Business of Curling: We’re out of the gate! Some things to think about.

It’s getting close to the time where we will be dropping the puck to get another curling season underway.  With the excitement of the Vancouver Olympics still in our rear view mirrors and many new Canadian curlers anxious to get on the ice and give it a whirl, as Board members, managers and ice staff, we must ensure that we have our ‘superior customer service’ hats on nice and tight. We all know retention is the key to our overall success. We do attract enough people every year to do a decent business (and this year promises to attract more than ever). But, we have not spent as much effort on developing key customer service initiatives as we could have. By increasing your commitment to customer service, you will increase your overall retention rate and your business will flourish. How do we do this? There are four ‘pillars’ of retention (thank you Rob Krepps): progressive adult instruction; innovative and flexible programs; outstanding ice conditions and superior customer service. Let’s look at a few ideas that are simple to implement and will increase your retention of any new player. 1) Progressive Adult Instruction: we have covered this topic before, however, it cannot be discussed enough as it works incredibly well. Stop just running the one-day introductory clinic. You can still do this as a way to get new players to try the sport to see if they like it; but then, organize a yearlong instruction course. It works, it works, it works! As a board, you will need to take that leap of faith where dollars collected from these new customers in this new program are assigned to this new instruction league. Trust me, it will be the best money you ever spent. Every thing you need to know to get this show on the road can be found here: 2) Innovative / Flexible Programming can be more difficult to embrace if you’re stuck in a rut and don’t know it. Believe me, many of us are stuck doing things we have always done because it’s easy. For example, look at adding fun ways to play in pure recreation leagues (rotating positions, 7 end games, extra points for being on the button etc.). You may not believe this, but a simple change to start times can have a very positive effect on your members. For example, if you play at 7pm and 9pm, the late draw curlers will usually get off the ice after 11pm if they play a full game. If you can, change the draw times to 6:50pm and 8:50pm. Only 10 minutes but psychologically……………nothing should be sacred; look at everything you do! 3) Outstanding Ice Conditions: nothing more needs to be said here. With so much curling on television, the new player expects to play on similar surfaces. They (nor will you) will not have much success if they have to continually play on so-so or bad ice. They want to make shots not watch a rock fall back or never get past the hog line!  Work with your ice technician to make this happen or contact your provincial / territorial association to get some help! 4) Superior Customer Service should be what you strive for in every area of the business. For example, we rarely think about it but cleanliness is critical as it reflects on you as a club both ways. Dirty ice or washrooms smell – what dump!  Or, wow what a neat place! Which one would you join? There are many areas where you can look at creating the WOW factor and one that will put a smile on your customer’s face. This type of positive contact creates retention! Postscript: I received an e-mail the other day from a new curler looking for a club in a mid-sized town to learn how to play but could not find anything on Google. Well, this particular club did not have a web site. Many clubs still think of it as a luxury but I argue your web site is one of your more valuable and essential business tools / assets. If you are not on the Internet (or Facebook for that matter) you don’t exist in the eyes of this generation’s customers. Additionally, after checking out a few more club web sites, it was amazing to see information for the upcoming year still dated from last season. It is extra work I agree, but you need to find a way to make it work or you’ve lost that customer and perhaps many more. Good Curling Everyone!