How to Talk to Waitlisted Parents

Use these prompts to help you talk to worried waitlist parents and keep their anxieties at bay.
min read

You’re talking with a parent, and you have some bad news: Their kid has been waitlisted for a highly desirable camp session. You’re not sure if they will get in, and this parent is definitely upset. Even though they aren’t a paying customer (yet), providing excellent customer service in this time of uncertainty is extremely important. Consider using these four key phrases when talking to parents worried about the waitlist.

“I know it can be hard to have such indecision when you’re making your summer plans.”

Lead with empathy and understanding. Parents have an especially tricky task to piece together summer plans, as many parents rely on camps and other programs like yours not just for enrichment but for critical child care coverage. A position on the waitlist doesn’t just lead to potential disappointment for campers or parents; it adds to the complexity of the already giant role of scheduling summer child care.

Letting the parent know that you understand the challenges they face helps them see that you are on their team and helps prevent them from becoming combative. And, many parents, especially those who carry the mental load in their family systems, often do not feel seen or appreciated—their work planning the summer can be taken for granted. Even a small recognition of the hard work they put in for their kids is very meaningful.

“As soon as we have any information, we will call you!”

This helps assure parents of several things. First, it underscores the fact that the ball is in the camp’s court. The parent has done everything they need to do to hold that waitlisted spot and be offered a position in camp if one becomes available. Therefore, the parent no longer has to remember to check in or to “circle back around” at a certain date to maintain the spot. Essentially, it takes the mental load of the waitlist process off of the parent and onto the camp, signaling to the parent that they have done everything they need to do!

Secondly, the parent sees that you understand the urgency of their situation. If you are able to call them the moment you have any news, they know you respect the complicated child care puzzle they are putting together.  

“If you ever want to call and check on their waitlisted status, we encourage you to do so.”

As a camp director managing multiple waitlists, I often encouraged parents to check back in. In our town, for example, kids would often find out about summer school obligations sometime in late May. When summer school was decided upon, we often had many “drops” from our camp program. When I would talk with a worried parent about their child’s waitlist status, I often would share that fact and encourage them to call around Memorial Day, as we would frequently have a better idea of waitlist movement at that point. Additionally, a statement like this signals that you are extremely communicative and have excellent and proactive customer service.  

“I can't offer you a spot in your first-choice camp for this summer, but I can offer you [insert alternative].”

Even if you can’t get this camper in for this summer, they are still a customer. What can you offer them to keep them happy, keep them interested in your program, and retain them for years to come? Maybe this is a spot in a different session, maybe it looks like a voucher for a family day at camp, or maybe it looks like a priority registration pass for next year. Think of a “consolation prize” that you can offer to a family even when you do not have a spot—anything that would make their life easier or better—and have it ready to go when you don’t have good news. Show them that you are there to help!

ACTIVEWorks Camp & Class Manager is Here to Help

While the burden of managing a waitlist often falls on the organization, it doesn’t have to! With ACTIVEWorks Camp & Class Manager’s waitlist automation tool, managing your camp, class, or program’s waitlist tool is easier than ever. When a spot becomes available, an email invitation is automatically sent to the first registrant on the waitlist, giving them an amount of time—set by you—to accept or deny their spot. It’s really that easy.

And, that’s not all  our program management software can do to help organizations like yours run a successful program. With accessibility features, advanced communications tools, and comprehensive reporting capabilities, Camp & Class Manager can help organizations like yours build a welcoming camp experience that will enrich your participants’ lives for years to come.

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