First impressions are so important!
They are important in friendships, dating, business and pretty much every aspect of life. And yes, they are important for your child care or preschool program! We all judge people and places based on the very first time that we meet or see them. This may not always be fair but it is true.
The messages that parents get from you and your staff when they first call or visit your center will likely be “make or break.” They will have a lasting impact and will color their opinion of you from that moment on. That first impression will affect what parents think of your facilities, of you, of your program and of your business, in general. Parents who are left with a bad taste in their mouth won’t hesitate to speak poorly of you to other parents.
If you haven’t already gotten the point… You can’t afford not to impress prospective parents when they call you!
Making a good impression on the phone isn’t difficult. But it requires some preparation. Here are some suggestions for that first phone conversation:
1. Always answer the phone in a professional and pleasant manner.
Always, always, (always!) be pleasant, perky, upbeat and professional. Never cranky, never short, never curt, never frazzled. Parents want to see you as a peaceful and patient person with the ability to handle anything. After all, they are trusting you with their most precious possession. If you have a child care center or preschool with a number of people who answer the phone, you should have a specific protocol for how to answer, such as:
- Be upbeat and have a smile on your face. Yes, the smile matters, even on the phone. People can sense a genuinely happy greeting.
- Make sure to greet the caller in a professional manner. It is up to you, but it is often not a bad idea to have a standard greeting. For example, “Good Morning! Thank you for calling for Little Learners… where learning is always fun! This is Cathy, how may I help you?”
2. Right away, ask for their basic information
- First and last name: “May I ask who is calling?”
- Phone number in case you get disconnected: “May I get a phone number at which to reach you back in the event that we were to get disconnected?”
- Reason for their call: “Can you please tell me a bit about yourself and your child? Why are you calling today?”
3. Stay focused on the parent
Avoid talking to your students or other staff. Minimize distractions. Take notes about what the parent is saying. Be sure to ask follow-up questions to their statements. Do not put them on hold unless there is an absolute EMERGENCY.
4. Offer the parent a tour
Try and schedule a tour during that first phone call. Do not wait. If they are not willing to nail down a time, then let them know that you hope that they will schedule a tour soon. Describe to them all of the things that you would like for them to see in person. For example: “I would really love for you to see our 2 year old room with Ms. Nancy. She is wonderful and I think your little one, Suzy, would fit in so nicely.”
5. Follow up with the parent via e-mail
Soon after your initial call (that same day, if possible) e-mail the parent with additional information about your child care program. This is a good time to send pictures, sample lesson plans and lunch/snack menus. If they did not schedule a tour during the initial call, ask them again to schedule one. If they did schedule one, remind them of when it is, and give them your contact information and address again.
Your phone conversation is likely the very first interaction that you will have with a prospective parent. They will be paying attention to everything that you say as well as your tone of voice and general attitude. Their initial impression of you will have a lasting impact on how they perceive not just you, but the whole center. Keep this in mind as you speak with them. Developing a plan in advance and making sure that all employees know the protocol is the easiest way to ensure that you will not only get all of the information that you need but that the parents will too.