A prospective client who calls a family child care provider on the phone wants an answer to this key question: “Will your program meet the needs of my child and my family?”
The parent may not directly use these words, so to answer this question you need to be an active, not passive, communicator on the phone.
To make the most of parent phone calls, follow this three-step process:
1) Find out the specific needs of the parent and the child
2) Briefly describe the benefits of your program
3) Get the parent to agree to come to your house for an interview
Step One: Find out the specific needs of the parent and the child
Your goal in step one is to quickly assess whether your program can meet their needs. If you cannot, don’t spend any more time on the phone than necessary before you politely tell the parent that your program isn’t a good fit. To determine a family’s needs, start by asking questions:
“How old is your child?”
“What hours do you need care?”
“What are your child’s needs?”
“What are you looking for in a program for your child?”
Bu asking such questions, you can help the parent relax while you listen for any major issues indicating that your program is not a good fit. If they don’t, tell the parent “I don’t think my program can meet the needs of your child.” You may want to refer them to their local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency.
If the parent sounds promising move on to step two.
Step Two: Briefly describe the benefits of your program
Share with the parent the top three benefits of your program. Your benefits tell parents why they should bring their child to your program. Examples: “I offer a structured program that prepares children to enter Kindergarten eager to learn.” “I have a large backyard where children can run and play and have a lot of fun.”
Try to relate your program’s benefits to the needs previously expressed by the parent. In other words, if the parent has said his child enjoys learning about nature, you might describe your regular field trips to a nearby park. Don’t be afraid to express how proud you are of what you do.
There is no single way to handle a parent phone interview. Some providers prefer to say as little as possible over the phone. Once these providers have decided they can meet the parent’s needs, their only goal is to get the parent to come over for an interview. They believe that the best way to market their business is in person.
Other providers feel that they need to convince the parent to take the next step and visit their home. They believe it’s important to highlight their benefits so the parent will want to visit them.
Step Three: Get the parent to agree to come to your house for an interview
Invite parents to your home by asking a question they can’t say no to. For example, say “Would you like to visit next Tuesday or Wednesday?” rather than asking, “Would you like to make an appointment for an interview?”
If the parent can’t decide whether to schedule an interview, tell her that you’ll call back in a day or so. It is important to schedule the interview as soon as possible (within three or four days), because the parent may have already scheduled interviews with othe providers.
Here are some other tips for handling parent phone calls:
* Place the following items by each phone in your home –
– a pen or pencil
– a parent tracking form that you can use to easily collect parent information (name, phone number, email address, name of child, birth date of child, desired start date, how the parent heard about your program, parent concerns, date interview scheduled)
– a list of your top three benefits
* Answer all phone calls with a business, not personal, greeting. “Hello, Juanita’s Little Steps Child care. This is Juanita. May I help you?” Not, “Hello?” or “Juanita’s residence.”
* Always try to sound positive and maintain an upbeat tone of voice. Smile while you are speaking. You will sound friendlier. How you sound on the phone is as important as what you say.
* If you are having a very busy day or having a bad day, you may not wanta to answer the phone. In this situation, let your answering machine or voice mail record parent calls. Return calls when it is more convenient and you are more in control.
Your voice mail message should say, “Thank you for calling. I’m in the middle of an activitiy with the children right now. May I call you back in a few minutes? Please leave your name and number.” Parents are more likely to be impressed that the children are your first priority than upset that you can’t talk right away.
* After the phone call is over, send a thank-you note via email, even if it’s obvious that the parent will not enroll her child with you. This will help generate positive word of mouth.
What works for you when parents call?
Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com
Image credit: chris.pirillo.com
This article was adapted from my book Family Child Care Marketing Guide.