Why Jackrabbit is the #1 Software for Childcare Centers

Jackrabbit offers everything studios need to operate and grow. Here are just some of the reasons why more than 4,500 customers love using the all-in-one, online software solution.

  1. We give you help when you need it. Your work hours aren’t 9 to 5, Monday through Friday so your need for help doesn’t always happen then either. We understand this, so we’re available to you when it fits your schedule. Whether you’re processing payments for the first time or setting your online registration for a new session, your Jackrabbit support team is there for you with quick responses that will help you get your work done.

One thing is for sure, we not only want you to get our help when you need it, but we also want you to do it in the way that makes you most comfortable. For those reasons, we offer support using the fastest possible method – a Support Button available on every screen of your Jackrabbit software. Regardless of where you are working in Jackrabbit, you can click the button and get help. Submit a ticket, chat or schedule a phone call with our support team. We’re available to you and eager to help you with whatever software issue is challenging you.  

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“We love that we have a voice with Jackrabbit Care. Our suggestions for new features are greeted with enthusiasm and they do everything they can to add those enhancements to the system for all their clients to have.” Cristin Jensen from Central Christian Academy

“Jackrabbit Care has been wonderful to me. They help me solve problems, they help me get set up. They are always ready to answer questions. They are always improving the site to make it dummy friendly.” Kathy Schaeffer, Kathy’s Child Care

  1. We help you give your parents what they need.Your center’s parents are pretty needy and reach out to you for everything from simple questions to convenient ways to pay. We make it possible for you to eliminate the calls, the emails, the interruptions to your day with the Customer Portal. 365/24/7 access to accounts, calendars, class listings and schedules and invoices– everything parents want from you.

The Parent Portal is one of the most powerful of the Jackrabbit components because it helps you make you center’s parents very happy. You can be 365/24/7 with no extra staffing or hours by offering secure processes and information to parents. They have convenience and you eliminate data entry and manual payment processing from your to-do list!

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“Jackrabbit’s Portal and Online Registration have made a big difference with parents. They control their own information and their own destinies because we give them the tools to manage their accounts at the best time and from the best place for them. That is a real differentiator.” Kyle Grussmeyer, All Star Legacy

“Jackrabbit’s Online Registration and Customer Portal totally transform the way parents do business with your school and eliminate the drudgery of entering data and processing payments by hand.” Buffy Folise, Chicago Swim School

“The Customer Portal is one of the best features of Jackrabbit! Our parents love the accountability and freedom it offers them. The program is very user-friendly and support is fast and accurate. We are so glad we chose this program, it has saved us time and energy in an already busy environment.” Elizabeth Small, Define Dance Space LLC

  1. You always know where your money is.Who has paid tuition and who hasn’t? Are more checks in the mail? Whose credit card was declined? Jackrabbit makes it possible for you to eliminate inefficient payment methods and collections and to simply get your money quickly. With Jackrabbit, you always know how much you’ve collected and any issues payments have encountered.

ExecDash_plain_CareThe Executive Dashboard gives users a window into the areas of their business that are most important to them. Owners may want different data than Directors and Directors may want to see something different than teachers. For these very reasons, we’ve made the dashboard customizable to the needs and desires of the person who is logged in.

“Jackrabbit’s Dashboard gives me a quick glance into the most important details of my business so I can stay in touch with daily wins and challenges. It also opens the window into class details and this is very important in knowing what is really going on with students and instructors.” Wilma Lee, 4Cats South Burnaby

“The simplicity of an online system means we no longer have to think about updates and maintenance of the software and the convenience of anywhere access enables us to provide detailed answers – regardless of where we are when a parent asks questions.”  Jason Bergstrom, West University Baptist Church’s KidStuff

  1. We’ve always put you first. From the very beginning, we built our software around what you need by asking, listening and doing. We constantly enhance our software, putting more than 200 per year in place based on your requests and challenges you share with us. We always work toward a higher level of excellence so that you can efficiently operate and effortlessly grow. It is truly all about you.

sendideascreenThe Submit Idea button is proof that you’re priority one. This is a key part of the Jackrabbit software development plan because it is critical to how we learn what you need, what concerns you and what makes you happy.  

“Reports are just one example of how we know that Jackrabbit pays attention to our needs in trying to fashion the solution  in a way that makes sense for our type business. You can’t put a dollar value on that kind of attention to detail.” Joanna Harmon, Blount County Extended School Program

“Jackrabbit’s open attitude toward user input on development is refreshing! Through the Submit Idea button, we know that we’re putting our ideas directly in front of those who create new features and enhancements. We usually quickly hear back that our idea is on the development schedule. ”  JR & Kelley Zeringue, ACE All Stars Gadsden

“Since implementing Jackrabbit in 2008, we’ve used the “Submit Idea” button in our application many times to share our software epiphanies with them. It is a great tool that connects us directly with development. The continuous enhancement list shows that they pay attention to what we say.”  Amy Allen, Turning Pointe

  1. We give you training anytime you need it. From the time you become a Jackrabbit user until you’re a “seasoned” user, we have training for you! When you’re setting up critical components, having guides can be a tremendous comfort. When you’re brushing up on features you haven’t used in a while, videos help you brush up on the details. When you’re setting up online registration on your website or in your parent portal, step-by-step instructions can save your sanity. It’s obvious from these examples, that training is crucial. We believe good training is important in helping you to become proficient and happy with our software!

We make our training even better by providing it to you in multiple ways: getting started tools, online help and guides, subject specific videos, online interactive training, and one-on-one Jumpstart or Utilization Review phone calls.

