It's fantastic when you get a new enquiry or customer lead for your early childhood service. And tour bookings are even better. But how many of these do you manage to convert into a successful enrolment? Selling your service to someone who has already shown interest or initiated contact is always going to be far easier than marketing to the masses.
So how do you do it? According to child care marketing expert, Kris Murray, it's all about creating trust. And the two key situations that are essential for initiating a bond with parents are phone calls and tours.
Building trust online
Before we get into those two areas though, we need to touch on the importance of your online presence. Apparently 60 per cent of parents do all their research for an early childhood education and care provider online, before they even pick up the phone. So, regardless of whether someone has referred you or parents have found you on Google, you need to make a great first impression and establish trust.
Ensure you have a visually appealing website with lots of information about your facilities, programs and vacancies; educator profiles; engaging images and videos; active social media accounts; and most importantly – clearly visible contact details and/or an enquiry form prompting parents to get in touch or book a tour. A Premium listing on CareforKids.co.nz can help you put your best foot forward every time, by showcasing all of the features that make your service unique. This includes full contact details, including a logo, photos, directions, video content, links to your social feeds and more.
Another powerful way to build trust online is by including ratings and reviews of your service by currently enrolled families. You are much more likely to convert browsers into bookers by including ratings and reviews as parents love reading what other people think of a service. CareforKids.co.nz makes it easy to collect ratings and reviews and comments can be viewed for accuracy before going live.
For many providers, an email or Facebook direct message enquiry might be the first point of contact with new parents so it’s vital that you respond quickly and attempt to take the lead further. Ideally it’s best to make a phone call shortly after receiving an online enquiry, however, if you’re responding digitally just be sure to adopt a friendly tone, answer any specific queries, and suggest a time for a phone chat and/or a tour. Also check your email and social media account inboxes regularly so that no opportunities for new customers are lost.
Turning a phone call into more
How you answer the phone and handle calls can have a significant impact on turning enquiries into enrolments. A conversation on the phone is the perfect opportunity to make a good impression and build trust, so it's important to get it right by being friendly and knowledgeable.
Cathy Abraham offers these expert tips on how to maximise the potential benefits from your phone engagement:
- Train staff: Designate which staff members are responsible for answering the phone and train them properly on how to handle enquiries so there is consistency. Conduct role plays and also make calls to the centre yourself (or get someone else to do it), to test their phone answering and enquiry skills so you know what areas need improvement.
- Have an answering service: Be sure to have a voicemail service in place for calls during out of office hours and especially if you have few or no other staff members. Check messages regularly and return calls promptly.
- Return enquiries: If one of your staff has taken an enquiry on your behalf in your absence, call the person immediately upon your return.
- Don't let the phone ring too long: Answering by the third ring is ideal, unless you work on your own and need to utilise your answering machine service.
- Be friendly and calm: Answer with a smile in your voice and be as warm, friendly, confident and calm as possible, regardless of what’s happening around you. If you need to move to a quieter room, pop the person on hold and go somewhere more suitable.
- Use a professional greeting: Clearly identify your name and/or your company, without rushing, and let them know you're there to help. For example, "Good morning, XYZ Childcare, Monica speaking. How may I help you?"
- Use enquiry cards: Keep a pile of pads and pot of pens at every phone so you're never struggling to find one when needed.
- Build rapport: Ask questions to show interest in the caller and their child and to gather basic information. Use their names in the conversation and comment on something the caller has said such as the age of the child. Be warm and friendly!
- Listen to their needs: Ask them what they feel is important for their child. Listen to what they're really saying and identify what their concerns are so you can address them. For example, if they're worried about their child being shy, talk about all the ways you would attempt to make their child feel welcome and help develop their social skills.
And here are a few more ideas for how to take the phone conversation further:
- Sell your service: Talk about what you offer that competitors may not and advise the parents of the programs you have in place to further enhance and develop your service. Give specific examples of the great things you do or have, such as new play equipment, unique learning activities and wonderful teachers.
- Create a sense of urgency: Don't admit to having ten open spaces in a room. Put the caller on hold to double check for availability and then let them know that you have a space, not ten.
- Invite them to tour: Don't be shy in asking the parent to commit to coming in to see the service and meet the carers. Offer a choice of tour times.
- Offer to send more info: Emphasise that you know it's a big decision choosing a child care provider and offer to email or post them more information on your service so they’re as informed as possible about their choices.
- Close the call on a friendly note: Thank them for calling, ideally using their name. And if they've made a tour appointment let them know you're looking forward to meeting them on (time/date).
- Follow up: Write a personalised, handwritten note with any materials being sent by post; send a follow up email and/or make a phone call following the initial enquiry to help secure a tour appointment or enrolment and answer any questions.
Prepare for tours
You may think that the hard work is done once you've booked someone in for a tour of your centre, however if you don't continue the effort, that potential new enrolment could easily slip through your fingers. Additionally, if someone doesn't have a good experience during their tour, they could tell others which in turn might negatively affect your enrolments even further.
You therefore need to have your tour planned out carefully from beginning to end. It needs to highlight your centre's best features and leave parents feeling inspired. On top of this all staff need to be briefed on tour protocol and made aware of when one is scheduled.
Here are some other tips for how to conduct a great tour:
- Always watch the children: Teachers will often chat to each other in the playground which is fine, but if they're not watching the children it doesn't look good. Encourage staff to constantly watch the children, and if they want to talk to each other tell them to stand back to back so their eyes are still scanning the area.
- Walk into the classroom: Don't stand outside and let the parent look into the class through a glass window. Take the parent inside, let them meet the teacher and see all the action for themselves.
- Be friendly, warm and prepared: Brief your staff so they don't look like a deer in headlights when confronted with a potential new parent. Everyone should be friendly, relaxed and helpful, ready to answer any questions.
- Engage and excite: Make families feel welcomed during their tour by providing refreshments and offering a small goodie bag to keep their child entertained throughout the tour.
- Prompt enrolment: Be confident about asking if they want to enrol at the end of the tour. Good feelings can fade so you want to get the parent to sign on while they're there if possible, before they visit a competitor.