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Seven of the Best Citizen Climbing Comps in the US

Posted By Emma Walker, Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Best Climbing Competitions

Every year, more members are looking to test their skills as gym climbing grows in popularity. And for those with a competitive streak, there’s no better (or more fun) way to gauge progression than a competition at their local gym. Rallies and meetups at iconic climbing areas are all the rage—just look at the Hueco Rock Rodeo and 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, for example—but why should outdoor crags have all the fun? If you’re looking to start a comp at your gym, look to these seven citizen comps for inspiration.

 

Portland Boulder Rally

The Portland Boulder Rally, held at The Circuit, is among the country’s most beloved climbing events. With a $10,000 cash purse (and tons of raffle prizes and swag being handed out), it’s an aspirational event—and a chance for local boulderers to rub elbows with some of the top athletes in the game.

 

Yank-n-Yard

Albuquerque’s Stone Age Climbing Gym hosts the annual Yank-n-Yard, a major event for the Southwestern climbing community. In addition to the youth comp and competitive categories, there’s an affordable citizen comp—not to mention a beer garden, live music, and awesome after-party, complete with a dyno comp and slacklining.

 

Back2Plastic

Momentum’s Lehi, Utah location looks forward to the Back2Plastic citizen comp every year. The low-key redpoint format, along with four ability-based categories and a masters division, make Back2Plastic a super-approachable comp for members of all ability levels. Momentum Lehi makes the most of its comp night by hosting a “mega demo” and sale on tons of shoes and gear.

 

BKBDay

Brooklyn Boulders throws itself an annual birthday party in Chicago, and it’s not your average climbing comp. BKBDay pulls out all the stops and puts on circus and acroyoga performances, a highline, and sponsored food and drink. The party kicks off with a Do-or-Dyno competition and gives half the proceeds from comp t-shirt sales to the Access Fund.

 

Deadpoint

Salt Lake City’s The Front knows how to throw a Halloween party. Their annual, cleverly-named Deadpoint comp takes place at the end of October, and although there’s a “monster” cash purse, the most coveted prize is the Best Costume honor. (You’d be amazed at the intricate costumes people can boulder in—Disney characters, the Hulk, you name it.)

 

Touchstone Climbing Series

The gym that serves America’s most populated state has community climbing comps down to a science. The Touchstone Climbing Series runs for nine months of the year, and holds events for a wide array of skill levels, both on boulders and ropes. Each gym hosts its own self-scored comp throughout the series, complete with pizza and beer. Events are free for members of its gyms—and just $25 otherwise: a great way to draw in non-members.

 

Iron Maiden

As women’s climbing events and festivals become more popular, there’s increasing demand for women-only competitions, too, and the Iron Maiden delivers. An offshoot of MetroRock’s successful Dark Horse Bouldering Series, Iron Maiden offers team and individual competition. The all-ladies comps (and the fact that the gym has historically donated proceeds to a nonprofit organization) have generated great PR for MetroRock.

 

With the hundreds of climbing facilities now operating in the US and Canada, there’s no shortage of amazing programming and citizen comps out there! What other comps stand out to you? Leave us a comment below to share your thoughts!

 

Emma Walker Head ShotAbout Emma Walker

Emma Walker is a freelance writer, editor, and an account manager with Golden, Colorado-based Bonfire Collective. Emma earned her M.S. in Outdoor and Environmental Education from Alaska Pacific University and has worked as an educator and guide at gyms, crags, and peaks around the American West.

 

Tags:  climbing culture  community development  competitions  customer experience  customer service  marketing  programming  women 

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The Two Keys to a Great Customer Experience

Posted By Chris Stevenson, Monday, January 14, 2019
Climbing Gym Customer Experience

A few months ago, I was in Lisbon, Portugal, presenting to more than 1,000 club owners on membership sales. The presentation was about experiential sales and the concept of serving instead of selling. (This great concept will be a future blog topic.)

 

The event was held at the Epic Sana Hotel Lisboa. The hotel completely lived up to its name, delivering an absolutely unparalleled customer experience. I travel a ton, both personally and professionally, and this was by far one of the best hotel experiences I have ever had. The Epic Sana Hotel Lisboa nailed the two fundamental components to a great customer experience: A product or service that efficiently and effectively meets all of your needs, and a product or service that finds opportunities to surprise and delight.