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“Jackrabbit made sure we were off to a good start. The Jump Start Call did more than help us get our database set up. It also gave us great confidence in using the software to the max. The videos are awesome tools because we can look at them whenever we need a little refresher in one area or another.”  – Shelby Bruyer, Co-Owner, Amaze Dance Studio

  1. You can trust us. We don’t just want your trust, we’re willing to earn it. And we believe you can have confidence in us:

We take pride in the quality, security and reliability of our system. We keep our systems (and your data) in the same data center where banks and major global corporations store their systems and data. Because of this, we can promise you the highest uptime percentages not only in our industry but among all technology solutions. Our development staff believes in excellence and reliability so we use the highest development standards and test, test, test, test.

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Summed up, this means that we take the high road in business and development practices to ensure that you have the best software and a trustworthy partner for today and for the long term.  

“Being with Jackrabbit from its beginning stages has – in itself – been a benefit to us. We have seen the system mature and that gives us a very intimate understanding of its inner workings. Several components of the system have been business-changing for us along the way and that is how we know that the company keeps our best interest top-of-mind. They continuously seek out and provide ‘that next thing’ that we need to keep our business humming.” Scott Davis, eNeRGy Kidz

“Jackrabbit has renewed our confidence in our operations. We don’t worry about downtime or outages because they just don’t happen with Jackrabbit and we have support resources that we can depend on.” Jeff Lulla, Fun & Fit Gymnastics

“Jackrabbit saved us from an inefficient software system and has provided us with control over our processes and insight into our information. The value it delivers makes the cost of our previous software seem unjustified! I’m very impressed and pleased that Jackrabbit is willing to improve their products as I grow and improve my business.” Keith Pinkston, New Orleans Dance Academy

There is no doubt that there are more reasons that Jackrabbit is #1, but we think this list covers the most important ones. To learn more, click here.

Follow-up is Critical to Your Enrollment Growth

If you don’t think building enrollment is all about sales, think again.

It is sales. And a huge part of sales is follow-up. In fact, a large number of the deals that are closed happen in follow-up interactions.

What happens if you don’t follow up? Well, your potential client (the parent) chooses another care center. Why? Because they were top-of-mind, not you. Follow up gives you that top-of-mind presence.

If you don’t follow up, you’re leaving business on the table. And potentially giving it to one of your competitors.

Maybe you don’t follow up because you don’t know where to start.

Here are 3 easy ways to follow up with parents and build your enrollment.

1. Create a visitor log that asks for the parent’s name, phone number and email address.

  • Most people don’t mind giving you this information. Without this information, you have little hope of follow up. You’ll have to do lots of research to get partial, inaccurate or no information when you could have just put a simple form out in your lobby or front desk area.
  • Gathering their information is a way that you can show your center has a tight security focus. You know who comes in your center.
  • Parents are asked for contact information in many of the places they go so they probably expect for you to gather information from them when they visit your center.

2. Collect contact information from parents when they call your home or center.

  • Deliver good training to your staff on how to incorporate gathering this information from parents when they call your center.
  • If the parents are even mildly interested in your center, they will give you their information. So making this request provides a layer of “screening” to cull out those who would probably never become clients anyway.

3. Follow-up with the parent within 24-48 hours of calling or visiting your program.

  • Make sure that you do follow up and that your follow up is timely.
  • Use the follow-up opportunity to provide the best information that you can to your potential client.
  • Call so that you make a “live” touch and immediately begin to build a relationship.
  • Use email as a follow-up to your phone call but don’t just thank them for talking to you or tell them that you’re sorry you missed them. Add value by:
    • Including testimonial statements in your email.
    • Attaching a document to your email that gives the parent more details about why your center is their best choice.
    • Proactively providing references in your follow-up email.

4. Make sure potential clients have easy ways to get back in contact with you. (main center phone number, direct line to you, direct email address, center web address)

  • Send them away from their visit with a card and brochure. Why both?
    • The card easily fits in a wallet or pocket and is easy for them to keep with them.
    • The brochure has great information but is more likely to end up on a desk or counter.
  • Include a downloadable contact card with your email so the parent can easily save all of the ways they can reach you.
  • Create an email signature that automatically appears at the base of your emails so that they have your contact information even if they delete or miss your email attachments.
  • Make sure complete information is on your website.
    • Services
    • Testimonials
    • Center details (staff, facilities)
    • Benefits of choosing you
    • Contact information or form

With all of this attention and information, how can your center not be top-of-mind? You have provided your potential clients with plenty of reasons to choose you and eliminated any possible objections so how can you not be their center of choice?

Resource: Child Care Business Coach

Instagram Algorithm Changes To Know

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of buzz about Instagram’s changes. Not only have they updated their brand-logo, there are some changes with the algorithm, videos and ads that you’ll want to know!

Do you remember when your Instagram feed was flooded with images like this?

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This social media storm started from details being released on Instagram’s algorithm change. What does this mean? Posts are no longer showed in chronological order. This is huge! You will now see posts in the order that Instagram deems the most important to you.

For example, a photo with 9 likes an no comments from three hours ago from someone you occasionally engage with is several posts ahead of a photo with 180k likes and 640 comments from an hour ago from a celebrity with a verified profile whom you rarely engage with.

As a business on Instagram, you’ll want to educate your Instagram fans about the new algorithm and how they can ensure that they don’t miss your latest posts. Tell them in an email newsletter that they need to start engaging with your posts and Turn On Post Notifications to keep up with your latest Instagram content.

