Tips To Help Your Child Care Centre Make The Most Of Every Parent Tour
A successful parent tour of your early learning service is the clincher for parents looking to enroll their children. So, how can you and your staff close the deal every time?
Sure, the meet-and-greet is a great opportunity to talk about and demonstrate your service’s pedagogical philosophy. But there’s so much more you can do to ensure success.
Get yourself into the ‘parents’ shoes’
Marketers talk about the ‘buyer experience’, which starts with raising awareness, piquing their interest, nurturing that lead, then conversion – they buy/enrol! Next comes on boarding them (yes, they use that term), enhancing the customer experience and, when they finally move on, understand that many of them will be your champions, referrers of future customers.
None of that will happen however, unless you close the deal with the parent tour.
Buyer Cycle & Personas
Part of the success of a tour is understanding who you are talking to and what process they are going through. There is a “buyer’s cycle” — awareness, consideration, purchase — that every buyer goes through as outlined in this article by Forbes’ writer David Skok spells out in this piece.
Then there’s the buyer persona — skeptic, emotional buyer, etc. It is well worth thinking about your 3-4 most common customers and what they care about when then are kicking the tires.
Here’s a link to create a ‘buyer persona.’ In short, the idea is to name each persona, describe them (stay at home mom who relies heavily on others when making decisions, working mom who has no time, but wants to see proof you are what you say you are, etc.).
This article gets you asking questions such as who are the typical parents, their demographics, what social media channels they frequent and what are their pain/pinch points and so on. Not sure what a ‘buyer persona’ should look like on paper? Here are some samples.
A theme of the buyer journey framework is consistent messaging to ‘buyers’ — what they read before they come in should fit with what they hear on the tour.
Would having set scripts for verbal and written responses to new parents work for your service? It could ensure you’re ticking all the boxes for information they’ll need to make their decision to enrol … or not. Maybe your staff prefer a more natural approach, without a script.
Could a handy checklist guide them to cover off what’s needed, every time without fail? Can you rely on just one staff member – such as a director – to do every tour?
FAQ – a goldmine
The questions parents have asked while using your service offer guidance on how to tweak your messaging and information.
Expect that parents keen for a tour will want to meet your staff, ask about their qualifications and experience and see them in action on the floor with children. Some parents might be armed with a list of questions such as these.
Be proactive and nut out answers to the questions you anticipate from new parents. Consider adding them to the FAQs on your website and possibly to the information pack, handbook or orientation/welcome document, whatever your label for it.
Speaking of which, keep in mind culturally and linguistically diverse communities – will English suffice? Think about how accessible your information is for people with low levels of literacy, too.
Welcome and orientation – can they be the same thing?
That’s a toughie. You’d think the tour – welcoming – would cover the same information as when you’re on boarding a new child and their family into your service. It’s up to you to make a distinction or blend the two functions. The same document for both would save your staff time and hassle and anecdotally, it appears to be the standard. Either way, this document is about connecting people with people, creating partnerships. What works well with the key info are photographs of and info about your each of your staff members and plenty of action images of children in your service.
And it doesn’t have to be in hard copy. Sandhills Early Childhood Centre, a 55-place long day-care centre in Byron Bay, NSW, Australia, is making its handbook electronic.
“That’s saving us paper, which means it’s also more sustainable. It’s in line with our strong sustainability plan, which is a living and breathing document,” says service Director Danielle Layton.
Sandhills: the tour is a chance to build trust
Because Sandhills has 200 children on their waiting list, you’d think they wouldn’t bother giving tours, but they still do.
“I make sure parents make an appointment for when I’m there so I can give them the tour. I don’t want to pull any of the educators off the floor,” says Danielle, who shows new parents the whole centre including three “quite big outdoor areas” with a rainforest and treehouse.
“For me the tour is about time for me and the parent to build a relationship. You have to build that and trust as we’re looking after the most important people in their life – their children.”
Some services have a ‘book a free tour’ page on their website like this one or this one. Is that approach a good fit for your service on how you communicate with parents from the start? It’s a good way to capture customer data right from ‘go’ and keep measuring and tracking it as they move along the ‘buyers’ journey.
Are you logging the time you spend giving tours linking it to ‘conversions’? Working out just what each tour costs you time-wise might better inform the optimum time-length of the tour. Each service will have a different optimum for the tour. Ideally the parent will get to see the whole centre in action – all the rooms and areas.
BEL: constant communication is key
A service which notched ‘exceeding’ the National Quality Standards for its relationship with families and community is Blayney Early Learners (BEL) in Central West NSW, Australia. The 41-place long day care centre will have its 20th anniversary next year.
For parents touring the service for the first time, says Director Georgie Hobby, the “feel of our centre comes across when you walk in.
“We’ve got lots of displays up so parents can see what we’re talking about when we’re discussing our day book or program approach. We’re open to them quizzing us and it’s mostly verbal communication at this stage.”
Families looking to enrol also receive an enrolment information pack, which details the service’s history, philosophy and other useful information. Part of the orientation tour includes allowing the children to visit the centre for “a little play”.
“We definitely do an orientation with families to give them a look around before they come. Bringing their child or children for a little play will help them settle in. It’s really important we have constant communication so when they start, the children are happy, settle well and we build trust with families and their children.”
The tour means, in essence, opening your centre’s door to new parents and opening lines of communication. It’s highly symbolic of a characteristic Sandhills and Blayney Early Learners endorse – openness, in all its facets. In fact, openness is the top attribute customers value in a brand, according to the Customer Quotient study by global marketing consultancy, C Space. You might be closing the deal when parents enrol their child in your service, but openness should be your driver for every part of the customer’s journey.