How to Choose the Best Child Care Management Software for Your Unique Business
Success in the early learning services business is about so much more than watching the kids for a few hours while parents are at work.From guiding toddlers through circle time to coaching parents on how to create more quality time, ECE leaders are linchpins of a community that serves many people.It's a big job. And one with a million moving parts.Child care management software can help pull it all together. With the right tool, you and your teams, parents, and children can avoid communication misfires, sidestep common sources of stress, and keep your center running like a well-oiled machine (even if there is crayon on the walls).But how do you find the right software for your business? Consider this your complete guide to choosing the right tool for you. And yes, we are a child care software provider. But that doesn't mean we're right for everyone.We're going to check our bias at the door and give you the information, questions, and criteria you need to make the right choice for you.
Table of contents
- What is child care management software?
- Why use child care software?
- 12 hidden benefits of smart child care software
- Two simple questions to help you find your perfect system
What is child care management software?
If you're new to this topic, you might not know exactly what 'child care management software' even is.It can be especially confusing given the fact that there are many names to describe these tools, including:
- Child care administrative management software
- Child care software
- Child care app
But despite all the jargon, it's actually quite simple.Child care software is the platform you use to run your preschool or child care business. As the name implies, your child care management software can touch any aspect of your business from tracking and managing enrollment, signing in and out for children and staff, scheduling and attendance, authorized pick ups, reporting, and analytics—and a whole lot more.But beyond the star-rated features of any child care software is the productivity it can bring your business. Because, at the end of the day, there’s only one key difference between profitable centers that keep families enrolled and those that struggle to keep up.Struggling centers operate in silos. Profitable centers operate on a system.
Why use child care software?
Before we get into which child care software to use, let's get clear on why you need it.Here are three reasons every center needs a system they can build on.
1. Today's parents don't look like they used to
The demographics of modern parents are changing. And fast.
- More than a million millennials are becoming moms each year
- 73% of millennials interact with each other digitally more than face-to-face
- 65% of millennial parents say playtime is important for their children's development
Millennial parents have more information on their child's development than any other generation before them. The pressure is real.Maybe that's why a whopping 74% of millennial moms say society just doesn't get them.Mobile-enabled child care software can help this fast-growing generation of parents achieve greater peace of mind—simply by speaking their language. Tools like electronic billing, secure messaging, and even the ability to give their provider a quick heads-up when their little one is having a meltdown, can help parents feel supported when they need it most.
2. Providers are more stretched (and stressed) than ever
The average annual turnover rate for child care staff is 30%.What would it mean for your center if you could beat the odds and keep your best teachers with you?Whatever the contents of their resignation letters, voluntary turnover among top-performing teachers usually comes down to the overwhelming demands of the job.Luckily, the right kind of child care management software can help with that, too.A child care app that enables teachers and team members to connect with parents over more than just diapers and allergies—for example, the actual curriculum they're paying for—serves an important two-pronged purpose:
- It gives teachers a greater sense of autonomy.
- It gives parents a greater sense of appreciation.
The result? Better retention on both sides.And if you can find a tool that takes the admin burden off your staff's plates—things like attendance tracking, daily summaries, and even customized reporting—you can create the kind of forward-looking work environment that's impossible to leave.
3. Profits are falling through the cracks
With the US child care services industry estimated at $57 billion, some would say this is the golden age for ECE centers.But the larger a center becomes, the more its margins shrink.With a larger space, more equipment, and an increase in staff, sustainable growth in the child care industry depends on your ability to keep all the balls in the air, without cutting corners on customer and teacher experience.It's a tall order. And it's the reason many centers struggle to maintain healthy profits.Fortunately, the right kind of child care software can bring your siloed business functions together, so you can track the health of your center(s) in real time.
12 hidden benefits of child care software
By now, we can all agree that a solid child care management system is probably a good idea.Whether you're responsible for finance and billing, curriculum and classroom planning, or hiring and retention—the right tool will drive efficiency across each function of the business.Here's a quick roundup of some of the amazing benefits a smart system can help you achieve:
- Go completely paperless
- Capture at-risk customers and keep enrollment rates high
- Instantly engage with parents and guardians
- Futureproof your center as a forward-thinking early education hub
- Retain your top teachers and team members
- Maintain healthy cash flow (with less chasing)
- Invest your time and resources in high-ROI activities
- Use your child care center to boost enrollment across the organization
- Keep track of all your business functions from one central place
- Provide better service in less time
- Uncover profit-driving opportunities
- Grow your business
Sounds great, right? It definitely can be.The trick is to select the best tool for you.
Two simple questions to help you find your perfect system
Every child care administration tool has its strengths and weaknesses. The best one for you may or may not be the one that works for the center next door.Here are two simple questions to help guide you to your own best answer.
1. What's your 'why'?
Alright, time to get deep.If you're going to operate your entire child care business on a single unifying platform, you need to know which direction you're running in.In over 20 years, Lightbridge Academy hasn't closed a single unit. One of the main reasons for the brand's unwavering success is what they call the Circle of Care.According to Gigi Schweikert, Lightbridge’s president and COO, the Circle of Care helps with "a lot of things.""What stands out the most is the importance of helping people understand the 'why' behind every decision,” says Schweikert. “In franchising, we are very focused on consistency. We want people to follow the model, and they are much more likely to follow the model if they know the reasons the model is designed the way it is and why it will make them more profitable.”If you want the kind of cutting-edge success epic brands are made of, you need to keep everyone—from owners to staff to parents—on the same page. Your software should make that happen.
2. What do you want it to do?
There are apps, CRMs, and tech tools that can help you automate a million different functions inside your child care business.That’s why many make the mistake of overspending on child care software that's jam-packed with features they don't use. Here are a couple of questions to help you get the system that does all of what you need it to do, and none of what you don't.Ask yourself:What are your needs based on your business today?Are you developing 10 centers this year or 100? Any big jumps in headcount? Enrollment? If the majority of your workflow headaches come from the gap between finance and parents at 1 or 2 centers, you might be fine with a simple, affordable tool that has a built-in billing feature.What are your needs based on your business vision?If you’ve got big plans for your business over the next two to five years, you shouldn't have to forklift your existing systems to make that happen. Integration is everything—especially if you have plans to grow. In this case, you may need a more sophisticated tool that gives you advanced tracking and customizable data reporting in one central place.Whatever your situation, the perfect-fit child care management system will immediately free up at least an hour of your and your staff's time each day.Start by pinpointing the common bottlenecks in each department and use your software to streamline and accelerate those workflows. From there, you can focus on optimizing each department to be as efficient as possible using the tools that make the most sense for you.