Aside from the algorithm…

Instagram rolled out an increased time limit for videos from 15 to 60 seconds in April. You can shoot video directly from the Instagram app or use your photo library. Features allow you to add filters, turn off the sound, and choose the cover photo.

With these changes, you can share more video content, especially if you like to repurpose content from other networks, such as downloading your Snapchat story video to Instagram.

Another great update is now you can find out how many people are viewing your videos on Instagram. Simply look at the view count below each of your videos. When you click on your number of views, you’ll get to see the number of likes, along with the option to follow those who liked your video.

 

Have you seen the difference in the new algorithm? What do you think? What questions do you have?

How to Boost a Facebook Post

Boosting posts is an effective and inexpensive way to get more exposure for your content. It’s a simple and easy process – posts are boosted right from your Facebook Page – and you can boost a post for any amount you want.
It’s a great way to get more people to see your posts, promote special events, offers and news, and to reach new audiences through targeting. Facebook is the largest social media platform and you have to ‘pay to play’ these days. Since so many businesses and people are using Facebook to communicate, it’s hard to capture your audience’s attention. Boosting a Facebook post is one way you can get your content in front of more people.
Step 1: Create a post on your Facebook Fan Page. 
For best results, allow some time for the post to go out to fans as normal. This is called organic – without paying. This will make your boost even more impactful and will save you from paying for your committed fans to engage with your post.
Step 2: Go to the post you want to promote. 
At the bottom righthand corner of the post, you’ll see a blue button with “Boost” in white text. Click that to open up the boost information.
Step 3: This is where you’ll choose your audience.
  • If you select People you choose through targeting, you’ll be able to specify the people you show your boosted post to. Then, refine their locations, ages, genders and interests.
  • If you select People who like your Page and their friends, your boosted post will only be visible to those people. Note: this option is available if at least 50 people like your Page.

For this example, I targeted our monthly newsletter list which I uploaded in the Facebook Ads section. This is called a Custom Audience and you can get more info here.

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Step 4: Choose your budget
  1. Set your maximum budget. You can spend as much or as little as you want. We’ll give you an estimate on the number of people you’re going to reach depending on the amount you set.
  2. Choose your duration. Your post is automatically boosted for one day, but you can select up to 7 days.
  3. Click Boost
Note: There are guidelines you must follow for a post to be eligible for boosting. You can’t have more than 20% of text on the image you’re uploading. There is a tool that will check your image for you – click here.
Step 5: Your ad will go to Facebook to be approved. 
There are a few things you should know about Facebook’s advertising policies – read them here.
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Step 6: Check your metrics. Did the ad work?
In the bottom righthand corner of the post you boosted, you’ll see a “View Results” button now. [Remember, this is the same location you saw the “Boost” button.]
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In this screen, you can see how many people clicked on the photo, the link, liked your page and see other metrics. This is important to keep an eye on to see how well the advertisement work and be able to track if your enrollment goes up any.
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How to Write Great Subject Lines

Your subject line is really important because it’s the first impression you’ll make on your readers. Your subject line is without a doubt the most important part of your email campaign. You get 100% eyeshare from it regardless of whether or not an email is opened.

The goal of a subject line is to stand out in the inbox, grab your readers’ attention, and convince them to open your email.

Here are 5 tips for writing an effective subject line.

  1. Stay short and sweet – Remember that a lot of readers are going to be looking at your email from a mobile device, so you have a small space to work with. For best results, limit your subject line to about 40 characters so that nothing gets cut off. Think five to seven words.
  2. Avoid anything spammy – Certain language like ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Free,’ or loud punctuation like all caps or multiple exclamation points can send your email to the spam folder. You can use this spam checker tool to test the spammyness of your email.
  3. Ask a question – Questions are great because they pique your audience’s interest. If a contact is scrolling through their inbox and they see a question, they’ll want to click on your message to get an answer from your business.
  4. Include a deadline – I think we all know what it’s like to wait until the last minute to do something. By including a deadline, you’ll create a sense of urgency with your reader and you’ll show them that your message is timely and that they should open it.
  5. Add a list – People love lists because it’s really easy to digest the information. They know when they open your email they’ll have a really clearly laid out set of points that they can scan through quickly.

What questions do you have about subject lines? Share below.

A Photo App You Can’t Go Without

Standing out against the rest of the buzz on social media is a big challenge for all brands. You want your post to ‘stop the scroll’ for your fans. Your content catches their eye so much that they stop scrolling and take a better look at your content instead of scrolling right past it.

There are millions of apps out there these days and it gets hard to even sift through which ones you really need. One app you can’t go without is called Over. This app allows you to add text and artwork to your photos right on your phone. No need for Photoshop or any other fancy computer program – you can do it on the go!

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Get creative with your posts on social media. Take photos at different angles and zoom in for a dramatic effect. If you can add some text onto your photo, there is a better chance folks will read the word on the photo instead of your caption.

Another huge benefit to this app is the ability to add your logo to your photos. This is great for branding purposes – people will be able to see this is your business with one glance.

Note: You do have to purchase the +png add-on for this function. It’s worth the $1.99.

Step 1: Choose your photo and then add text, art, or a png.
[PNG is an image with a transparent background.]

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Step 2: Pinch to resize your logo and then drag it wherever you’d like it to go.

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Step 3: Edit the image if you’d like or add text.

 

IMG_3920 IMG_3921Step 4: Click the yellow arrow on the right side of the screen to share to your camera roll and other social media networks!

