There is a simple equation I write on a flip chart in several of my classes:
CUSTOMERS + $$$ = YOUR JOB
Why is it that most businesses do not understand the concept above? Is it complicated? Of course not! E=mc2 is complicated, but I believe more people understand that little brain puzzle. I get hung up on cesium time travel and the energy turning to mass bit, but that is not today’s topic.
I have two sons who are both athletically talented. (This statement alone is amazing when you consider their parentage.) My younger son is a gymnast whose sport – at age 11, costs the family between $500-$800 per month. Yes, you read that correctly. It is also a commitment of 6 days a week; no summer breaks, no holidays, no family ski trips, no cable, etc… Why do we do it? It is his passion and dream, and he is good at it too. As other gymnast families know already, that is the deal. (Read the book: The Most Expensive Game in Town young parents-then see if you don’t do the same.) Let me also mention here that we are not made of money. My children do chores and pay as much as possible for their own sports with birthday money from relatives and cleaning other people’s yards. They are good kids who do not complain about going to practice, they have to get good grades, and understand that their lifestyle is a privilege and not a right.
My older son has a wider array of sports interests, but his best is tennis. At age 14, he stands 5’11” tall and wants to play seriously. As parents we are willing and able (barely) to give him the same attention and time as his brother. We have driven him two hours each day to go to a tennis camp where they said that he shows great promise and would like to accept him into an intensive program.
Here is the problem: During the school year we cannot make the commute and the cost of that much intensity adds up to $1,000 per month. (I mentioned we are not made of money right?) We needed to find a new tennis facility, and at his level that is easier said than done. Enter what I will call Sports Complex “X!”
Day one: We went to X ready to love it. My son played in a clinic for two hours and the pro was duly impressed. An 18 year old girl in the clinic (the only other young person) thought he was her age and was embarrassed to discover that while they are both freshmen this year, he is not legal. The place was right, the price (though not cheap) was right; the only issue is that he is 1.5 years too young to join without a parent. As parents, we don’t have time to join a club and as you know if I have two dimes to rub together, it goes to my kids. We told them about this and were assured by three people that, “exceptions are made all the time.” We just needed a manager’s approval. As I sat in the waiting room for 2 hours watching my son play, I saw two different scenarios where clients had questions that could not be answered. They too, “needed a manager’s approval.” One lady even remarked that is was ridiculous the staff was not more empowered. It is my profession to notice these things and I started to recognize a trending issue.
Day two: I called three times 10 AM, 5 PM and 8 PM before finally reaching that illusive manager I will call “J.” The reason I kept calling was because my son was dying to hear if he could get started right away and there was a clinic the following day.
J acted annoyed by our calling so much. Even though I had left a message twice with my home number, he said he tried to call my husband’s cell phone once without leaving a message.
J said, “The club does not want little kids running around. The only reason that they even let kids in is to get the parents business.” My pointing out that my son would be spending a lot more than a typical adult did not impress him.
J also stated “I went to the board for you on this, and they just don’t want him. I even said that with you money is no object and they still didn’t care. If you would also buy an adult membership and never use it, then he could come.” I felt pretty sure that J was lying and never went to the board. Money IS a factor for us and the cost of having an adult and child membership would borderline on the ridiculous.
I said to him, “So you would rather not have our $800 per year plus lesson revenue? Your club is that successful – that you don’t want our money?” His response was, “That’s right. It really not worth it for us to have him here.”
J continually interrupted me with argumentative little gems like, “Just so you know, the guy who talked to you yesterday is in trouble for giving wrong information.” And “The guy you talked to was not properly trained and had no right helping you at all.”
Then J (the charmer) said he was sorry for the following: “I am sorry that you were given the wrong information…I am sorry that you talked to the wrong people…I am sorry we won’t honor the material that says the price in writing…I am sorry but the board would rather not have your business.” He did not however sound at all sorry.
I mentioned that we would like the price quoted on the materials in my hand and he said, “Hah! I bet you would! That is half off the adult membership price. Everyone would like that.”
Nice attitude J! Let’s hope he never becomes a doctor – patients will start jumping out of windows.
What to do next is the question. There is social media, the better business bureau, local news programs, what I cannot do is let it slide. I work in the service industry training resorts, spas, restaurants and golf/fitness clubs like this one. It is my passion to see people become successful as a result of elevating their services and making guests happy.
As a professional courtesy, I am going to speak first to the owners of the club. How they react will dictate what I do, but I do not hold out much hope. Anyone who hires a person like “J” either does not know what good customer service is or does not care. The next move however is theirs.