The success of any child care business depends on many factors, with enrollment being at the top of that list. The key is to get as close to 100% FTE as possible. That can’t happen if as you enroll new families, other families are sneaking out the back door. Focusing on client retention strategies and having a plan to build relationships with your current clients is key to strengthening your loyalty fence and retaining families longer.
In today’s current market, the emotional needs of parents need to be met and they want to be thought of as more than just another customer that pays their bill. Does your current client retention plan help you to create that experience? Check out these ten tips and see if there is room to add in any of these strategies to what you are already doing.
1. Celebrate Birthdays & Enrollment Anniversaries
When you find a way to treat your families special for noteworthy occasions it shows that you care about them. When birthdays or enrollment anniversaries roll around be sure to send a card, wish them well on your entryway bulletin board or white board, share social posts celebrating your families, and/or mention them in your weekly/monthly newsletter. When you take the time to build relationships with your families it goes a long way toward client retention.
2. “Caught Being Good” Phone Call
The owner, director, or teacher should make it a weekly practice to phone parents for the sole purpose of telling the parent something positive about their child. What did you witness that was cute, kind, smart, special or out of the ordinary? Look for these occasions with EACH child and make sure to let the parents know about the good stuff. Usually when the center calls, parents expect a problem – a fever, an injury, a payment mishap. What a wonderful surprise it would be to get such a heartfelt, positive message instead. Try to be sure each child gets a call home every month, or every other month. Keep a checklist so no one gets missed as you run through your weekly rotation.
3. Train Your Team Well
A well trained team can show your families just how excellent your program is. When your teachers and caregivers know and follow policies for safety, cleanliness, & security it sends a message that your school is high quality and your staff is more than competent. When your team is skilled with always presenting a professional attitude and communication style your enrolled families will feel like you’ve got it all together. In contrast, if every teacher they talk to has a different answer or doesn’t seem to know certain policies or procedures, parents will tend to question the competence of your staff and the quality of your school. Train your team well and you will keep your families longer.
4. Invite & Involve Parents
It is important to build a sense of community among the families in your child care program. Find ways to involve them in some of the happenings at your school. They could take part in planning activities, carrying out special projects or events, be on a parent board giving input on important decisions, or simply invited to read stories to the class or attend a parent activity (such as a Mother’s Day tea, or family picnic). It’s easy to walk away from a program you feel no connection to. However, when your families feel like they are part of a school family it’s much harder to walk away.
5. Provide As Much Convenience As Possible
Parents value convenience. If you can find just a few ways to make life easier for your families, they will love you for it. Think about outside the box ideas such as curbside drop-off/pick-up, extended hours (even just 30 extra minutes), a coffee station in the morning, electronic payments, a communication parent app, school picture day, a “Parent’s Night Out” sitting service, dinner/meal pick up, etc.
6. Positive & Frequent Communication
Make sure all the important news is shared through multiple channels to be sure all your parents and followers see it. You and your team need to make sure you are consistently updating your parent app, sharing photos whenever you can, using social media to make announcements and share news, compiling a weekly or monthly e-newsletter, posting important announcements near the check in station at your school….and more. If you feel like you might be over communicating, you probably are ALMOST communicating enough. For example, parents might not see your social post reminding them about picture day and they might walk right past the reminder you posted at your check-in station. But they might just happen to see the email reminder that you sent them.
Also, teachers should only share positive stories about the children when parents are picking up/ dropping off. As challenging as some children are, it’s part of the job to teach children who might be struggling with how to behave in a classroom setting. Parent’s don’t need to know about every time little Johnny threw a block or made their day harder. (What parent wants to leave their child with a teacher that doesn’t seem to like or care for their child because they give a bad report everyday). Train your team to keep communications positive. Every parent should feel like their child is your teacher’s favorite. (Of course, if there truly is an issue that needs to be shared, set up a meeting with the parents to discuss it. My point is, daily communication should be as positive as possible.)
7. Social Proof
When it comes to client retention, featuring testimonials and positive reviews from other happy families is a key strategy. Many parents are just doing the best they can, and they second-guess themselves and their parenting decisions often. When you consistently share testimonials from happy families you are subtly reinforcing to other parents in your program that they’ve made the right choice for care. In parent’s minds, social proof confirms that their decision to enroll in your school was, and still is, the best decision for their family. After all, other parents are happy to be enrolled there too.
8. Use Parent Surveys
Nothing is more effective for getting “buy-in” than asking someone for their thoughts & opinions. I suggest doing a parent satisfaction survey at least annually, possibly twice each year. This will allow you to see how your families feel about your services and allow you to see exactly where you need to make improvements. Be sure to share the results with your clients. If you have all positive feedback, celebrate with them and thank them for their business. If you learn that you need to improve in a certain area, be sure to let parents know the next action steps that you plan on taking to resolve whatever issue your survey revealed. When parents see that you ask for their opinion AND act on the findings, it builds trust. Trust usually translates into loyalty. An added benefit of regular client surveys is that if they don’t like something, or have suggestions for improvement, your survey gives parents an outlet to get their voices heard, making it less likely that they will take those unflattering thoughts and opinions to social media.
9. Focus on Quality & Compliance
No parent wants to leave their child somewhere that seems shady or unsafe. Be sure that your team is trained well on what a high quality early childhood program looks like, and on all your state licensing rules. At a minimum, you need to have leaders in place to hold team members accountable to meeting these standards at all times. Not only do you want your school to have a clean record with the state (which will support parents’ confidence & trust in your program), but you will likely want your school to be known for its high quality education and environment. If you can keep a shining reputation in your community, your program will be in higher demand and you will have lower client turnover rates than centers with lower standards.
10. Celebrate & Feature Your Teachers Often
The way you present your team to the public will be how your parents view them. They don’t know how to feel about them YET – it’s up to you to tell them! Celebrate and share (on social & everywhere) any time your team completes a training, passes an inspection, has a birthday, does fun activities with the kids, shares their hobbies or “super-powers” in a way that benefits others – and more! There are so many ways you can showcase your team in a positive way! When you share how happy, proud, and confident you are with your team, it gives your parents a reason to feel the same way. When parents love your teachers, they stay enrolled!