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Are you on the map, the Google Map?

Have you ever received a call from a potential customer that just can’t find your location? They’ve been googling you with no luck and seem frustrated. That’s because you haven’t told Google exactly where your location is. This can be rectified very easily. I’ll show you how!

Step 1: Go to Google My Business
Go to https://www.google.com/business/.
Google_My_Business

Step 2: Sign Up or Sign In
Getting listed on Google requires a Google account. This can be a personal or business Gmail account. Our recommendation is to NOT tie it to a personal account but to a business account. This ensures that no matter who is employed or running the studio that it’s always accessible.

Step 3: Search By Business Name Or Address
Enter your business name or address. If the business does not exist in Google Maps you will be prompted as seen in the screenshot below to enter the full business details. Let’s do that.
google-maps-step-3a

Step 4: Enter Your Business Information
Enter all your business details and let’s move on.
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Step 5: Verify Your Business By Mail
Alright, here we go. The next screen has you verify your information so that they can mail a verification postcard to your physical location. Ensure it looks good and select “Mail Me My Code”. This will take 1-2 two weeks.
google-maps-step-4

Step 6: Get Your Postcard & Verify Your Business
We are in the homestretch! Now that you’ve received your postcard you can go ahead an log back into the Google My Business page here. Click “Enter Code”. You’ll be prompted to enter a 5-digit verification code. Enter that and click submit! You’re done. You are officially verified your business for Google Maps. That wasn’t so hard.

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Bonus Step: Fill Out The Entire Profile
You can technically stop at Step 6 but having a complete profile will create a better experience for you, current and potential customers. Go ahead an upload a logo, add business hours and a description of your business. Google will show you how much of your profile is complete with a percentage bar. Once it’s at 100% you are done.

Having trouble? Let us know in the comments below. We’d be happy to help.

Tracking Visitors To Your Website – Google Analytics

Now that you’re on the map, how do you know if people are actually finding your website and location through Google?

The answer. Google Analytics. I’ll show you how to set this up on your center’s website and in future posts we’ll talk about looking through the data and understanding where the visitors are coming from.

We have great news to kick this off! You actually use the same Google account you used to create your Google Maps listing. Let’s get going. Go to Google Analytics. Click sign up!

Step 1: Register Your Website
Follow along with the numbers and directions in the screenshot below.

1. Website or App?
Go with the default. It’s a website.

2. Account Name?
Just put your center name in here.

3. Website Name?
This can also just be the name of your center. Seems redundant. I know. No worries.

4. Website URL?
What’s your website address? http://www.WHATEVERthisIS.com. That’s it!

5. Industry Category?
Beauty & Fitness, Arts & Entertainment, or other. Your call. This is more a give data to Google thing than a this effects the outcome of your analytics thing.

6. Reporting Time Zone?
This is actually incredibly important. If you set this incorrectly it’ll look like your visitors are showing up on the site at really weird times.

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Step 2: Accept the Terms & Get Your Tracking ID
You can read that whole terms but boy is it long. It’s nothing nefarious. Just accept the terms and get your tracking ID. The next screen can be a bit scary. The nice thing is there’s only one piece of information that you need to tackle the next step. You’re so close. See the screenshot below. The area highlighted in pink is all you need. Copy the whole thing. Everything from script to script. Now for the hardest step which may require you to seek assistance.

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Step 3: Place The Tracking Script Live on the SiteThe entire script needs to be placed in the header code of the site between the opening and closing head tag. Did that first sentence seem like I was speaking in a foreign language? You’re not alone. Without having a little knowledge of the way a website functions this can be a daunting task to tackle. We recommend if you’re not sure what you’re doing to reach out to a friend or family member that has a little website experience.

The other thing you can do is sound off in the comments below. Let us know where you are getting stuck and I will be more than happy give you more specific instructions. Every website configuration is different. You might have a purely static page html website. You may be on WordPress or Drupal. Let us know in the comments what you’re using and I can better guide you through setting this up.

That’s it. Once it’s live on the site we are a go. You’re tracking everyone visiting the site now. In the next posts we’ll talk about parsing the data coming in and understanding how people are interacting with your site.

Loyal Customers Are No Accident

While a customer may find you by accident, whether or not they stay with you is a conscious choice!

These days, when there are so many options for children’s activities that you must inspire your families to stick with you. And what really sends them over the top is you. Well, more specifically, it’s their experience when both parents and children are in your center.

Regardless of whether your center is large or small, you can create memorable experiences for every family and student that comes through your door. These memories will be indelible imprints that are triggered each time a friend asks them about where their kids take lessons. This is how you create loyal customers and great evangelists for your center.

WOW Them

It’s easier than you think. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture and it doesn’t need to cut into your profits.

Personalize the experience in person and online.

Examine your customers’ behavior to learn their preferences and habits and then cater to them in an individual way when you see them in your center and when you reach out to them electronically.

Making notes in Jackrabbit allows you to keep little details that can make your interactions with your families very personal and very effective. Keeping track of information such as those among your families who attend extra events, the mothers who respond to requests or students who purchase from your store can give you great basic information for personalizing communications with these customers.  Sometimes being the preferred choice is about the special attention or added extras that show you care that they are your customer.

A Parents’ Wine Tasting Night instead of your typical Parents’ Night Out is a great idea for making your center’s parents feel special. Gift wrap items from your store when you know it is being purchased for a gift. Some stores always use cute decorative gift bags with matching tissue paper and ribbon just so every purchase feels special.

