“Hello? Yes, I have a three-year-old and I’m looking for a place. How much do you charge?”
We’ve all received that standard enquiry call, where parents and carers are ringing around local settings looking for availability with the best price.
But at Little Beehive, we won’t tell you how much our fees are.
Well, at least, not on the initial phone call. Parents have to come and visit the setting, either on a show-around or on one of our open days, before we’ll talk about fees. Since 2021, it has been a Little Beehive policy that:
You might think that this policy seems unusually strict, or even that it would put some parents off, but actually, it has vastly improved our occupancy levels.
Let me explain…
I know educators are busy. I know it’s easier for them to simply give an amount and get off the phone so they can get back to the children. But enquiries are your future families and it’s more than worth taking the time to get it right. You’re showing your prospective parents who you are on that initial call, so give them the attention they deserve.
In fact, as I’ve learned from making a few enquiries myself, when you ring and ask a setting for their fees, that’s simply what you get. Nine times out of ten, I’m not invited for a show around or even asked for any more details. Sometimes, I’m asked to give a name and number and then never receive a callback. If I was a parent, it would be a poor first impression.
By inviting parents to come and see us in person, we not only show them that we’re interested in them, their child, and their impression of us, but also the value they get in exchange for their fees. This is something we couldn’t convey by just giving an amount over the phone.
You can, of course, put plenty of photos and descriptions on your website, but it’s just not the same as getting a feel for the setting by being there. When it comes to knowing what your setting is really like, nothing beats actually getting parents and carers (and their child) to come and see it in action.
And, showing parents what they get at Little Beehive, puts the fees in perspective when they do find out what they are. This is the key point as it means parents and carers can actually make an informed decision. This brings us neatly to the next reason you should always invite prospective parents in.
In our local community, Little Beehive nurseries are very middle-of-the-road from a fee perspective - we currently charge between £5.00 per hour and £5.70 per hour depending on the session. Some nurseries around us are more expensive and others are cheaper. However, I would argue that the experience at Little Beehive is at the top end.
The trouble is, unless a parent or carer comes into the setting, they don’t know how we compare to other nurseries and pre-schools in the area. Just comparing the numbers doesn’t help them to make a decision about the best education and care for their child’s needs.
Say you receive an enquiry, tell the prospective parent your fees, and see them on their way. Just think about what happens when a parent finishes that call with your setting if all they know about you is an amount of money. They compare the amount you gave to the other amounts they got given from the other phone calls they made and pick (usually) the lowest one. Your entire provision is boiled down to an amount of money. That means, regardless of how fantastic your setting is, you could be losing out to one that’s even just marginally cheaper.
And, as I mentioned in my article about annualised billing, asking for day rates alone can be misleading when choosing a setting, especially if costs are a big consideration. You might pay that rate for all the days the setting is open to children, you might only for the days the staff are working, or you might pay even when the setting is closed for holidays.
The cost alone simply doesn’t tell parents the whole story.
The most valuable thing about getting prospective parents into the setting is that even if we can’t immediately accommodate the sessions they need, 50% of parents who visit decide to join our waiting list. Plus, a further 25% call back after joining another setting, looking to join our waiting list, if they didn’t initially.
The benefit of having a healthy waiting list is we are now able to operate a ‘first refusal’ policy. For example, say a space is going to become available from the 3rd of October so we offer it to the first parent on the list. However, if the first parent on the list doesn’t want that start date (with a month’s leeway), we move on to the next parent or carer. We continue down our list until a parent or carer accepts from that date.
The reason we do it this way is that if you have a child leave your setting on the 3rd of October, and a parent doesn’t want to take the space until the 1st of February, your business has lost around £6,000 in potential revenue (based on a £50 a day charge). That could be a quarter of the salary of a team member working in that room.
Families may leave your nursery or reduce their sessions for a variety of reasons, and there isn’t always much you can do about it. But having a strong waiting list means you have parents and carers ready to enrol their children in that now-empty place, as soon as it’s vacant. The mandatory show round has given us exactly that.
Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.