Tours are the single best opportunity you have to convince parents that your center is the right place for them and their kids. Are you making the most of them?
I’ve written before about the importance of making sure your child care center looks (and smells!) as good as possible. Today, some tips specifically relating to your tour process:
1. Offer tours at one or two specific times. Offering tours willy-nilly throughout the day makes you appear less organized (“Um, sure…when do you want to come in?”), and it also increases the likelihood that someone will drop the ball on when a parent is scheduled to visit.
Choosing set times also allows you to control the setting to a greater extent – mid-morning is a good time because teachers and kids have had a chance to settle into the day a bit but are not yet suffering from end-of-day meltdown. Visitors will see your center at its best.
2. Have the same person conduct all of your tours. Whether it’s the owner, director, or assistant director, putting one specific person in charge of tours gives you a consistent process and allows you to benchmark trends over time. Also, as with anything else, practice makes perfect. The more tours any one person gives, the better he or she gets at doing them.
3. Provide reminders. There’s a reason your dentist, pediatrician, and hair stylist all call a day or two in advance to remind you about upcoming appointments: Reminders work.
They reduce the risk of no-shows not just because of the reminder itself (which certainly helps), but also because people feel guilty about blowing off a meeting if they know someone is expecting them. Additionally, once again, reminders make you and your center appear organized and on top of things – exactly the type of first impression you want to be sending.
4. Hit the same highlights during every tour. You may be tempted to cover everything, soup to nuts, about your center, but that’s just too much for the average parent to take in. Instead, decide in advance what your two or three biggest selling points are, and mention those during every tour. For example:
- State-of-the-art security system
- Accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (and spell it out and explain it! The average parent won’t know what “NAEYC” is)
- All meals prepared in-house
5. Address parents’ specific concerns. The above point does not mean you should go on auto-pilot and issue an identical canned spiel every time. Instead, at the beginning of a tour, sit down and talk to the parent for at least a few minutes to find out what his or her biggest questions and concerns are.
You can then be sure to talk about those things during the tour, whether or not they fall into your standard shortlist of highlights (“I know you mentioned security was a concern for you…here’s how our keypad entry system works. We also require all parents to sign their children in and out every day, with no exceptions.”)
6. Give a parting gift. During a parent’s initial call to your center, you should be finding out the names and ages of their children. This lets you personalize the tour accordingly – you generally wouldn’t go out of your way to show off your infant room to a parent of a 4-year-old, for example.
It also lets you select an age-appropriate gift to send the parent home with for the child(ren) – a onesie with your school logo on it, a small toy or book with the child’s name on a write-in sticker, etc. Little touches like this are inexpensive but invaluable when it comes to making prospective families feel appreciated and welcome.
7. Close well. Too many centers send parents off with something vague, like “Hey, thanks for stopping by – call if you have questions!” The ideal process will vary somewhat, depending on whether or not the parent is looking for immediate care, whether or not you have a waitlist, and so on, but you need to have your ideal outcome in mind before the tour starts.
If you want that parent to enroll today, sit down with her after the tour and work to make it happen: “We have so enjoyed meeting you and Caden! Can I go ahead and get the enrollment paperwork started for you?”
8. Follow up. This is related to #7 – too many families walk out of a child care tour and are never heard from again.
It’s your job to proactively follow up with them, even if it’s something as simple as a phone call a few days later to thank them for coming and ask if they have any additional questions you can answer for them. A handwritten thank-you note is even better.
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