Masterclass Recap: A Guide to Full Enrollment, Part One

HINGE hosted 234 attendees, with 33 states and Canada represented, for October’s THRIVE Masterclass discussing ways to engage staff in order to improve enrollment at your childcare school.

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Operations & Staffing Consultant Kathe Petchel launched into our webinar content with a brilliant book recommendation, The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. In the book, Gostick and Elton compare healthy management of staff to growing and harvesting a vegetable. Step one: Set goals with your team (plant the seed). Step two: Work on communication (the growing process). Step three: Gain a high level of trust (nurture the plant). And step four: Accountability (weed out bad influencers). During harvest is when staff should be achieving their goals. 

But in order for you to help your staff achieve their goals, they must also help your childcare business meet its goals. So, how can we grow enrollment by engaging staff?

First, we have to do the math. What does an empty enrollment slot cost you? And, if you were at full capacity, what could you do with the extra income? You could give your staff a raise, you could give bonuses, you could invest in new classroom materials, you could hire someone new. Do a little dreaming with your staff and set quarterly goals for enrollment as a team—with built-in rewards—so that when a potential new enrollment comes for a tour, your staff are even more invested and inspired to sell your services.

Start engaging staff during the hiring process by gaging personalities and seeing how they can fit into your enrollment process. Maybe they fit in by always having their classroom tidy and tour ready, or maybe they are your tour takeover staff member. Use a strengths finder or similar personality test to find out what each staff member is best suited for in your sales process or simply ask what they enjoy doing most in order to figure out what area each staff member can tackle to help you build enrollment.

Other ways to engage staff include…

  • Investing in teacher business referral cards for your staff and being generous with a bonus when they help land you a new enrollment.

  • Knowing each of your staff member’s language of appreciation so you are rewarding them in the most effective way when they get a referral.

  • Providing SWAG to your team members so people in your community can identify your staff. But make sure when they’re wearing your branded items that they know to act appropriately. They are representing you! 

Implement continuous training for your staff so they can develop the necessary phone skills needed to better engage with your current and potential customers. At HINGE, we secret shop our clients’ businesses and assess their staff’s phone skills to let them know where they can improve. Kathe recommends for her staff to record their calls to better assess and review their own phone skills. Don’t approach this in a negative way but rather as a way to build their skill set. You can even score your staff and offer them rewards when they achieve a certain grade. 

It’s also a good idea to create a general phone script that flows and is easy for your staff to follow as well as add their own personalities to. Make sure your staff who are answering the phones know your USPs (unique selling points) in regard to your different locations, teachers and classrooms. A classroom USP could include a class pet or specific curriculum. A location USP could include perks of the neighborhood or cool, nearby landmarks. Teacher USPs include their credentials and longevity as well as their personal interests and hobbies. Remember the number one goal is to build the relationship! Knowing the USPs for each location and classroom can help you do this.

It’s also a good idea to set guidelines for when staff answer the phone. For example, answer the call on the third ring or sooner, answer with a smile in your voice, make sure there is little to no background noise, etc. Make sure your phones are always being answered so you’re never losing a sale. Also, make sure your staff are asking for that tour appointment on every call. In-person interactions always wins out over phone interactions. You want to get them into your school for a visit.

Set realistic and achievable weekly tour targets. What is your current tour conversion rate? Track the typical process of a family who enrolls with your school. How many calls do you typically have with a family before they agree to a tour? How many families enroll after a tour and what is their typical timeline of enrollment?

Have a tour intake form (we can provide you with an example!) so that you are taking down all of the necessary information for a potential enrollment and are able to track their sales process from the beginning. Ask what’s most important to them for their child’s education? What are they looking for in a childcare center? Then, share USPs specific to these wants and needs. Also, try and schedule your tours in the morning when your classrooms are looking their best and the children are most engaged (and at their least cranky).  

Remember, practice makes perfect! Role play with your staff to develop their phone skills. Ask hard questions and get your staff comfortable answering difficult questions genuinely—you don’t want your staff tongued-tied or answering any questions with “I don’t know.”

Eager to learn more? For more information on how best to engage staff in your childcare enrollment process, watch the entire recorded THRIVE Masterclass here.

Meredith Martin