 

Key #1: All of my needs were met efficiently and effectively. I arrived in the morning and my room was ready. Having flown on a redeye for over 14 hours, this was important to me. The reception staff was proactive about informing me of all of the amenities and things to do in the area. The few questions that I did have were answered by the first person with whom I interacted. There was no escalation, the person I spoke to was well-equipped and well-informed. (As a side note, one of the most common complaints from consumers is escalation – wherein a staffer needs the assistance of someone else in order to respond to an inquiry – so make sure you minimize that at your facility through your training program.) My room was cleaned every day as soon as I left it. There were complimentary waters in my room every day. The entire staff was bilingual, so I never had any issues communicating with anyone. Everything that one would expect from a hotel was in order, efficiently and effectively meeting all of my needs.

 

Key #2: The Epic Sana Hotel Lisboa also excelled at finding ways to surprise and delight me. There was literally a surprise and delight around every corner. The TV in my room said, “Welcome Mr. Stevenson,” when I arrived. The room was automated based on my behavior, so when I returned, the room automatically went back to the way I left it. The lights I wanted on, came on; the curtains I wanted open, opened; and the TV turned back on to the station that I left it on, at the volume I had set. The bartender comped me a few drinks over the course of my stay. The housekeeping staff turned down sheets every night and placed a piece of chocolate on the nightstand. To top it off, when I forgot my outlet converter, the hotel staff went and purchased it for me at no charge and delivered it to my room.

 

With all of the traveling that I do, this was one of the best experiences I have ever had at a hotel. All of my basic needs were not only met, they were exceeded, and I was consistently surprised and delighted. I had a great customer experience.

 

Take a few minutes right now and think about your facility. Are you hitting the two fundamental components of a great customer experience? Is it easy and welcoming for your customers to park, enter your facility, buy a membership, climb the way they want to, etc.? Are you doing things like recognizing birthdays and membership anniversaries, memorizing names, anticipating needs, and finding other creative ways to surprise and delight your customers on a regular basis? If not, start brainstorming how you can. If you believe you’re already nailing both of those fundamental keys, brainstorm how you can be even better. As the climbing industry continues to become even more competitive, a great customer experience becomes even more essential.

 

Chris Stevenson Head Shot About Chris Stevenson

Chris Stevenson is the owner of Stevenson Fitness, a full-service health club in Oak Park, California. The club’s success is based on providing an unparalleled member experience, which centers on proper staffing, systematic operations, and world-class leadership. This success is reflected in the club’s Net Promoter Score, which is consistently in the high 80s (industry average is in the 40s). Chris is an international speaker who presents viable, applicable lectures that resonate with every audience.

 

Tags:  company culture  customer experience  customer satisfaction  customer service  employee engagement  human resources  leadership  management  staff training 

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If Customer Experience Is Important, Why Aren’t We Good at It?

Posted By Chris Stevenson, Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Climbing Gym Customer Experience

The Customer Engagement Academy (CEA) recently released its Member Engagement in the Global Health and Fitness Industry Survey Report for 2018. It was full of great research and data, but there was one thing that stuck out to me. Based on the survey results, while a majority of clubs felt that member engagement is really important, not very many clubs felt that they were doing a good job at it. Given all of the parallels between the fitness industry and the indoor climbing world, I would venture to guess that some climbing facilities feel the same way. With the increase in the number of climbing facilities and competition, member experience is going to become a huge competitive advantage, if not the most important one. Create a great climbing experience, focusing on the entire customer journey, and you will win. Don’t, and you will lose.

 

So how do we do this? Let’s allow the data to guide us. According to the study, the top three reasons clubs felt they were falling short were lack of human resources, other priorities were taking precedence, and lack of understanding of what needs to be done. Let's break those three things down and talk about how we deal with those challenges.

 

1. Lack of human resources. The best way to deal with this is to simply make sure that all of your staff members, regardless of position, are trained on member engagement. If your entire team is armed with engagement skills, you will dramatically increase your resources. Any time we hire a new team member at Stevenson Fitness, we start the onboarding process with our company story and member experience training. We cover, in-depth, all strategies that enhance the member experience. This includes things like name recognition techniques, body language, luxury language, proper policy enforcement, warm welcomes, fond farewells, and more. We use a combination of lecture, videos, books, articles, power points, and role play to make sure nothing is missed. We also use quizzes to make sure that the information is retained.

 

2. Other priorities taking precedence. If clubs believe that engagement is essential, and the report says they do, you simply have to prioritize it. This isn’t always easy. We tend to let the technical duties of our roles as well as putting out fires get ahead of actively creating a great experience at all times. Members have to come first. The world stops when a member is present. Technical aspects of jobs take a backseat to opportunities for engagement. Communicate that consistently to your team, recognize when they do it well, and evaluate their performance on it. Create a customer-centric culture.

