First Impressions: Is it “LOVE at First Sight” with Your Prospective Parents?

It happens to all of us, a family walks into your center to inquire about childcare services. What do you do next? How do make sure it’s “Love at First Sight” and capture this family’s heart and attention?

You have to start by making sure you are wooing them with your first impression! “The first time someone meets you, it takes them about three seconds to determine if they like you or want to do business with you in the future.” (Starr, 2013) In those three seconds, families are asking themselves, “Is this center right for my child?”

Families start forming an opinion about your center prior to their tour. It starts when they visit your website, see your social media presence, hear word-of-mouth in the community, and have their first phone interaction with your school.

If you’ve passed all of those “tests” and they drop by for a tour, it is imperative that when they finally meet you in person, you get it right! You only have one shot to win their heart! It’s all about how they FEEL when they visit.

Be sure your center accurately communicates your values and philosophy. If your client’s first impression starts with a phone conversation, be sure you are learning more about the family. Make a connection, address them by name when talking to them. Engage in a dialogue to get to the heart of what is most important to them.

In the event the family decides to schedule a tour, prepare to win them over by using your notes from the conversation to make a deeper connection. Win them over by addressing characteristics that will gain their interest and convey that your staff is caring and trustworthy.

Taking the time to prepare your staff and your center before the family walks into the facility can make all the difference in the world. Create scripts and practice them with your team, have a tour readiness checklist, make sure your enrollment materials are always printed and ready. You know that eventually someone will walk through your doors eager to learn about your center, so set the scene for them to fall head-over-heels in love with your school!

To ensure your process is guaranteed to have parents smitten the moment they walk in your doors, invite a friend (a secret shopper) to test the process for you and have them report back about their experience. This creates a system of checks, balances, and accountability.

Here’s a helpful checklist that your “secret shopper” can use to evaluate your tours. You can use it to help prepare your staff and your facility for tours that will win the hearts of your prospective families:

  • Center Aesthetic
    • Is your center clean? Does it smell good? Does it appeal to the senses?
    • Is your facility safe?
    • Is your staff engaged and caring for children?
    • What does the prospective family see when they enter your doors?
  • Staff
    • Was someone readily available to speak with the prospective family?
    • Was the family properly greeted by everyone they encountered in the facility?
    • If available, did they follow the script? (for example, Welcome to Happy Faces ELA, where fun, flexibility and family is first. How can I put a smile on your face today?)
    • In your script, consider stating your philosophy, mission and/or values
    • Did staff smile?
    • Was their tone pleasant?
    • Was the staff knowledgeable?
    • Did they know where/how to direct families to speak with the appropriate person?
    • Did the Enrollment Specialist or tour guide reference their notes when addressing the family?
    • Did the Enrollment Specialist completely answer all questions?
  • Consider a script. Here are some questions your team should be prepared to answer:
    • How many children attend the childcare facility? What is the ratio?
    • Are meals included in tuition?
    • How much is tuition per age group?
    • What are your operating hours?
    • What are your teacher’s credentials? Is this program licensed?
    • How do you keep parents up-to-date on their child’s daily activities?
    • What security features do you have for your facility?
    • Describe a normal day for a child in your care? What is this daily schedule?
    • What special activities do you offer? (field trip, special guest, etc.)
    • What makes your facility/program different? Why should we choose you?
  • Program
    • Do you have materials to offer the family for additional information or reminders about the program?
    • Are children learning and engaged?
    • Are the children happy?

Families would like to be confident that their child is in a place that will truly care for their child and have their best interests at heart. “One of the best ways to take advantage of a first impression is to give people a reason to trust and value you.”(Giang, 2014) The first impression is your opportunity to gain the family’s interest in moving forward with enrolling in your school.

Make sure your intentions are clear at the end of their visit – make sure that the family KNOWS that you WANT their enrollment by inviting the family to join your center. Even if, after all your efforts, the family doesn’t end up enrolling, no worries. After their great experience on your tour, they will surely still recommend you to other families when the time comes.

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