Sometimes parents are very excited about gestures of appreciation that have nothing to do with your business. Maybe you present parents with massage coupons or healthful grocer gift cards when you want to thank them. This is also a great way to support your neighboring local businesses.

Show parents you care about their kids. Knowing details about your students is critical for teaching them but it also helps you to WOW them with their experience as well. Recognize birthdays and milestones. Talk to them about what they do (outside of your center). Learning about special experiences and remembering them in conversations with students, shows that you’re interested in them as people – not just as kids in your classes. Parents will notice this and appreciate that you do it.

Know Your Customers

So all of these “personalizations” require that you know your customers. Without details, you can’t create the WOW experiences that will make a difference in your relationships.

To do this, you don’t have to be intrusive. Sometimes it’s as simple as paying attention! You can learn lots by just listening in your center. Have conversations. Ask what else they are involved in. Ask what their plans for the weekend are or what they are going to do over spring break or winter holidays. Talk to parents and learn more about their interests, their careers and their families. Track this information and use it to personalize the next conversation you have with them.

If you distribute a newsletter and can track your click-thrus, be sure to look at who looks at which content. This will give you mountains of information about each particular family’s interests and needs.

Use your Facebook Business page to take a poll. This may not tie identities to answers but it will tell you what your parents’ consensus feelings are about any number of topics.

You also may choose to survey your customers to learn even more about them. Be sure to track this information too – and use it!

You may not be able to remember minute details about every customer and student. Perhaps you can start by getting to know your most active families first. This is often a good strategy because of the 80/20 rule where 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers. Not only will this engage your best customers even more, it will also encourage and inspire referrals from them.

This is Your Secret Weapon

It is proven that small businesses that engage with their customers have a competitive advantage over those who don’t make the effort. Getting to know your families and students on a personal level results in better service and gives you elated and loyal parents and students who will spread the good word about you to their friends.

Take advantage of this distinct differentiator and bring it to the next level by creating a wow experience and then personalize it whenever possible. The more personalized the wow experience is, the more memorable it becomes, therefore fueling your repeat and referral engine.

 

40 Ideas That Can Get Parents Involved

Most centers find it a challenge to get parents involved even though their involvement can mean a world of difference in their child’s success. Here are some ideas that can help you to get some parental involvement going.

  1. Make refrigerator notes for parents.
  2. Hold your first parent meeting at a fast-food restaurant.
  3. Provide “Fact Cards” for parents with school name, address, phone number, name of principal, school secretary, school nurse. This could even be a refrigerator magnet!
  4. Send home tape recorded messages in parents’ own language.
  5. Celebrate the birthday of an author at your center and ask parents to come and read the author’s books to the class.
  6. Establish “Take Home Tuesday” as day to send school papers home.
  7. Hold a dessert night for parents and have children share stories they have written.
  8. Hold a reading night with parents bringing books to read with their child.
  9. Ask parents to volunteer a skill they can share at your center and teach the students.
  10. Remember the 3 “F”s for success – Food, Families, Fun.
  11. Use videos to show busy parents their children in action.
  12. Hold a holiday meal as a dinner theater and have the students be the waiters. Students can make also make table decorations during art time. Provide theater tickets to parents to attend.
  13. Host a game night at your center and provide game centers for parents and children to rotate through during the night. Provide popcorn and a drink.
  14. Put up parent-friendly signs at school-directing them to the office.
  15. Greet visiting parents as quickly as possible-perhaps use volunteers.
  16. Have children’s work on display all over the school – every child’s work, not just the work of your “future artists.”
  17. Make “Sunshine Calls” to reach out when you see that parents need some cheering up.
  18. Offer parenting classes.
  19. Train your staff in parent involvement.
  20. Hold informal “drop in” coffee times and encourage parents to come.
  21. Have some place in the building that parents can call their own.
  22. Establish and use parent advisory groups.
  23. Conduct surveys to understand how your families feel about your center.
  24. Reach out to new families-again and again.
  25. Establish a parents’ Hall of Fame.
  26. Always have agendas for parent meetings.
  27. Share with parents experiences you have had with your own children – it breaks down barriers, gets you out of your “role” and help parents see you as a fellow parent.
  28. Never ask parents questions where there can be wrong answers.
  29. Consider instituting learning contracts involving your center, the parent and the child.
  30. Hold several open house programs throughout the year.
  31. Publish a calendar for your center.
  32. Use simple evaluation forms to get parent feedback.
  33. Find ways to praise parents for ways they are helping their children.
  34. Do projects that call on Dad’s special abilities (building, painting); feature male speakers; proclaim celebrations; offer incentives (raffles, etc.).
  35. Enlist parental help with developing a center handbook.
  36. Put up a Welcome sign in every language spoken by students and parents at your center and get help from parents in getting the words right.
  37. Try an overnight read-in with parents, kids and local drop-in celebrities.
  38. Take parents’ pictures. Tell them in advance that pictures will be taken with their child, and prepare for a crowd.
  39. Present a TV workshop for parents-how to control TV time.
  40. Create a video or slide show of what’s going on.

Resource: Child Care Lounge

Help from Technology

Technology  Can Help You Improve the Way Your Center Runs

A little tech savvy can go a long way when running a successful child care center.

Running a child care center is just the same as running other small businesses – you’re a lean business machine. Usually, your business is you and a few trusted team members. You might think you don’t have the budget to access the kinds of technology that can help you build business and streamline operations. Think again. You do.

In fact, most solutions may just be a few clicks away.

Here are other technologies that can help you – and that you’re likely to be able to afford.

