For years it has been a frustrating reality for parents that child care services have failed to keep pace with the changing workday…” quotes Exchange Everyday in a recent post, Round-the-Clock Demand, citing Sabrina Tavernise’s January 15th article in the New York Times.
Are you turning inquiries away as ineligible when you could easily serve these families with minor adjustments in operations? What marketing message is that sending? How can you capture un-served enrollment opportunities and make it easy for parents to enroll with you? Consider these options:
Track ineligible inquiries. According to Harriet B Presser, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, “About 40 % of the American workforce now works some form of non-standard hours.” As you speak with enrollment inquiries, track those who are ineligible because your hours of operation do not fit their needs for child care. (Use a contact management program to help you efficiently track inquiry sources and ineligible prospects. See Resources column below for an industry-customized CMR program to consider.) If the number is significant, take the next step.
Extend hours of operation. Survey your marketplace (and your own parents) to determine the level of demand for hours of care beyond what you and nearby competitors offer. If it is strong enough to cover expenses, consider extending hours to accommodate the need. Once your new schedule is in place, promote this service as a unique benefit of your center. Be sure to alert area employers of this benefit, working with them to relay this message to employees who work longer hours or odd shifts.
Offer flexible programming. Though you may already offer some form of part-time or drop-in care, determine what schedule would serve unmet needs in your target prospect audience. Be open to possibilities that make your child care the one that will work for those parents with flexible work hours or hours that alternate regularly.
Encourage position sharing. If you have customers whose work schedule or workplace means they only need part time care, work with them to find another parent with the same need who could share a full-time position with them. With clear guidelines, this arrangement can save two enrollments, be a sigh of relief to the parents, and generate higher revenue for your center than a single full-time enrollment would.
Though your center may have specific reasons for the hours it keeps, it is always wise to stop and think in your prospect’s perspective. Take a good look at your center’s hours of operation and decide if they are truly serving the needs in your current audience of parents, especially those whose work schedule does not match yours. Ask yourself, “Do we make it easy for prospects to enroll with us, or do we send them into the waiting arms of our competitors who do? Easy to enroll is better for everyone and not all that hard to do.