Customer Connection — The Human Touch

And how that phone is answered plays a huge part in the initial contact. Always be polite, maybe even overly polite. Enthusiasm is contagious; the person answering the phone should make the caller excited, or at least glad, that the call was made (say what you want about big oil companies, but when you call the headquarters of Exxon/Mobil, you get a friendly, courteous and helpful person on the phone the second it is answered).

If your camp does have an automated phone system, don’t worry. People are rather used to them these days. But try to make sure that your callers have an option that will let them easily reach a live human being if they want to. It will improve the sense of accessibility to your camp.

Filling Cracks

Here are some simple steps to help ensure that your bunks are full and few contacts slip through the cracks.

• After the initial contact, and after the camp brochure is mailed out, follow up with a personal letter from the director of the camp, or even a personal phone call; simply say, “Thank you for your interest in our camp. If there are any questions, you can contact me directly…” and then leave a direct line to the camp director.

• If you receive an inquiry through your Web site, make sure that you respond as soon as possible, ideally in 24 hours. When you receive a request for information on-line, you can be assured that they have looked into quite a few other camps as well. How quickly and how politely you follow up will help determine which camp gets the nod, and which one doesn’t.

• Here is a very simple strategy that should win you additional campers every year… Have a system in place where you are able to keep track of all the inquiries that were made for the season. Then, as it’s getting down to crunch time and the season is looming large on the horizon, go back to these inquiries, and find the ones that did not sign up this season. Why? Well, they have already expressed an interest. Communication has already been opened, and you are no longer strangers. Families that have expressed an interest but have not signed up can be fertile ground for harvesting new campers. Send these folks a nice letter, or post card. Say simply, “We just wanted to touch base with you to let you know that there are still a few spaces left for the coming season… this promises to be a super summer, and we’d hate to see you miss out on a single minute of it.” Or words to that affect. Never let a warm lead grow cold. This technique can also offer valuable feedback; ask why they did not decide to attend your camp; if they are attending another camp, find out what it was that swayed their decision. Successful marketing is about getting feedback from your efforts, and making adjustments for the future.

• When contacting families who have not yet signed up, send two separate targeted messages; one to the parents, and one to the child. If there has been no decision made, and the child gets a personal letter from the camp director… well, what child would want to miss out on a great summer of excitement? (It is always a good idea to offer separate communications for the parent and the children. Parents make decisions for different reasons than kids do, and with the rise of Internet-savvy kids, children have a growing presence in the summer camp decision-making process).

Pre-Season Care

Once families have made the decision to go to your camp, there is going to be a flurry of communications between your camp and the parents. Make sure that these are all very simple to understand, and the applications easy to fill out. Set up a special customer care number just for questions from parents… there are bound to be plenty, so make it easy for them to reach you.

This is also a good time for another personal letter from the camp director, welcoming them to the camp, and speaking with excitement for the upcoming season. Again, offer a phone number for calling the director. They may not use it, but some may. Remember, part of good communication is about how easy it is to actually do the communicating.

In-Season Care

During the camp season is a great opportunity to cement the relationship between camp and family. While the kids are away at camp, make it easy for the parents to keep up to date about what is going on.

E-mails back and forth are always a good place to start (I am sure that emails have replaced the letter home as the primary communication back and forth between parent and child at camp). You can also have photos of activities posted on your Web site every week, so parents can go and see pictures of the kids having fun with other campers. But most camps know and are well-versed in all the interactivity available through the Internet and the mix of advertisers in this magazine who offer reasonable prices for services that take the load off your back when it comes to in-season marketing.

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