But what about that "once a week skater." What about all those kids who just do classes, or the ones who take the beginning classes and then decide not to skate or the anonymous families who come week after week, but only to public? Are they "good" customers who deserve to have their needs met, or do we just focus on the lifers?
What makes a customer "good"?
Two ways to think about it-- individual skater who buys a lot, class of skaters that there are a lot of, namely beginners.
The great Jimmie Santee (now head of the PSA) used to do a graphic at coaching seminars showing a pyramid. In the tiny peak at the top were the approximately 500 "elite" skaters--kids in all skating disciplines who compete nationally. Along the broad base were the million or so people who participate in figure skating. You could do a version of this at any scale-- your rink, your region, or, like Jimmie's, nationally.
Coaches and rinks get stars in their eyes over these so-called "elite" skaters. I never worked at a rink that didn't think they were "competitive" and focused an awful lot of attention and effort on the 2 or 3 skaters who had a shot. And, to their credit, I've also never worked at a rink that didn't manage to produce a national skater every few years.
But they've got to come from somewhere. That one skater pulled himself out of the masses of public-session skaters. Putting up barriers to those kids--scheduling, cultural, cost,--keeps these casual customers out of your program and prevents them from becoming the so-called good customers who spend a lot of time (and money) in your facility.
Yes, your high freestyle and competitive skaters are important customers. For one thing they keep your coaching staff happy. They spend a lot of money, and they're great PR. But the beginners won't ever get there if you make it difficult, expensive, or unpleasant to be in your rink.
Gosh, if we only paid attention to the talented people, none of us would have jobs.
Who needs premium ice and the "top" coaches: the hooked customer, or the new customer?
Again, most of the people who skate are casual skaters. It continually astounds me when facilities don't have convenient or frequent public skating (which is also more lucrative ice), giving all the premium ice times to the fewest skaters (high freestyle). Again from Jimmie Santee--most of the kids in your class will sign on not because they saw a catalog, but because they came to public skating or a school outing and had a great time. They didn't come because they saw your best skater; they came because they saw an actual famous skater on tv and wanted to try it, or because mom and dad loved skating recreationally. You top skaters are helping that coach get students, but they are not bringing bodies into the facility.
How do you make this happen?
There's the cynical way: hockey makes parents spend several hundred on equipment; synchro makes you buy lots of "team building" crap like matching guards, bags, makeup, and for all I know feminine hygiene products (really, what a racket), as well as signing a contract. (In other words, if you quit Synchro halfway through a season, no other team will take you and there are no refunds.) These programs, and other youth sports, grab the customer with a costly upfront investment and the promise of instant and long-term companionship.
Your solo skaters need to be lured back-- by good ice times, wonderful teachers, a caring staff, and a well-run facility.
In other words, all of your customers are "good" customers; all customers should be treated with equal respect and have their needs met to the best of the program's ability.
What kind of skater are you? (Take the poll). Do you think your facility does its best to make you feel like a valued customer?