 

3. Lack of understanding of what needs to be done. This is perhaps the easiest challenge to conquer. Go to events like the CWA Summit every year. Attend experience, retention, and engagement-themed presentations. Find an event or two outside of the indoor climbing industry to learn creative approaches you can bring to your business and your industry. Listen to podcasts, read appropriate books, and subscribe to blogs. There are plenty of great resources to show you exactly what needs to be done. Utilize them!

 

Success comes when our behaviors match our priorities. Prioritize member engagement and establish behaviors that support it! Your members will notice, and it won’t take long for your business to see the benefits.

 

Chris Stevenson Head Shot About Chris Stevenson

Chris Stevenson is the owner of Stevenson Fitness, a full-service health club in Oak Park, California. The club’s success is based on providing an unparalleled member experience, which centers on proper staffing, systematic operations, and world-class leadership. This success is reflected in the club’s Net Promoter Score, which is consistently in the high 80s (industry average is in the 40s). Chris is an international speaker who presents viable, applicable lectures that resonate with every audience.

 

Tags:  company culture  customer experience  customer satisfaction  customer service  human resources  leadership  management  staff training 

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Making Lemons Into Lemonade: A Step-by-Step Guide to Handling Mistakes in Your Organization

Posted By Chris Stevenson, Monday, November 5, 2018
Handle Organizational Mistakes

Mistakes will happen. Nobody is perfect. No matter how hard we try, and how well our companies operate, there will be a time when something goes wrong and we need to take steps to turn lemons into lemonade. And we’re not alone; even the best brands and the most efficient companies occasionally drop the ball. To maintain good standing with our customers, we need to take swift and specific action.

 

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I have two examples of customer service experiences I’ve had on recent business trips, one good, one bad.

 

I recently flew to Japan on… let’s call them Airline X. Upon my arrival to this foreign country, after an extremely long plane ride and faced with a major language barrier, I learned that Airline X had lost my luggage. I was to present (ironically on customer experience) in less than 24 hours, and I had no clothes or toiletries. When I called the airline, I was reassured that my luggage would be delivered the next day, that I would be reimbursed for any purchases I had to make, and that my frequent flyer account would be credited for the trip. Though it wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience on the phone, my expectations were set for the situation to be handled reasonably well.

 

In the end, my luggage came late and I was never sent the claims form for reimbursement. While I tried following up a few more times, I was stonewalled and eventually gave up. It seemed like the airline made it intentionally difficult for me to get reimbursed, and to top it off, they never credited my frequent flyer account with the flight miles. They set specific expectations for how the situation would be handled but did not meet those expectations, and then failed to be responsive or follow up. Airline X dropped the ball.

 

A few weeks after that, I flew Airline Y. I had a connection in Detroit and the connecting flight was late. I was bummed but I understood – delays happen. Airline Y, however, did a few things right away. They over-communicated the delay via text and email, keeping me up-to-date. They also apologized several times at the gate, making me feel like they truly understood the inconvenience and took it seriously. Finally, they brought out free beverages and snacks for all of the people who were disrupted by the delay. While a small gesture, it was thoughtful and appreciated. Airline Y did not drop the ball.

 

To keep customers happy, handling shortcomings effectively and efficiently is key. So when the unavoidable happens, there are a few keys to handling mishaps externally and internally.

 

When your company makes a mistake or fails to meet your customers' expectations, follow these steps to communicate with the customer:

  1. Sincerely apologize. Customers will feel heard and appreciated.
  2. Over-communicate. Keep customers in the loop as much as possible. Let them know why the shortcoming happened, what you are doing to remedy it, and what steps you will take to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Providing too much information is NEVER a mistake.
  3. Don't over promise. Make sure you fully deliver on whatever you intend to do to fix the situation. The worst you can do is to fall short on your action plan.

After dealing with the situation externally, you need to take a few steps internally. There is no worse experience for customers than having to deal with the same mistakes over and over again. Here are three things that we do at our facility when we fall short:

  1. Forgive ourselves. It is important to recognize the mistake, but it is unhealthy to dwell on it. Great organizations focus more on the present and the future than dwelling on the past.
  2. Talk through the situation. Look at it from the customer’s perspective. Figure out why it happened and how it happened. Brainstorm ways to prevent it from happening again.
  3. Implement new systems or procedures. Once you’ve collaborated with your team to brainstorm solutions, make a plan to implement them. Provide staff training to prevent the same mistake and similar mistakes from happening in the future.

