As childcare service providers, our main focus normally is to provide the children who use our settings with high quality care and education. And of course this should be our main goal. But what are the tools that will support us to facilitate this goal in everyday practice.
Cathy Abraham, 2010, poses the question to us that “parents as partners is a guiding principle in early care and education but what about parents as customers?”
As Cathy points out, it is logical to think of parents as customers as they pay us for a service. In today's busy child care market, customer service separates the quality services from the possible “low quality” services. By providing customers "added touches" that are additional to quality care for their children; your service positions itself for achieving a reputation for good customer service.
Consider the following:
- Customer service relates to the service provided to customers before, during and after committing to purchase the service.
- No matter the size of your business, excellent customer service needs be at the heart of your business model if you wish to be successful.
- It is important to provide good customer service to all types of customers, including potential, new and existing customers.
- Although it can take extra resources, time and money, excellent customer service can generate positive word-of-mouth for your service, keep your “customers” happy and encourage them to use your service again.
The following are some top tips for good customer service in childcare settings:
- Identify and focus on your customers’ needs
- Make sure that your staff understand what you expect of them when dealing with parents
- It could be worth running a short staff training session on customer care and developing relationships with customers
- Ask parents for feedback – both through formal methods, like a suggestion box, and in informal everyday conversations
- Have a parents’ group or forum or invite one or two parents to part of a team meeting once a month to hear what they have to say
- Make sure your children can also get involved in telling you what they like and don’t like!
- Have a clear complaints policy – make sure that all staff are aware of it and use it
- If you have lost some customers, check if there is an explanation eg., family moving, child moving on to next stage etc. If there is no obvious explanation, ask the former customer for some feedback. Most people are happy to provide some feedback and it can be quite reassuring.
- As well as marketing to raise interest in your setting, you need to think about how to convert that interest to a “sale”.
- Most settings will have an information pack of some type which prospective customers will receive. Make sure that yours is up to date and includes all of the relevant information that you think your customers are interested in – including reference to your USPs!