Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Parents

Last week we talked about the importance of making a good first impression when a prospective parent calls your program or handling the call of a current parent appropriately.  This week we’ll go into a bit more detail on making sure that parents are satisfied with your program.  It’s a lot less difficult and expensive to keep the clients you already have than it is to get new clients.

We all work on fostering parent satisfaction every day.  First and foremost, we provide high-quality care for their children.  In addition, we greet them and their children at the door by name, with a smile; give them a quick run-down of the day when they pick up their children; post menus and lesson plans so that they understand what is happening in the program.  Frequent and open communication is one of the most powerful tools we have in keeping parents satisfied.

Even though we have regular communication with the parents, we also need to have formal procedures in place to measure their satisfaction with our program.  We have an annual Parent Satisfaction Survey that we use to solicit input from, ideally, every parent in our program.  We start with the basics such as which classroom each of their children attends and how long they have been in that classroom.  Then we get to the nitty-gritty like:
  • Overall satisfaction
  • Health and safety
  • Child satisfaction
  • Staff qualifications and performance
  • Staffing levels
  • Program hours
  • Classroom activities and supplies
  • Opportunities for parent involvement
  • Communication
  • Affordability

Some parents are very open in their regular communication with us, but others are not so open.  Surveying parents regularly gives us an opportunity to reach out in a very non-threatening way to those parents who are a bit quieter with their thoughts and opinions.  If you don’t already have a Parent Satisfaction Survey, check ours out here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

First Impressions

Many people are going to get their first impression of your program through the telephone. Who answers your telephone?  Who answers when that person is not available?  Do they all understand phone etiquette and what is expected of them?  Do they understand that they can make a great first impression and make someone excited about the possibility of enrolling in your program or make a horrible first impression and assure that person never sets foot on your property?

In my very first job in a child care center, I was the Assistant Director of a well-established program.  We had a receptionist who answered the phone (very professionally) and when she was unavailable, the phone rang in one of the preschool rooms for one of the teachers to answer.  I was walking past that classroom one day when I heard the phone ring.  The teacher answered it with the words "Daycare. What do you want?"  All I could think was "Who is on the other end of that phone and what must they be thinking right now?"

Prior to that incident, I assumed that phone etiquette was common knowledge.  I realized in that moment that not everyone knows how to properly answer a phone, which leads to the knowledge that not everyone knows how to properly respond to a client or potential client’s questions.  Who we have answering our phones and how they do it could make or break our program.    

So, how do we make sure that the messages I would like to have shared with people are the same messages my staff will be sharing?  We establish the standard and then train our staff so that they understand our expectations.
  • How would we like the phone answered?
  • What happens if you are helping a parent when the phone rings?
  • How do you handle a conflict with a parent?
  • What verbal and nonverbal techniques should be used?
  • How do you take a message for another staff member....and be sure that person receives the message in a timely manner?

After you establish your Customer Relations Policy, you need to ensure that EVERY staff member is trained on it during their New Employee Orientation.  You work hard to ensure the success of your program.  Don't let a mistaken assumption of common knowledge undermine all of your hard work.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Safe Infant Sleep

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a study of primary infant nighttime caregivers from 1992 – 2010 to help understand infant care practices.  The good news from their recently released report is that use of potentially unsafe bedding decreased by more than 30% during that time.  The bad news is that nearly 55% of infants in this country still sleep with bedding that increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Since the 1992 recommendation that infants be put to sleep on their backs, deaths from SIDS in the U.S. has decreased by 50%.  However, since 2000, infant deaths due to accidental suffocation have nearly doubled. 

The NIH’s Safe to Sleep campaign recommends that infants sleep alone, on their backs, on a firm sleep surface covered by a fitted sheet, with no sheets or blankets over them.  Soft objects, including toys, crib bumpers, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, pillows, and loose bedding should not be present in an infant’s sleep area.  Even with this information, caregivers participating in the survey cited mixed information as a major factor in their choice of bedding for their children.  In opposition to NIH recommendations, magazines and advertisements often show infants in cribs with potentially unsafe bedding items.  Additionally, family and friends give baby gifts of quilts or bumper pads and the new parent feels obligated to use these items.

For parents who are concerned about keeping their infant warm at night, the Safe to Sleep campaign recommends keeping the room at a comfortable temperature and dressing the infant in an appropriate-weight one-piece sleeper. 

Since professional child care providers are well-versed in these recommendations and because these recommendations have been widely publicized, it’s easy to assume that all parents are familiar with and follow the recommendations.  Research shows differently.  Please make sure that all parents in your program understand these recommendations and why they are so vitally important to follow.