I was recently commissioned by a client to carry out telephone research on how her staff and other nurseries in their locality answer initial queries from prospective parents. Sadly, I was not surprised by my findings, having done this before for other clients.
- With this in mind I would like to share my initial thoughts on my experience and how you could improve your staff awareness in handling telephone queries from prospective parents:
- Answer the phone so that the caller can hear the smile in your voice. Do not answer the phone as if the world is coming to the end in five minutes.
- Say ‘xxxxx nursery, Barack speaking, how can I help you……’ don’t say ‘Ello, or Eh’.
- Make sure that the member of staff has a pen and note pad to hand or, more importantly, an initial enquiry form (please contact me if you would like a copy of an initial enquiry form – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Crucially – make sure that they understand the fee structure. I kid you not; one owner was unaware what the fees were, as the admin person was off sick. One member of staff even stated ‘I know, our fees are very complicated to understand’. Do not sign post the parent to the website for the fees; they called you to speak to you.
- Alternatively, have a simple fee structure so that everyone can understand.
- Be honest, stating that Ofsted only give out a satisfactory for the first inspection and then it will take two more inspections to gain an outstanding! Otherwise it is not the truth and does not treat parents with the respect they deserve.
- Again, be truthful about the services that you do provide and the positive impact that this will have on their child’s learning and development.
- Many nurseries’ details were wrongly listed on the information from Family Information Service (FIS). e.g incorrect telephone number and opening hours. In addition, some nurseries are clearly not identifying what their USP (unique selling point) is. When was the last time you checked with the FIS that your details were correct?
- Some websites stating incorrect, little and/or irrelevant information.
- Be sure to answer the telephone promptly or if a message is left on the answer machine, return the call ASAP, not two days after the message was left. Timing is crucial if you want to secure the place.
- Make sure you know what days you have vacancies on. If no vacancies be sure to state that you do have a waiting list and be realistic about this.
- Be prepared if the parent asks you any questions relating to an additional need and/or disability that their child may have and how you would accommodate this.
- Remember not to waffle on. Basic rule – we have two ears and one mouth and use in that order!
- Listen to the parent and their child’s needs and try to keep what you offer to the minimum, to ensure that at least the parent arranges a visit.
The start of building positive relationships and building rapport with parents starts at the initial telephone call.
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