is really the right place for their child. They want to be at ease with their decision; comfortable that little Johnny or Johanna will feel at home. After all, the children they place in your care will be spending a good deal of time with you, your staff, and the other children at your center.
Listen More, Talk Less
If you focus solely on what a wonderful place you have and tell the parents about your programs, you may be missing the key to getting the family to enroll. While some degree of talking is good, you’ll find that listening is even better. Your job, whether during a formal ‘intake interview’ or an informal phone inquiry, is to learn what you can about the child.
A good way to get the conversation started is simply to say: “Tell me about your child”. With some parents that will be enough of a prompt and you’ll get all the information you need. Other times you’ll want to ask follow up questions, such as what does your child like to do, what are they excited about, what special needs and special abilities do they have?
If the family is visiting your center in person, don’t just focus on the parents. Bend down to the child’s level and talk to them face to face. Greet them by name with a genuine and warm smile. Ask them an easy question, like their favorite color, favorite food or favorite animal.
Your goal is to be able to closely relate what your center has to offer with the needs, interests and abilities of the child. If Johanna likes to play dress up – show her your dress up box and ask if she might enjoy being part of the spring children’s play. If Johnny likes chocolate milk – mention that Fridays, at snack time, you serve chocolate milk. Rather than just telling what your center has to offer, find ways to connect those offerings to the individual families and children. Making connections is what it’s all about and it’s what both the child and parent will remember most.
After a visit, be sure to follow up with a handwritten note. It doesn’t need to be long, just enough to let them know you enjoyed meeting them. Try to add something personal, such as how you look forward to having chocolate milk with Johnny the next time he comes in. Consider enclosing a small gift, such as an inexpensive book or small toy. If the child likes dinosaurs, include a small dinosaur toy or picture book about dinosaurs. That type of personal touch will most certainly make your child care business stand out from the crowd.
Write it Down
Don’t rely on your memory for the things you’ve learned about the family. Write it down. If you’re using Procare Software to help manage your center, you may type family or child log notes right into the system, or attach a document in PDF format from another source. See: Adding Log Notes and Attaching PDF Files to Families.
Record the Visit
There’s one last thing. You’ll want a record of the inquiry as a “phone inquiry”, or perhaps they “toured the center”, or maybe they called and then visited. By keeping track of the what and when, you’ll have the information you need about potential new families and their eventual enrollment. See: Assign Enrollment Status