A culture of customer service is how you build customer loyalty and word of mouth advertising. It is also the right thing to do for your community. Below are top ideas, tips, and thoughts shared by four industry professionals on delivering top customer service during the JCamp 180 Enrollment webinar on November 15, 2022.
Lisa Cooper, Family Relations & Outreach Director, Camp Ramah in California
Parents/Guardians Need Education About Camp
Parents aren't at camp; they may never have attended a camp. How can we help them feel good about making the decision to send their child to camp? How do we use the touchpoints to educate them during the year about what camp will be like for their child? How can parents best prepare their campers for the experience of being at camp for the first time?
Find Multiple Ways to Connect with Families
Getting to know the families makes our job a lot easier. We connect with families in a variety of ways:
Dedicated intake calls (calls to all families who show interest in camp or are new registrants) are a great way to start to build relationships.
We also host open office hours on zoom for families to pop in and ask any sort of question of any sort. These can lead to some deeper conversations.
We layer on one-on-one opportunities and group opportunities for questions; we find that this gives families more confidence by hearing other questions that other people ask.
RESOURCE: Sample New Camper Magazine
How do we create boundaries and help our parents let go a little bit while their kids are away? We receive a lot of calls, texts, and emails from parents during camp. We ask parents to trust that we are handling their questions/concerns thoughtfully but it might take us a moment to get back to them. And we encourage them to remember why they sent their children to camp and to value their child having an independent experience.
Owning Mistakes & Miscommunication
If there is an issue or a difficult conversation, we own our mistakes and strive to share the background of our decision-making process. We want people to come away with the understanding that decisions were made with thought and intentionality, even if it wasn't the decision that the family wanted. If mistakes were made, we apologize clearly: “We made a mistake and we are sorry.”
We documented the top questions that parents ask and answered them in video form and put them online: https://ramah.org/2022-faqs/
Preparing for Summer
Among the many ways we help families prepare for summer is our “Preparing for Camp” emails we send in the spring. One example is an email that we send a month ahead of camp for campers celebrating a birthday during the session. To me, this is an example of helping parents feel well shepherded by us, and confident that we are thinking of even the smallest, but important, details in the care of their children.
Rabbi Eliav Bock, Executive Director, Ramah in the Rockies
Seek Feedback and Share It - Transparency
We spend the month of September calling/emailing 98% of families to get feedback on the camp experience. At the end of the month we write up a blog on our feedback: 3 good things and 3 areas for growth. This is our most read email of the year. This goes out to our entire email list, even people who have not been at camp in years.
(Email/Blog: We Asked, You Shared, We Listened!)
Knowing Yourself, Knowing your Customer
Create a profile on who your customer is for different ages and experience. Who are they? What is the experience we want them to have all along the way? What do we need to do in order to give them this experience? It helps to name them specifically and constantly ask “What would ___ want?”
Who we are for and who we are not for? We are definitely not for everyone, and we are clear about this. We are glad to refer families to other camps, or help share our knowledge on the camp landscape if they want it. We would rather not risk families having a bad experience if we are not the right camp for them.
Make the Customer Leave Feeling Good
This idea comes from a book about Southwest Airlines called Nuts! Every time you have an interaction with a customer you want the customer to leave feeling good, even if they don't actually use you in the end. If they like your product, they tell 3 people about it. When they don't like your product, they tell 9-10 people. If people don’t come back to your camp, make sure they aren't telling 9-10 people about a negative experience. Make sure they leave with a positive experience!
Eytan Graubart, Executive Director, Pinemere Camp
Reframing the Relationship: Trust & Communication
Camp is a business and customer service is a part of it. But that label isn’t sufficient for camp. It is about true partnership. We gain from having a strong relationship with families as much as they do. It makes our lives easier. The more they trust us, the easier my job is, the better camp is going to be.
The customer is the camper, the parent, the staff, the alumni; anyone we interact with is worthy of this level of customer service. Every customer needs it a bit differently. The more we know our families, the more we are going to be able to give them the experience they need, because it really is different across the board.
We need to accept that families’ priorities are going to be different from our priorities. But they intersect in shared values. We build trust through conversations about these shared values throughout the year.
And we deliver an awesome product. Most of our campers are returning campers - they come back because their parents love what their kids are telling them about the experience. The kids are going to tell the stories and we want to make sure that the parents are hearing really great stories. The kids are vessels for customer service as well.
The Director’s Cellphone Number is Known by Every Parent
The Director’s Cellphone # is listed at the bottom of every email. They know they can call or text anytime. (Bonus: Being able to include a quick photo taken of their camper in a reply message goes a long way.) When you build trust with parents, they don’t abuse it, and only call when they really need something. And we need to be transparent about response times for emergencies and other questions.
Some things need an immediate answer. Some need a few days (with a timely reply of “we’re on it”). Ultimately, it is about knowing what is an emergency and what’s not to our families. When you have 150 emails in your inbox at midnight, it is important to prioritize replies and be thorough, efficient, and honest.
We use focus groups to help us gather data, build trust, and learn what we need to spend our year doing. Being open to feedback is huge. We reach out to our population via email and ask them to join these groups. We look at the responses to make sure we have a diversity of opinions. This gives us fuel to learn more.
Ari Polsky, Consultant, JCamp 180
Use a Secret Shopper
What kind of experience do potential families have when connecting with your camp? Whether you hire a service or engage someone outside of your team to call in and pose as a curious parent looking for a camp for their child, the feedback and insights you gather can be invaluable. This can help you and your recruiters refine their “camp pitch,” while also revealing areas for improvement in your general lead management system. This changed how I listened, and allowed me to be a better camp recruiter [when I was in that position].
Have Unified Answers on Common Questions & Clear System
90% of the questions you receive have been asked before. It would be helpful to have a document outlining the official camp language for each of those common questions, so that your messaging is consistent and on brand. With those responses documented, it is easy to train new staff on “The _______ Camp Way”. This can be as simple as a google doc with common questions and answers, program descriptions, and other details.
Document the process of who handles what from registration to enrollment, as well as how leads get managed, followed up on, and converted to campers. This helps you create that “ideal system/profile” that Rabbi Eliav discussed and also will illuminate flaws in your own process that can lead to people or tasks falling through the cracks.
Take 5 Moments: Delight and Wow
Former Disney Executive Lee Cockrell talks about Take 5 Moments at Disney:
“Why are these individualized interactions called Take 5s? Because they blow the guests’ minds in less than five minutes. Think of them as real-life versions of those random acts of kindness you read about on bumper stickers.
At Disney they only seem random; the Cast Members are not only trained to look for Take 5 opportunities, but held accountable for making them happen. Most Take 5s take closer to five seconds than five minutes, and from a business standpoint I can’t imagine a better use of time.”
These can be done both in the camp recruiting process and also at camp. These are the touch points that make camp families’ day.
For example, one camp registrar puts a short handwritten note to families who inquire about camp with a bunch of camp stickers and other envelope mailable fun immediately after a call. The note usually mentions what they spoke about, or what the registrar himself was excited about during the summer. Talk about wow!
Eytan shared that sometimes he will reply to a parent message with a quick photo he snapped of the child at camp that day. What a great way to build customer trust and loyalty!
Encourage your staff to look for Take 5 Moments - because that's all it takes to make someone’s day!
Watch the Webinar: JCamp 180 Enrollment webinar on November 15, 2022.