A great website for your center. Your prospective clients WANT to see an informative, clean website. It is a mark of professionalism. This web presence also increases the chances you’ll be found on search engines.

Use social media to expand your reach. Social media is an effective way to build stronger relationships with your customers and to make a positive impact on prospects. Share high-value information with your followers that is related to your child care center and it will help you to build trust with your customers and prospects.

Stay connected with a smartphone or tablet. Don’t be out of touch just because you’re out of your center. Clients appreciate being able to get to you if they need you.

Simplify invoicing, tuition collection, registration and account management with an online system.  Today’s technology marketplace offers solutions that integrate practically all of the tools that child care centers need to manage their center and keep it organized in a central database. Everything from payments, to student registration gives parents and staff members all of the conveniences of using the Internet.

Communicate with an email newsletter. A regularly published newsletter is one of the best ways to stay connected with your families and to keep them informed about your center.tech2

Use an online management system. Internet based systems offer your center something besides convenience and powerful tools that enable mobility. They offer you security for your data. Because online systems use industry-standard storage, management and back-up services, they give you a level of excellence that you could never afford as an individual center.

Use free conference services. There are several viable yet free services that enable you to eliminate any costs that you incur from conference lines or teleconferencing expenses.

Consider implementing a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. Allow employees to use devices of their choice and help them offset the cost. This is a huge tech trend among all types of small businesses.

Make security a priority. Protect your wireless networks using secure passwords. Require that employees regularly change their own passwords and require that all mobile devices have security modes enabled. Make sure that each device has the latest anti-virus and malware programs installed.

Consider SaaS solutions when possible. Software solutions that are offered via the Internet at a monthly subscriber cost instead of ones that you purchase and install on all of your computers can generate tremendous savings in raw costs but also in the manhours spent maintaining the software that you own. SaaS solutions relinquish all need for management (upgrades, maintenance and fixes) and security from you.

Technology can help child care center owners reap significant rewards in working smarter, not harder.

Top 6 Ways to Improve Your Website

Your website is your first impression with most of your new customers. It is the face of your business. Making sure your website communicates appropriately, is critical. Below is a list of 6 ways to improve how your website performs. I’ve put together this list based on years of experience working with small businesses and helping them optimize their online presence. Hopefully this list will help you do the same.

1. Remove Flash Animations

Flash animations cannot be viewed on Apple computers, smart phones or iPads. This means that at least 25% (potentially significantly more) of your website visitors can’t see it. It’s not helping you and in many cases is actually hurting you. If portions of your website are not visible, then what impression is that giving to potential customers?  In the mind of most people, a broken website = a broken business.

2. If It’s Broken, Fix It!404-error

It is far too common that websites have broken links, images don’t show up or pages that don’t look right. As we mentioned above, a broken website = a broken business. If your website has any of these issues, you can be seriously damaging your first impression. Often business owners forget that while their current customers have gotten used to the fact that the home link doesn’t work, or that they need to go to your ABOUT US page to find the class listings, because the button on the home page that says “CLASS LISTINGS” is broken. The problem is your potential customers don’t know this and they aren’t going to fuss around to figure it out. It is often much easier for them to leave and go to your competitor’s website.

3. Stop Ignoring Smartphone and Tablet Users

Did you realize that more than 1 in every 3 visitors to your website is using a smartphone or tablet? If your website is not designed for viewing on these devices, then these customers and potential customers are not having an easy time working with you. So, stop ignoring one-third of your potential customers and get your website optimized for mobile viewing.

4. Ask For Their Business

This is how you built your business! Do you have clear and obvious ‘call to action’ on your website? Do you have button that says “Call us now to sign up!” or “Click here to register for a class!”? It sounds obvious but, it is not uncommon for me to see websites that don’t have any call to action. Most new visitors to your website are looking for classes for their child. Doesn’t it make sense to ask them to sign up?

5. Improve Usability3-5second

Is your website usable? Is it easy for people to find information? Can they quickly and easily locate class listings and sign up? Is your phone number on your homepage?  Your website needs to be really easy for people to use. If it’s not, they will leave. In fact, you only have 3-5 seconds to impress a new visitor. If you don’t, they are gone.

6. Ask for Feedback

Ask some friends that have never been on your website to use it and give you honest feedback. Give them a common task, such as looking for a class for a 9 year old beginner, or figuring out what the dress code is for your 6 year olds’ class. Use at least two (2) scenarios and make sure that at least one is for a new potential customer. You can also ask your current customers. Many of them will have great feedback. Too often, we get used to our website and don’t even realize that it isn’t organized as well as it could be and that important information might be really hard to find for someone that has never been on your website… like a new potential customer.

In summary, your website should communicate your brand effectively, be easy to navigate and it needs to work.

How To Stay Out Of The SPAM Folder

Email marketing is all the rage these days. It’s the cheapest and fastest way to get information to your customers and prospects. Say you have a birthday party and 20 children come that haven’t taken a class at your facility before. Since they came to the party, you have their email address and can send them an email about your classes. Maybe they sign up, maybe they don’t. But…are they even getting your email? More importantly, are your current customers getting your emails? spamblogimageEverybody sends emails. And consumers are getting an information overload. Think about your Inbox  – how many emails do you get a day? What makes you open one up? Either the sender’s name or the subject will grab your attention and you’ll click to read the rest of the email. The subject line is huge. What you put in your subject line could prevent email providers from even sending your email. Yep. There are filters everywhere. Here are a few things from Mailchimp on what to avoid when you are writing a subject line.

