Monday, September 18, 2017

High-quality Requires Strong Customer Service!

The world of early education is unique in so many ways form other forms of business it is overwhelming to think about sometimes. One of the greatest difficulties in this business is the fact it is one of the rare businesses which has both clients and customers. This is important for both parents and early childhood professionals to understand. Because it makes a major difference in the ebb and flow of the relationship.

Customer-a person who purchases goods or services from a person or company offering them.

Client- a person who depends on the knowledge, understanding, and expertise of another person to get them to the next level.

Parents as customers are shopping for a service. They are looking for educators who can hlp and support them in the care and education of their young children. There is not cookie cutter parent, each person has a specific set of things they are looking for in the folks they would like to leave their children with on a daily basis. Many parents are looking for a center to have the following characteristics:

  • Caring Staff
  • Clean Facility
  • Happy Children
  • Well-organized
  • Sharing of information about their child and development
  • A place to go for expertise when worried or concerned
A center that can meet these basic concerns and is willing to offer support will likely get the parents' approval. Thus, they will enroll their child. However, in many centers once the child arrives and they are in the center, the director and staff have a hard time keeping their dual focus. This is what I think can separate a good center from a great center. This is one of the things looked over which makes a difference in whether a center is of the highest quality. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Accreditation Standard number 7 is Families. 

Definition of Standard 7 The program establishes and maintains collaborative relationships with each child’s family to foster children’s development in all settings. These relationships are sensitive to family composition, language, and culture.(More Information on Standard 7)

Though ultimately the goal of this standard is to create a partnership between parent and center the goal is most adequately met by offering the ultimate in customer service. Building effective relationships with parents is about more than just caring for and meeting the needs of their children. It is about listening to them and meeting the direct needs of the parent. We in early childhood need to accept that we are a dual focused business. It is not just about meeting the needs of the children in our care. It is also about recognizing that we also serve their parents. We often talk about parent engagement and look at it from the perspective of parents should want to be involved because we take care of their children. While that sounds good in theory it does not hold out in practice. 

Customer service is about meeting the needs of the customer. This is a big reason why the first steps in the accreditation process is parent survey's. It is how the center learns about the needs of the customer and how they feel about the services being offered to them and their children. If you want to have a thriving and happy center your customers should not only feel welcome and a part of the center. It should be a home away from home for both the children and their parents. I encourage you to take the time to do a parent survey and find out their needs. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Make coffee available for parents in the morning.
  2. Create a comfortable place for a parent lounge and have plenty of articles or free parent information for them to read or take.
  3. Provide parenting classes on a quarterly basis . In your survey ask parent what they would most like to learn about or have questions concerning.  
  4. Create an app for parent information and contact frequently even if only to say have a  great day or to send a cute pic of their child.
  5. Take lots of pictures and hang them up where parents can see them change them out on a monthly basis.
Ultimately, customer service and parent engagement go hand in hand. If you do not take into account the needs of your customers they will not engage with you. Instead, they will treat you like babysitter who have no real impact in their personal lives, you just care for their children while they are away. If you want them to interact and be a part you must not only make room for them but find ways that being there not only meets the needs of their children but also their needs.

Believe in Parenting
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