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Improving on “Generation Waiting List”

There was a really great article in the paper about waiting lists in the big city. The article describes how waiting lists are a fact of life for children and parents living in The Big Apple. We have talked before about how this problem is not exclusive to the big city, but the problem is excacerbated (and more often reported on) in large metropolitan areas.

The article only touches on some of the possible causes for the issue and why the writer calls children born after 2004 “Generation Waiting List”:

  • Budget cuts
  • Population growth (in certain areas deemed family friendly)
  • Families having children have more money (note this does not mean, on average, all people are more well-off)

[He] has been conscientious about tapping into playground gossip on what programs fill up first — and what steps to take to avoid ending up on the waiting list. “We’ve had many years of paranoia about this kind of thing,” he said with a laugh.

The obvious question you might be asking is: “What can we do, besides buying BumbleBee’s Childcare Management Software, about managing child care and activity waiting lists?” It turns out, there is a lot we could be doing. There is a large body of economic research (often called queueing therory) to help smooth out waiting lists. Some of the biggest things that can be improved are in dealing with the emotional issues around waiting lists. Think back to the last time someone cut in front of you in line, you probably can remember that more easily than what you had for lunch today.

There is a MIT professor nick-nammed “Dr. Queue”, here is some advice he provides and a number of BumbleBee’s own insights that we have learned after working with child care centers:

  • Tell people how long they will be waiting – think about all the sophisticated things Disney World does while you are standing in line.(By the way: BumbleBee makes this easy)
  • Let people know that they have a number – My friend went to the professional football game. He had tickets for an open seating section. Instead of having everyone show up, hold places, have people get upset when someone eventually cuts in line, they handout wristabands. My friend loved it. Instead of arriving at 6am, he picked up the wristband at his liesure, and showed up right before the game started.
  • If there are peferences, make sure people know that up front
  • Make one large line that everyone waits in (Wendy’s versus McDonalds)
  • Change a nominal fee to applyHow long would you be willing to wait for a free ice cream cone from Ben and Jerry’s? At some point, you should just go to the ice cream parlor and buy your own. Charging a small fee, for applications is a good way to sort out the number of people who are truly on your waiting list or those people who just aren’t that interested.

Do people line up to get into your child care center? Do they have to wait in line over night? Please tell us how you manage your waiting lists:

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Jeff is the Director of Marketing and Co-founder of BumbleBee Childcare Software. He lives in Cambridge, MA, in the United States. You can hear more from Jeff on Twitter and Google +.

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