  • Using phrases like “Click here!” or “Once in a lifetime opportunity!”
  • Excessive use of exclamation points!!!!!!!!!
  • USING ALL CAPS, WHICH IS LIKE SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS VIA EMAIL (especially in the subject line).
  • Using bright red or green colored fonts.
  • Using bad content. This one’s broad, but important. Email delivery expert Laura Atkins details content-based filtering in this article.
  • Coding sloppy HTML, usually from converting a Microsoft Word file to HTML.
  • Creating an HTML email that’s nothing but one big image, with little or no text. Spam filters can’t read images, so they assume you’re a spammer trying to trick them.

Take a poll with your customers – check and see if they’re getting your emails. Writing subject lines can really help the deliverability of your emails!

Your subject line should have no more than 5-8 words or 40 characters.

Here’s a quick list of spam words to avoid in your subject line:

  1. Free
  2. Help
  3. Percent Off
  4. Reminder
  5. Sale
  6. Save $
  7. Offer
  8. Now
  9. #1
  10. Congratulatioins

Do you have tips to share on subject lines? Share with us what has worked and what hasn’t.

How Can You Help Prepare Your Center’s Children for Kindergarten?

This is really parents’ job but you can do things in your center to help.

KindergartenPrep1_BlogChildren who have preparation before they enter kindergarten pick up concepts presented to them and excel much more quickly than those who don’t. Parents play a key role in this prep process but you can also by providing prep in your center as a consistent component of your curriculum.

It may seem that there is plenty of time for this but months will fly by when you have a list of items and activities you’re trying to do to help your center’s children move up to kindergarten with confidence and ready to learn.

Read a lot in your center.

This is the single activity that you can do to ensure the children of your center have a lifelong passion for learning. Becoming a proficient reader – and enjoying it – sets children up for everything else they need to learn. Without strong development of this vital skill, they will struggle to keep up with those who have preparation in this area.

Create conversations.

Ask your children open-ended questions. Do not set them up for yes/no answers, but ask questions in ways that require that they answer you in sentences. Real experience is the best way for children to learn to communicate instead of just saying words. This is great for future learning but it also helps them to be more comfortable and confident in everyday life.

Make learning part of daily tasks.

Ask them to find shapes and patterns in their surroundings. Have them identify familiar objects, count and classify what they see. Which automobiles are cars and which are trucks? What types of animals are they seeing?  How many children are in each small group in your room? How many blueberries are on his plate? There are lots of things that you can help children examine in what surrounds them daily at your center.

Incorporate learning into play.

Give purpose to the games that your children play and work their brains as they are playing them. Many card and board games combine learning with fun – even very basic ones that tiny ones use to learn more about their senses and how their bodies work. Fun takes away the monotony that causes children to get distracted or become bored with learning activities and learning keeps “fun” from being idle time for the brain.

Kindergarten teacherslike to meet new students who already are practicing their abilities to:

  • Follow routines and can follow 3-step directions consistently
  • Feel comfortable and confident away from family for short times
  • Play cooperatively and is able to take turns with others
  • Express personal wants and needs clearly
  • Use the bathroom, wash hands and dress independently
  • Understand the concept of taking turns
  • Use crayons, scissors and pencils appropriately
  • Run, jump, hop and skip
  • Recognize simple shapes and colors
  • Sing simple memorized songs
  • Show interest in stories and books
  • Recognize their own printed name and some signs and symbols, such as favorite restaurant logos or traffic signs
  • Copy patterns, including writing their own name
  • Recognize several letters of the alphabet and some numbers and can count
  • Express thoughts and ideas in drawings

Resource: Parenting Magazine

Image Credit: Jackrabbit Technologies

Before You Talk to The Next Difficult Customer…

In dealing with difficult customers, anger is generally what you or your staff has to deal with. There probably are few more stressful situations in your center than when an unhappy and difficult customer confronts you and is bent on expressing the anger the situation has aroused in him or her.

We’re sharing some key points to remember when this situation arises. Beyond these points, we believe that creating policies and establishing a process for handling angry customers is helpful for you, your staff and your customers.

AngryCustomer

Points to Remember:

Anger makes rationality impossible. The angry customer is so involved in their emotions (anger) that they practically block out everything else. This is because they’re stuck in the right side of their brain where their emotions (anger) lives. They can’t get themselves over into the left side of their brain where problem solving (rationality) lives. Know this and move on because you cannot change it.

Be aware of the need for you to acknowledge their anger. They expect you to respond to their anger and if you don’t they will not be willing to move on in communicating. Until you respond to the anger, they will not feel that they are getting their point through and will continue to get angrier and the situation will become more and more difficult to diffuse or resolve. Even a statement as simple as “I can see that you’re upset and I want you to know that getting to the bottom of this is as important to me as it is to you” will help your communication to move ahead instead of spinning around their anger.

You and your center will be in a better position at the end of this conversation if you work on diffusing the difficult customer’s anger first – before you try to resolve the issue. So remember #1 – diffuse, #2 problem-solve. The customer will be more likely to be listening to you if you follow this order. They may actually get out of the right (emotional) side of their brains! If you try the reverse, your customer will still be emotional, not fully able to rationalize and in any attempt to negotiate, your center will end up offering more to abate their anger than if diffusion happens first. Knowing this will help you to more easily and confidently respond to anger.

The issue is no longer the “real” issue. When anger is involved, it is all about the way the conflict is handled.  They can easily get over the extra $4 that was charged to their account if the situation is managed and resolved by your center.

