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Best Practices for Gaining and Retaining Club Members

By Ruth Nicholson, GO!, 05/22/18, 12:00PM CDT

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The volunteer return rate between seasons was 98 percent because volunteers wanted to be a part of an organization that was responsive, appreciated their work and offered to address some of their personal costs of volunteering.

Quality customer service contributes to attracting new members, retaining current members and increasing volunteer contributions to your club.  

How many points of contact does your club have? Do you have a central phone number and email? Is there an easy-to-find list of individual phone numbers and emails for coaches, club staff, volunteers and board members on your website?

Each title in the following list of roles represents a point of contact for your club. Each also contributes to the customer service experience of your players, families and prospective members.

Typical points of contact include:  

  • Club administrator
  • Field scheduler
  • Referee assignor
  • Webmaster
  • Social media coordinator
  • Board members
  • Program directors, including directors of coaching, technical directors, tournament directors and volunteers overseeing major events such as social and fundraising events. 

Customer Service Blunders

On July 1, 2017, Forbes Leadership published an article entitled, “If I wanted my question answered in 15 hours I would have waited 15 hours to ask the question.” The article includes data collected on responses to customer service email and phone inquiries.

With regards to responding to customer email, the article notes that:

  • The average response time to handle a customer service request was 15 hours and 17 minutes.
  • 41 percent of companies do not respond to customer service emails.
  • 90 percent of companies do not acknowledge or inform customers that emails have been received.
  • Only 11 percent of companies are able to answer a customer’s question on the first reply.

Customers react to this lack of responsiveness in many ways. They may wait out a response, but they will not be happy by the time they receive the response, reflecting poorly on the organization.

Customers may also become so frustrated that they choose another company and become lost customers. They may also give up on email and turn to traditional phone support.

The key to a good customer service experience is accessibility to answers and to a live person when needed. According to Forbes, 60 percent of customers prefer phone calls to get their customer service support, and 77 percent of customers do not feel they connect with a live customer service representative quickly enough.

While we may not be comfortable thinking of our youth sports clubs as companies with customers, the experience that our members and prospective members have with our organizations is basically a customer service experience, regardless of the point of contact they have with our clubs.

Customer Service Successes

According to Sports Office 365, club members in youth sports organizations want four things:

  • A phone number to call, and someone to answer it.
  • Acknowledgement that their email was received followed by a timely and thoughtful response.
  • Quick response on social media.
  • The opportunity to provide feedback.

Ongoing quality service retains existing members. Responsiveness to phone and email inquiries also builds a good reputation in the community that attracts new members.

It costs about five times as much in time and money to gain a new customer as it does to keep an existing customer, sometimes more. It pays off to offer good customer service since few youth sports clubs have large advertising and marketing budgets, and staff and volunteer time is precious and often stretched to cover all of the demands of program delivery and administration.

The staff at GO! and Sports Office 365 have many examples of how improved customer service in youth sports clubs has increased member satisfaction, members, improved revenue, and kept volunteers returning to support programs.

The Henlopen Soccer Club in Delaware increased player registration significantly when it improved its phone, email and social media responsiveness. Its improved communication and responsiveness gave families easy access to answers to their questions, including the personal attention provided by the ability to speak to a real person when they phoned the club.

Club administrators serving the Celebration Youth Soccer in Florida improved their direct assistance for team managers and coaches by registering teams for events, scheduling travel, ordering player cards, and other administrative duties. The original travel team program doubled in a year and more than doubled the year after that.

The result was that volunteers had more time to focus on internal team communications that improved the quality of member experiences and attracted more players to the club.

The FC Seattle Storm of the Western Soccer Alliance ran its home game stadium operations using an 88-person volunteer staff. All communications were responded to in less than a day. Volunteers also received free parking, food, and drink at games. The volunteer return rate between seasons was 98 percent because volunteers wanted to be a part of an organization that was responsive, appreciated their work and offered to address some of their personal costs of volunteering.

Tips to improve your club’s customer service

  • Designate someone to answer your club phone during both business and evening hours. Respond to voice mail messages within 24 hours, preferably the same day.
  • Respond to emails within 24 hours, preferable the same day, even if the response is “We have received your email and are working on your request.”
  • Review and update your website weekly.
  • Include a feedback form on your website. Respond to submissions and comments with the same approach as to email.

About GO!

The GO! resource and training program has fielded inquiries and worked with coaches, clubs, state associations and leagues in 19 North American states and provinces, as well as others in Europe, South America, Australia and Africa since its unveiling in mid-2017. Interest from the U.S. Olympic Committee coaching education program in its training webinars has resulted in the engagement of 26 different sports.

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