21st October 2021 All Posts Expert Advice

Five minutes with… John Pickup on how nurseries can ‘wow’ parents

It’s time to shake up our employee Q&A so you can find out a little bit more about what topics really make our colleagues tick.

For John Pickup, our head of new business and management software expert, he’s passionate about the role in which technology plays when bringing both nurseries and families together.

Taking five minutes out of his hectic schedule, we asked John some key questions about how settings can utilise digital solutions and offer the ‘wow’ factor…

Why is this particular topic so important to you, John?

When you create something that engages, you’re giving yourself a unique selling proposition. And when nurseries integrate technology that provides something different – whether that’s sharing a video of a ‘wow moment or getting a contactless signature on an accident form, for example – they’re offering something special to users that they might not get anywhere else.

If a setting has intuitive software to share updates, via an app, that go straight to a parent’s smartphone – to notify them about how their child’s day is going – that can be a powerful thing. It not only provides instant access but complete peace of mind too. A lot of users want that interaction to know their little one is having a fantastic time.

And what do you think is the ‘wow factor’ for nurseries when engaging with parents?

Having that all-in-one app that delivers everything a user needs. When you have an intuitive tool that means you can engage with parents and offer more streamlined ways to do things – from payments to secure sign-ins – that’s a greater level of convenience that will make you truly stand out from the crowd. 

When it comes to feature updates for Connect’s range of solutions, is it down to the team to develop an idea from scratch?

We listen to both parents and nurseries about what they want from their apps, as well as have our own ‘lightbulb’ moments too. The important thing about iteration is to do something that enhances the overall experience – it’s no good pushing a feature update out there that isn’t fit for purpose or doesn’t improve anything.

A great example of how we feed off communication and act swiftly was during Covid-19 in 2020. It was at a time when nurseries were just reopening their doors and had so many additional safety measures in place to avoid the spread of the virus.

We had a register feature with iConnect – allowing parents to sign straight into the setting’s tablet – however, that wasn’t great for the potential of cross-contamination. So, we responded quickly and developed functionality so parents could go straight into their app and complete a contactless sign-in. It was vital to get this rolled out quickly and underlined a great example of how everyone worked together to find a solution.

Plus, once we let that idea breathe, we continued to listen to feedback and have made subsequent iterations since such as the ability to sign accident forms.

Updates should also be little and often. A video snapshot of a child playing, building, or taking part in an activity goes a long way to providing true peace of mind for families, so think about quality over quantity. Also, from a nursery point of view, staff don’t want to be sat typing away and missing out on everything around them.

Should parents be utilising technology to send updates as well?

With technology enabling settings to do things more efficiently, is a paperless future possible?

As a parent myself, I’ve experienced paper-based updates from when my children were at nursery and, although that was the best solution at the time, there is a lot to be said about making things more seamless – and offering a solution to ensure what we’re all doing is better for the environment.

I’m seeing more settings heading towards a paperless future, so it is possible – as long as they integrate the right technology for them. It’s no good introducing an app that is clunky or fails to provide a powerful solution to what they had previously, for example. They need something that offers a stronger, all-round experience and the agility to move away from paper altogether. 

And what tips would you give to nurseries if they were considering a tech-first future?

It’s important that they research exactly what they need from their software – is the primary reason to move away from paper, for example? Or are the biggest areas they want to improve focused on providing parents with contactless sign-ins and swifter payment options? If so, they should be looking at software that provides answers to those specific pain-points.

Change isn’t the easiest after all, so I’d recommend nurseries research well – exploring brands that come with good reputations and that are agile enough to stay ahead of the curve and make iterations where relevant. Technology has to alleviate stresses and enable a setting to carry out day-to-day operations more seamlessly than before.

And when they implement technology, what should nurseries focus on if they are to achieve parent ‘buy-in’?

I’d recommend they set expectations because they last thing they want to do is say they’ll upload a dozen photos a week and not keep that up. Parents feed off trust from their settings, so they must never over-promise and under-deliver.

Building a relationship between families and nurseries begins with communication, so if they have a straightforward way to share specific milestones, I’d recommend they engage in a way that works for them. For instance, if their child has started to use their knife and fork or has moved from the potty to the toilet, they can use their app to tell the nursery about the development – and this journey can continue when the child is back at the setting.

It’s good for families to interact with their technology and provide additional information where relevant, but there also shouldn’t be any pressure to upload something every week. Again, it comes down to setting expectations and communicating with one another to see what works best.

And finally, what role does Connect play in helping nurseries to offer the ‘wow factor’ for parents?

We’re the UK’s most trusted nursery management software specialist and we understand that there’s never a ‘one size fits all’ approach to early years technology. That’s why we listen to our customers – because we genuinely care. As a result, we recognise their pain-points and provide app solutions that alleviate stresses and strains so they can get back to prioritising what they love – child development.

In our next Employee Q&A, our Software Training and Development Co-ordinator, Charlotte Woods explains the importance of early years nursery setting super users.

Connect’s childcare software combines everything nursery managers, practitioners, and parents need in one simple solution. Book a demo by calling 01282 507945, enquiring here, or visiting our website.

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About the Author

Campaign and Content Manager at Connect Childcare