As your daycare business grows, you want to enroll families who you can serve well and who are the right fit for your program. Understanding the importance of the parent interview and learning how to interpret the first impressions from your initial parent interactions will help you place families into your program who are great clients. The following guide offers practical tips for assessing whether a potential client is a good fit for your program.
Important Insight from First Impressions
Your initial interactions with a prospective client can tell you a lot about the nature of the relationship you may have with them in the future if you decide to enroll their child in your daycare program. As the owner of a business, I want to make sure I will be a great fit for my clients, and they will be a great fit for our services as well. Here are a few of the observations I make from initial interactions with potential clients:
- Does a client simply need a bookkeeper? (We want to help our clients grow their business, not just maintain their business’s financial records.)
- Does a client miss their initial appointment or reschedule for months before they are finally able to meet? (We want to establish good communication with our clients and work with people who can make and keep a commitment.)
- Who is the client’s “spokesperson”? In other words, is the client’s spouse, who isn’t directly involved in the business, the one who is doing all the communication? (This could potentially lead to communication concerns or show a lack of commitment.)
- How does the client interact with me during our initial conversations? (Are they listening to what I am saying? Do they ask the same question multiple times because they hope to hear a different answer or simply are not understanding where we are coming from?)
The same screening process should apply when daycare owners are interviewing new clients for their program. Before you even set up an in-person interview with parents, you will want to screen new clients through email or a phone call. This way, you can ask for essential information such as how many children the parents are looking to enroll, as well as the child(ren)’s ages, whether they need full-time or part-time care, and whether the child(ren) are leaving one daycare facility to come to yours (and why). You can also give your price structure, hours, and other important information right away, so if parents can’t afford your prices or need additional care outside the hours your daycare center is open, neither you nor they are wasting time and effort with an interview.
Tips for the Parent Interview
When you do schedule a parent interview, it will be helpful to remember that the interview process is a two-way street; parents want to know if your program is a good fit for their child, and it is equally important for you to assess whether this family is a good fit for you as a new client. Here are some tips for determining a good fit from the parent interview:
- Ask lots of questions! Parents want to know all about your program, but you also want to make sure you know enough about your potential clients as well. Has their child been in daycare before? If so, how was that experience? Why are they looking elsewhere? What are the parents’ expectations of your program? How do they describe their child? Are there any behavioral or health issues you need to know about? Ask and observe the responses to your questions.
- Observe interactions between the parents and the child (if present), and the parents and you. You can learn a lot about family dynamics, discipline approach, parenting philosophy, and general personalities with a brief time of observation.
- Go over your policies in person. Instead of handing parents your policies and asking them to sign off on something they may not read, thoroughly explain your daycare policies to them directly. Go over your fee structure, late pick-up and late payment policies, sick child policies, holiday closures, and other potential areas for concerns. Observe how parents respond to your policies. A parent who disagrees with any of your policies or who immediately asks for exceptions to the rule should be a red flag.
- Assess your comfort level with the parents. Are they kind, open, and attentive? If either parent makes you feel uncomfortable or intimidated, they may not be a good fit for your program. Your gut feeling is usually right.
As you can see from these interview tips, you can learn fairly quickly and easily whether a potential client is a good fit for your program. Remember, the clients you choose can make or break your overall day-to-day quality of life in terms of your childcare business, so being selective and placing only those families who you think will do well in your program is of utmost importance. It is never a bad thing to refer a family who is not a good fit to other daycare programs, or a nanny. Your future self and your staff will thank you!
Here at Honest Buck Accounting, we love helping our clients make the decisions that take their childcare business from good to great! If you are interested in learning more about the services we offer, please schedule a call with us today. We would love to chat with you and see if we are a good fit! 😉