Pebbles to Boulders: Who is Your Customer?
When it comes to providing customer service, I always remember the following. Treat others in the same manner that I would like to be treated. As well, it is always nice to have a reality check to remind ourselves as to who the customer is. It is obvious that our first thoughts as to whom the customer is, are the kid curlers ages 6 to 11 years. Our primary focus is on this age group. This is where most of our energy and resources are directed. Followed closely behind the youngsters, as customers, are the parents. Without the parents, the kids do not get to the rink. As program providers, we need to care for the parents needs as well. What do the parents need to have their customer like relations satisfied? Parents need information, trust, and knowledge.
Without information to answer the questions of who, when, where, why and how, the parents cannot make informed decisions about the activities their children will participate. Parent customers need schedules laying out the season plan, for they need to plan the family schedule around the curling schedule (of course curling comes first). Information related to fees, registration and deadlines, deal with funding the program and insuring the kids are eligible to participate. Personal equipment information is very helpful, for some parents may not be curlers and have no idea what is involved when equipping their kids for the sport. Weekly announcements are helpful as well, as they provide you the chance to verbally address the parents with information they should know. Plus over time, parents will relate the announcements with the organizer and good organization.Trust is knowing that their children are going to be cared for, both on and off the ice. A police criminal record check is a good idea for most key volunteers if not all volunteers who are dealing with children. It is a different world we live in these days and one cannot be too careful when it comes to protecting our children and ourselves when dealing with kids… therefore, when working with kids, it is a good idea to be in the company of another adult. Having qualified instructors available is a great way of establishing trust with parents. Provincial and territorial associations have wonderful programs to support the training of club volunteers who are assisting with kids. With that being said, it might not be possible to train everyone with specialized courses, so on-ice and off-ice volunteers can play a great role without the training. On-ice volunteers can take direction from program leaders when setting up drills or games…. Simply a traffic controller is a big help to assist the little ones with direction on the ice. Off-ice volunteers can assist with the weekly check-in desk, social events, equipment checks and preparation, lounge set up, etc… a coordinated volunteer crew leave parents with the feeling of trust when they see their kids being cared for so well. Knowledge for parents is simply a snap shot of what the program is going to offer and the expected results when the season is done. Let parents know how you think the season will transpire. This information can be communicated with a brief letter or communiqué at the beginning of the season. For the kid customers, one simple rule applies…Fun, Fun, Fun!! Keep the programming fun and entertaining. Yes you want to care for skill development, so a good program will cleverly disguise the skill elements with fun activities. We have suggested the use of drill stations to break up the routine of regular curling. When teaching skills, the duration of the lectures should be kept brief for kids have short attention spans and you wish to have them focus as much as possible. Less talk allows for more activity to experiment with the skills. Do not rush skill development either; let the kids have fun and watch as their skills improve within your nurturing program. When preparing your season, schedule in special events such as themed parties, spiels and family days. Themed parties are easiest when related to the festive times of the year, like Christmas, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter. Arrange for Santa to stop in before Christmas or have a magician come by to entertain the gang…what fun! Who doesn’t like attending a bonspiel? Spiels are a great way for the Little Rockers to exercise the skill development during a day along event. Plus, they can develop their social skills, as they will meet new friends at the rink. You’ll be surprised as how many parents will attend too. Family Fun Spiels are terrific fun! The kids play skip and third, while the adult’s play lead and second. When it comes to entertainment, what is an important element at all parties….Yes you’re right, FOOD! Every good party has food as a focal point. Pizza and hotdogs are easy food solutions, throw in some treats like Gummies, Skittles or Smarties and watch the fun. Photos, by all means take some photos. Photos are a fine way to provide recognition for the kids and a sense of belonging to the group. Post the photos on the club web site or the bulletin board… be sure to have a photo release from the parents providing permission to do so. Loot or goodie bags that the youngsters can take home are also a fine way to say ‘fun’ at curling. For low cost, little games and treats that can be placed in a bag and then shared with others, could turn out to be a way to promote the curling program. When thinking of who the customers are with your Little Rock program, to think of the whole family unit is a good way to go…. You cannot go wrong!