By Charles B. Rotman
Parents' expectations and requirements for a summer program go far beyond the monetary investment when considering a resident or day camp for their children.
In our uncertain contemporary society parents' primary concern is focused upon trust, health, safety and security, which they are relinquishing to the camp personnel who will supervise their children away from home.
Parents want pertinent information concerning all of the aspects of the prospective camp's functions, whether it's available by direct communication with the director, in brochures, newsletters, Web sites or other methods of direct marketing.
A perception of customer satisfaction can be obtained by speaking with the parents of former campers, staff and alumni.
On-site visits to the camp during the previous summer will give prospective parents and their children the opportunity to see the camp in its daily routine.
Below is an alphabetical list of parental interests and concerns to consider when they are investigating and selecting a camp for their children:
• Cabin, unit and activities supervision by staff
• Camp history, philosophy, purpose and programs
• Camp rules and behavior standards for campers and staff
• Camper-to-staff ratio in cabins and at activities
• Camper/parent readiness and separation anxiety
• Child abuse concerns by the camp, local, state and federal agencies
• Clothing lists -– incorporate what to and not to bring to camp
• Communication to and from camp via telephone, fax, e-mail, secure Web site, etc.
• Competitive orientation -- inter/intra camp competition
• Director's professional credentials and availability -- before, during and after the camp season
• Evaluation of camper's experience during and after the camp season
• Financial aid/scholarships –- availability and criteria
• Homesickness -- methodology before and at camp to ensure compatibility
• Insurance coverage -- medical, accident, liability for all aspects of the camp's exposure
• Laundry facilities -- in/out of cabin or commercial service
• Lavatory facilities -- privacy and sanitation
• Licensing by local, state and national accreditation organizations
• Medical health forms and the health center's role with campers
• Night/day security for people, buildings and camp grounds
• Mail/letter writing and what packages cannot be sent to camp
• Menus and nutritional standards
• Percentage of camper/staff return each season
• Personality/social questionnaire about camper from parents before camp
• Role models within the camp community
• Sanitation inspection reports of all camp facilities and utilities
• Self-esteem and how it's handled and focused on by the staff
• Skill building activities -- risk and non-risk activities; athletics, waterfront, gymnastics, etc.
• Special diets -- availability
• Special needs – availability/Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
• Supervision of health, safety and security by staff and the camp's administration
• Transportation/luggage -- arrangement to and from camp
• Visiting -- drop-in or established days
Information about the camp must be communicated to both prospective parents and campers. Customer satisfaction is an indelible ingredient in orchestrating a successful camp experience when parents and their children are ready to embark and join in as a part of a new community experience.
Dr. Charles B. Rotman is Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., and is a licensed psychologist. Dr. Rotman is the author of "Camp is Business, Customer Satisfaction" and "Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) in Camp Management" (1998. Babson College Press), and is president of CBR Associates Inc., a mental health consulting service for camps. For questions, he can be reached at (781) 235-4105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.