Top 3 Keys to a Successful Club: Keeping 'Customembers' Satisfied

By Charlie Slagle

As in any business, and a soccer club is a business, it is important to know that you can't make all of your customers/parents/members -- I like to call them customembers -- satisfied with the club. Hopefully, clubs can keep the number of dissatisfied customembers to a minimum (under 5%).

Therefore, clubs should try to make the experience for the families as positive as possible. There are three keys that I am going to touch on in this article:

1. Providing value for the money spent by the families.
2. Fairness.
3. Responsiveness.

A factor that must be considered is that in the youth soccer arena, children are being subjectively placed on various level teams and parents want the best for their child. In this “want” to do the best for their child, some parents aren’t as objective about their child’s ability (or other children trying out or on the same team), which is a tough combination when teams are picked subjectively by coaches that are trying to be objective.

In providing value for the families, it is important that families are only paying for what their children are receiving. A recreation player’s family fees should not be supplementing the fees for travel players. Similarly, a younger travel player’s fees should not be supplementing the fees for an older travel player’s fees. However, it is enticing that if a club has 2,000 recreation players and needs $30,000 to supplement the budget deficit caused by the travel program to think about adding $15 to the recreation level fees. Clubs that do this are asking for trouble down the line.

Clubs should, also, seek fairness in areas outside of the fees paid. The consistency of how players are placed on recreation teams to how players are picked for travel teams is very important. In all levels of the youth game, there will be people trying to manipulate the system for their own gain. This could be parent-coaches trying to stack a recreation team to parents trying to make maneuvers to get their child on a particular travel team.

The club needs to be diligent to make sure that their employees/volunteers follow club procedures in all cases. At the travel level, clubs should keep a watchful eye on the coaches to make sure that they are not showing bias to a particular child due to some reason outside the parameters of the child’s ability. Any of these situations can bring a club down.

In the area of scheduling a large number of games, it is important to be fair to all. Trying to meet the needs of one or a group of teams can cause problems for the masses of teams. I have a saying, “sometimes fairness is being equally unfair to everyone.”

Lastly, clubs need to be responsive. When customembers have questions, they should be responded to by the club staff with a prompt answer or a prompt response that they will find out and get back to them soon.

Get back to them soon! Many times, club employees or volunteers delay answers that are not what the customembers want to hear, hoping that the question will go away. It is better to be responsive and, possibly, disappoint the family in these situations then to not respond and still disappoint the family. Also, remember that all questions are important and need to be answered.

Soccer clubs need to be diligent to the needs of their customembers in the making of their operational rules and the implementation of those rules. This will lead to a successful club.

Charlie Slagle, who served as CEO of North Carolina’s Capital Area Soccer League (CASL) for more than 12 years, is the owner of Charlie Slagle Sport Consulting LLC, specializing in working with soccer clubs to help them reach their potential -- with emphasis on working with clubs' professional staff and board of directors. Slagle, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Vice President of Education, was Davidson College head men's coach in 1980-2000 and tournament organizer of 14 NCAA Division I College Cups.

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