When your company falls short, and it will happen even to the best of us, take action externally and internally. While no company is perfect, companies that handle mistakes well are healthier inside and out. The best way forward for yourself, your staff, and your customers is always to make lemons into lemonade!

 

Chris Stevenson Head Shot About Chris Stevenson

Chris Stevenson is the owner of Stevenson Fitness, a full-service health club in Oak Park, California. The club’s success is based on providing an unparalleled member experience, which centers on proper staffing, systematic operations, and world-class leadership. This success is reflected in the club’s Net Promoter Score, which is consistently in the high 80s (industry average is in the 40s). Chris is an international speaker who presents viable, applicable lectures that resonate with every audience.

 

Tags:  company culture  customer experience  customer satisfaction  customer service  staff training 

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The Powerful Potential of a Positive Culture

Posted By Chris Stevenson, Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2018
Positive Company Culture

Employee engagement is tough to achieve, yet essential for success. There are three levels of employee engagement: engaged, disengaged, and actively disengaged. As you can imagine, engaged employees are the ones on your team doing a great job. They represent your vision, mission and culture. They help you create the customer experience you are seeking. However, according to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report, on average, only 15% of employees are actually engaged. The rest of your team are either disengaged or, even worse, actively disengaged. Disengaged employees are barely getting by and not meeting your company standards. Actively disengaged employees are not only failing to meet expectations, but bringing down other employees. And remember, disengaged and actively disengaged comprise 85% of your staff! So how do we change this staggering number? The answer is creating and maintaining a positive company culture.

 

There are five keys to creating a positive company culture: inspiration, communication, participation, appreciation and evaluation. When you focus on all of these areas you create an environment that fosters a high level of employee engagement. This will inevitably invite an outstanding customer experience.

 

Inspiration

It all starts with inspiration. Inspiration involves creating and infusing a meaningful core purpose, mission statement and core values into your company culture. These essential tools illustrate that what the company does--and more importantly what the employees do--has real value. Effective core purpose, mission statement and core values should be the center of every decision made on behalf of company growth and member satisfaction. It is a leader’s job to create these and then make every employee aware of them and their importance.

 

Communication

The second step is communication. Make sure employees are always in the loop with what is going on with your company. In addition to keeping employees informed, it’s important to thoroughly and continuously communicate your expectations of your staff. Employees that are enlightened with communication are far more likely to stay engaged. Always over-communicate!

 

Participation

The third step is participation. The more employees feel that they contribute to the development and execution of the company’s goals, the more they engage. In practice, this can take many forms, including employee engagement surveys, development programs, and meeting effectiveness surveys. A specific example of an effective participation strategy that we use on a regular basis is a “start, stop and continue” survey. We ask our employees to tell us what we need to start doing, stop doing and continue doing. With that, employees can voice their opinions and truly impact the way our company operates. Participating employees are engaged employees.

 

Appreciation

The forth component is appreciation. While recognition and gratitude may seem a little fluffy, research demonstrates that they have a huge impact on employee engagement. Gratitude should be expressed specifically, on a timely basis, and frequently. It should be expressed in face-to-face conversations, made public in meetings, group emails, and on social media. Gratitude should always refer back to the core purpose, mission statement and core values. Expressing gratitude shows that what your employees do has meaning and is appreciated. Gallup studies have shown that to stay engaged, employees should be shown some sort of appreciation or gratitude at least once every seven days.

 

Evaluation

The last engagement piece is evaluation. Employees should be coached daily, causally evaluated quarterly, and formally evaluated annually. Just like appreciation, all of those methods of evaluation should refer back to the core purpose, mission statement and values. Evaluations should also include goal setting. When structured this way, employees know how their work meaningfully supports your company culture, and demonstrates your investment into their growth as human beings. Employees that know that they are growing and performing work that has real meaning stayed engaged. Take time to carefully and strategically craft your different forms of evaluations.

 

An Outstanding Member Experience Starts with Your Employees

Engaged employees make you; disengaged and actively disengaged employees break you. Start inspiring. Communicate openly and honestly. Give employees various ways to communicate and participate in decision-making. Make sure you are showing appreciation to your employees at all times. Lastly, make sure you are giving culture-driven evaluations that express appreciation and promote growth. Those five areas are keys to keeping your employees engaged, and engaged employees will generate an outstanding member experience.

 

Chris Stevenson Head Shot About Chris Stevenson

Chris Stevenson is the owner of Stevenson Fitness, a full-service health club in Oak Park, California. The club’s success is based on providing an unparalleled member experience, which centers on proper staffing, systematic operations, and world-class leadership. This success is reflected in the club’s Net Promoter Score, which is consistently in the high 80s (industry average is in the 40s). Chris is an international speaker who presents viable, applicable lectures that resonate with every audience.

