For a parent, choosing a child care center can come with emotional highs and lows. While they may be excited to find the right fit, they also walk through your doors with guilt and anxiety. Each parent is looking for very specific qualities in a child care center.
While the prospect to parent experience usually includes inquiry phone calls and emails, I want to spend this time covering the single best opportunity you have to prove to potential families that your organization is the best fit for them - tours. Are you and your team doing everything you can to make these interactions successful?
Here are a few steps to ensure a successful tour:
1. Be Prepared.
We hope to schedule tours around times where we can control the setting, however, we should be prepared for a walk in tour at any time. Do you have your promotional and marketing materials stocked and ready? Is your director or another staff member available and well versed on the program’s operations, policies and unique selling points? The personnel giving the tour should be ready to build your brand, bond with the prospective parent and make the experience fun. I highly encourage starting and ending every tour in your director’s office. It is one sure fire way to make the parent feel like they are valued and appreciated. It also gives you great bookends for setting tour expectations and closing the tour by asking for the enrollment.
2. Start your tour with an up-front contract and ask permission to ask questions.
We’ve already addressed the fear, the guilt and the anxiety a parent brings in with them to a center tour. On the other side, the tour guide has his or her own nerves about the tour before it even starts- ‘Will I make a good first impression?’ ‘What will the two-year-old class smell like when we get there?’ ‘Are they going to tell me I’m crazy when they see our tuition prices?’ The upfront contract deals with both parties fears and anxieties before the tour even starts. An upfront contract sounds something like this –
Thank you so much for taking some time to visit Lucky Learners today, I’m looking forward to showing you around. When we talked, we discussed taking about 30 minutes for the visit, is that still a good time frame for you?...... I want to be sure we’re the best fit for your family so I’ll have some questions for you. You’ll probably want to know more about how we’ve connected with other children and parents to be sure we’re the right fit for your family. At the end of this tour we can wrap up and make decision on the next steps for Sophie. Does that sound okay with you?
Utilizing a tool like the upfront contract allows you to set the expectations before your tour begins that you will be asking some questions. It also gives the potential parent a feeling that they can ask you more questions and have some control of the tour. Most importantly, you are explaining to them in the very first conversation that at the end of their visit there will be a conversation about a next step. This diffuses the resistance around gathering more information and for asking for the enrollment at the conclusion of your visit. You’ve set the expectations so your prospective parent will not be caught off guard.
3. Tailor the conversation and address parent’s specific needs & concerns.
The parent has given you permission to ask them questions and create an accurate customer profile. Use this opportunity to find our who needs care, when it’s needed, what factors are important to them, why they are looking, where they are currently cared for now and how soon they are needing to enroll at a new center. Now that you’ve got the information, use it to build trust with your prospect. If a potential parent mentions that they’ve had issues with teacher turnover in the past and that they are concerned about a well-rounded menu, there is no need to spend extra time discussing the state of the art playground in all of its glorious detail. This parent has told you their priorities, use them to tailor your tours and conversation. Your school is the best fit for this family, do not leave them wondering.
4. Ask for the enrollment. Right now.
Too many of you are ending your tours with something vague like "Thanks for coming in, it was great to meet you, please give us a call if you have any questions." Listen, no doubt about it, you’ve all heard me tell you that the fortune is in the follow up. I still believe that, however, wouldn’t it be nice if the follow up game could disappear altogether? If at the end of your tour, that parent could give you a straight “YES! This is the best school for us, here’s our check and our registration form.” Or “No, at this time, we’ve firmly decided that you are not a fit for us.” Here is where I find that most of our clients will adamantly disagree with me, and that’s okay, however, a “no” is not the worst thing that can happen to you. It’s not ideal, sure, but it is a decision and any decision is a good thing. Getting the enrollment is the end goal, of course, but having a parent save you from doing the follow up chase is also a success, in my book. Don’t forget, you’ve already set their expectations during your upfront contract that you’re going to be discussing next steps during the conclusion of the tour. Start by restating the needs of the family and how you addressed them, get them to nod their head or agree with you. Remind them of all of the concerns you’ve found a solution to. Remember, a third of all sales are lost because someone did not ask for the prospect’s business.
5. Reinforce the Buying Decision.
You’ve all made purchases in the past. You were a happy camper and on cloud nine at the register…and then you walked out the doors. What happened? You immediately started wondering if that purchase was worth what you spent and if it really was what you needed. You start having buyer’s remorse. Parents are the same way. They are crazy nervous about a change in their child’s environment so even after they’ve had the best tour with you, signed their paperwork and handed you a check, they will start to wonder if they’ve made the right decision for their child. They might even be so concerned that they just go to “one more place for a quick look.” Tell them before they leave what a great choice they’ve made. Write their child a note and mail it before her first day. Keep those parents’ engaged and give them a glimpse into your school’s community and culture. Don’t give them any reason to second guess their decision to enroll. In today’s child care market, customer service and the way you communicate with your potential parents separates the quality programs from the mediocre ones. By using a few of the tips we outlined today, you can be sure your tours will stand out and ensure that potential parents are clearly seeing the value and the quality of your program.