As many centers re-open with restrictions mandating how you operate, group size is one new rule that may have you saying, “How can we retain those customers we cannot yet enroll?” Here are three strategies that can help…

  1. Active Listening – Communication has been vitally important all along the way during the pandemic. Transparent, continual communication you initiate to all families and prospects will remain essential. However, now is a time when REALLY listening to your families and potential enrollees can help you set strategy and execute tactics that can lift brand loyalty and save your enrollments until you can serve these families. One technique to enhance active listening is what I call, Ask, Ask, Then Educate. When you are talking with a parent, ask a question, such as, “What would be most helpful from us while you are awaiting space to open up in our center?” When the parent replies, rather than launching into an explanation, ASK another question. Let’s say the parent responds with, “I’d like frequent communication about when we can come back, and what you are doing to assure the health and safety of my child when we do.” You then say something like, “What, beyond our weekly newsletter and sanitation updates, could we do make you feel comfortable and completely informed?” Their answer may surprise you, and will definitely help direct the rest of your response and your action steps toward retaining them.


  1. Retention Incentives – What are you offering to existing families to retain them even though you cannot yet re-enroll them? For example, let’s say a customer has paid you a “Hold Fee” throughout the shut-down, to reserve their spot. However, you cannot serve them even upon initial re-opening, due to your state’s current DHS restrictions on group size, and tough decisions you have had to make around who to let return and how to accommodate schedules to serve the most families possible. I know of at least one company who has a retention incentive to extend the Hold fee, for those families to use as their tuition rate for the first few weeks once they do get to return. Will they have to make other arrangements in the meantime? Yes, some will. But remember, many businesses are shifting to more Work-from-Home schedules, meaning this family could be motivated to wait for you, especially if you continue to engage them until you can re-enroll them. Work with your team to brainstorm retention incentives that can work for your school.


  1. Engagement Campaign – Create a campaign to reach out to existing families awaiting re-enrollment, and to families who were on your waiting list prior to the pandemic. They are all now your prospects again. Go beyond typical outbound communications, such as your newsletter, to those kinds of contacts that engage them. Along with the flyer or link you send outlining your new sanitation and safety procedures, request their response to a two-question survey on what’s most important to them in feeling their child will be safe once back in your center. Then let them know the survey results, and how you are taking action on that information. Send them activities to engage their children and provide learning opportunities and touchpoints with their teachers. Include them on virtual family activities, in private Facebook groups, and in personal call campaigns. Continually remind them, through multiple print and digital marketing venues, of your differences, the value they get from you, and the confidence and trust they can have in you and your brand. Remember, your brand is your story. If it is compelling enough, caring enough, and communicated in unique benefits enough, you will retain more of your customers awaiting re-enrollment than you lose.


As restrictions ease over the next few weeks and months, your team will need to be prepared to excel at enrollment building. To do that effectively and cost-efficiently, check out my virtual training program – easy-access, user-friendly, password-protected, and best of all…affordable. The Enrollment EXCELerator© Video Training Program

Julie Wassom
The Child Care Marketing Expert and Coach
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author