The most perfect comparison that I’ve seen is one between an angry customer and an erupting volcano. When erupting, there is nothing you can do about. You can’t stop it, speed it up or redirect it. You have to just give it space and let it happen.

So the next time you see an angry customer heading your way, think of the erupting volcano. Don’t try to calm them or interrupt them. Just as the volcano eventually subsides, so will your angry customer. It is best to let them slow off their head of steam and then perhaps cool down a little. Only then will you be able to begin to diffuse their anger and eventually resolve the issue. It may even be in your best interest to apologize. Often apologies help the angry customer to begin to rebuild their trust in you and your center. The fact is that apologizing alone has been proved to reduced lawsuits settlement and defense cost when a conflict reaches that level.

Your goal is keeping your customer, not being right. You cannot win an argument with a customer. While you can make your point and you can prove your position. And you may actually even be right. The real issue here is changing your angry customer’s mind and that isn’t going to happen. If they are determined that you’re wrong, you almost may as well be. The best hope for keeping this customer is to avoid an argument – regardless of right or wrong.

One of the best things for you in following the #1 diffuse/#2 problem-solve procedure is that it will reduce YOUR stress level. And when you are less stressed everyone in your center (and in your family) wins!

Establish Your Own Process

In addition to these Points to Remember, there is advice that can help when you’re dealing with difficult customers on a site called Mind Tools.com. Although not directly focused on child care centers, the steps described in the Mind Tools information can lay out a process for you that will be helpful – especially if you struggle with these situations and suffer undue stress when difficult customers approach you.

You may also want to help your staff by providing training for them in handling angry customers in the ways that will work out the best for everyone.

Mind Tools’ steps include Adjusting Your Mindset, Listening Actively, Repeating Their Concerns, Being Empathic and Apologizing, Presenting a Solution, Taking Action and Following-up and Using the Feedback. You can see where our initial Points to Remember fit into the Mind Tools process!

Sources: Child Care Lounge, EzineArticles and Mind Tools.

Photo Credit: © All rights reserved by KnowledgeBishop

Answering the Phone in Your Child Care Center

The first impression that potential clients get of your child care center is when your front office staff answers the phone. If that thought makes you nervous, then you need to tighten up your front office phone etiquette so you’re not turning away new business or losing business which you already have.

Each of us has been on the receiving end of poor business phone etiquette and inadequate customer service and you KNOW that you don’t want that type of experience to be SOP for your front office.

PhoneAnsweringThe image here of the lady on the phone may go back a few years, but it correlates to phone etiquette because sometimes we just need to remember the manners that our mothers and grandmothers taught us. Good old fashioned manners can be critical to making each call a pleasant experience. Make sure your staff knows “how” to greet and treat people on the phone. Good phone etiquette – such as being prompt and limiting interruptions – also falls in the manners category, so clearly articulate these “rules” in your guidelines.

Everyone who is designated to answer the phone should be trained on – and familiar with – these basics guidelines:

1. Answer the phone by the third ring with a pleasant and cheerful greeting. Sound happy to be there for them, calm and confident, regardless of how chaotic the office may be.

2. Clearly identify yourself and the child care center by name and offer to help them.

3. Show interest in the caller and their children and build rapport with them. Ask questions so that you gather the necessary information to clearly pass the need or inquiry along to others. Use names of both parents and children in your conversation. Be engaged in the call and the details conveyed.

4. Be alert to specific needs. You may want to ask what they feel is important for their child and what their concerns may be.  Be ready to take notes so that all important details are gathered.  You should keep inquiry cards handy so one can be started as soon as you know that it is needed.

5. If you are alert to their needs, you will be able to match your programs up to their needs and share with the parents how the programs can meet the needs of their child.

6. Be empathetic to their needs and concerns. If you are talking to a potential new client, choosing a child care is a big decision, and they will want to know you understand how they feel and that you are committed to the care of the children at their center.

7. Be professional, communicating without using slang or business buzzwords that your caller may not understand. Remember that those in your office can also hear one side of the conversation so any poor examples of etiquette will be suffered on more than just your caller.

8. Don’t try to answer questions if you are unsure of the answers. It is better to research the question and call the person back promptly when you have the correct answer.

9. Be positive about your center and – if appropriate – share specific examples of your excellent teachers and the great things they do. Share how you are different than your competitors. This – of course – requires that you (and each person who answers the phone) knows your center’s advantages.

10. Close the call on a friendly note. Use their name when you thank them for calling. If you have made an appointment or have discussed a specific detail about something, this is a good time to confirm or reiterate it.

11. Follow up with what you committed to as quickly as possible.

12. During the call, be sure to listen. Don’t just talk. Jabbering on is unprofessional and doesn’t accomplish what they called about. You can learn a lot by what your caller says.

To help you be a better, more active and engaged listener, you should:

1. Have an open mind.

2. Be focused on the caller.

3. Summarize the caller’s thoughts and repeat them back to them to ensure accuracy.

4. Have a quiet inner voice.

5. Don’t think about what you’re going to say while you should be listening to what they are saying.

6. Give the caller your undivided attention. Don’t be distracted by other conversations in the office or your computer screen.

Putting guidelines such as these in place gives your front office staff (and all those answering phones) a standard operating procedure and will help them to make every call into your office a pleasant experience that helps each caller accomplish what they intended with the call. And you will see a boost in your client satisfaction and enable your center to make an even more positive impression on callers.

Lady on the phone photo credit: © All rights reserved by ironburl