 

Tags:  company culture  customer experience  customer service  employee engagement  human resources 

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Optimizing Belay Lessons for Member Acquisition

Posted By Christopher Stango, Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Climbing Gym Member Acquisition

When a new guest ventures into your climbing gym for the first time, what will their first impression be? Who is greeting them? Who is giving the tour? Who is giving them a belay lesson and setting them off into the gym on their own? When that first-time climber walks in your door, they're assessing your offerings, and their impression of their experience will ultimately determine if they will return or not. Remember when you first caught the climbing gym “bug”? It's likely you had a great first, second, and even third experience that kept you coming back!

 

There are a lot of important factors that contribute to your new climber's experience before the belay lesson even begins, but the belay lesson is a golden opportunity for member acquisition that is often wasted without a good strategy. Naturally, safety is of profound importance in any belay lesson and that is where most of the focus should remain. However, after a climbing gym's standard belay lesson has the technical training and assessment portion dialed, member acquisition should be your staff’s next priority. These skills should only be utilized by instructors that are already extremely proficient at conducting effective belay lessons.

 

Discovering the Occasion

What brought your class into the gym? Is it a current member bringing some non-climbing friends? Or is it a group of coworkers? Is it some friends looking for a fun way to be more active? Could it be a date? Discovering the occasion either by asking or deducing is a smart way to create personal connections with your students.

 

Instructor Introduction and Learning Names

Remembering and using names during lessons is the quickest way to make your guests feel welcomed and comfortable. Make sure you keep in mind that a non-climber walking into a climbing gym can be an intimidating experience. Being recognized and having someone remember your name could make the difference!

 

Patience

Belay lessons can be incredibly stressful for your more nervous guests. This may cause them to fumble and make mistakes in the beginning. Being patient with those who don’t grasp the concepts naturally will create a encouraging and inclusive environment for new climbers. They are already out of their element just by walking in your door. Make sure your patience shows them they are welcome.

 

Humor

Like using your guest’s name, implementing humor into your lesson is another great way to make your guests feel comfortable. Once you've discovered the occasion and learned their names, you'll likely have a grasp on the type of humor that they may appreciate. I always tell my staff I want to hear their whole class laugh at least once!

 

Be Efficient

Leading an organized and concise lesson will be appreciated by your climbers, because they're likely excited to start climbing with their friends. If the lesson is disorganized and takes longer than necessary, you can expect your new climbers to become frustrated and impatient. It is essential that you stick with the goal of building technical competency among your new climbers. Creating an efficient and replicable lesson plan will manage time effectively and ensure you are delivering consistent information to all your students.

 

Have Fun

Belay lessons can be long and take up a large chunk of your new climber’s first day, but it’s possible to get creative and have plenty of fun along the way. If the instructor is having a good time, it's going to show in their belay lessons. If the belay lessons are fun, the guests will continue to feel welcomed and feel like they are getting a greater value out of their time spent at the gym. Show them that you want to be there!

 

The Bottom Line

The objective of the belay lesson is to create competent belayers in your facility. If done correctly, it will also set them up to fully enjoy everything your climbing gym has to offer. It’s also an opportunity to examine your customer service procedures. For example:

  • Have you given them an orientation? Show them around the facility and give them some inspiration on how to take full advantage of the facility to improve their fitness.
  • Have you told them about your grading system and what might be appropriate for them? Getting some direction to help them experience success will keep them coming back for more.
  • Did you give them a few quick climbing tips while they were doing their practice falls? Let them know about a couple basic techniques, like straight arms and standing on their toes.
  • Have you come back to check on them after 30 minutes to see if they've come up with any questions? Feeling supported by the staff will encourage your new climbers to stick with climbing.
  • Have you introduced them to other climbers at the gym? Creating a membership base where people know each other establishes a stronger community that’s more loyal to your gym.

Your focus should be on setting them up for a positive experience. As climbers, we know what keeps us coming back. Let's try to show them what that is.

 

Christopher Stango Head ShotAbout Christopher Stango

Christopher is the Gym Manager at Sun Country Rocks in Gainesville, Florida. He has a background in restaurant management honing techniques in customer service and operations, which he is now applying to the indoor climbing industry. He has gathered nearly a decade of experience in restaurant management and has been climbing almost as long.

 

Tags:  belay lessons  customer service  member acquisition 

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