Friday, May 22, 2015

Make The Most of Your In-Service Trainings

Consistent in-service trainings are essential for keeping your staff sharp and up-to-date on emergency protocol. The unfortunate truth about in-service trainings, however, is that they are often ineffective. In-service trainings become ineffective when the content becomes stale, the delivery of information becomes routine, and the staff is not fully engaged.
It’s never the intention to have ineffective or boring in-service trainings - it just happens. Recently SAI discussed effective in-service training tactic with facility managers and SAI’s Director of Quality Assurance and Improvement, Lake White. The discussion highlighted three important keys for effective in-service trainings.

  1. Know your needs and make a plan. Be aware of what your staff weaknesses are, and cater your in-service trainings to address those areas that need improvement. Create a specific plan before each in-service, so as not to waste time or lose the focus of your staff.
  2. Keep it lively. Theoretical discussion or watching someone else do something makes an in-service quickly turn stale. Keep your staff moving and actively engaged in what is being discussed or reviewed. Team-building exercises that incorporate skill-building help keep staff engaged, as well as promote staff cooperation. Competitive games are also effective for sharpening your staff’s skills, while keeping everyone eager to participate in the process.    
  3. Put the pieces together. If in-service trainings always focus on a single component of protocol, your staff may operate more like an assembly line than a lifesaving team. Each person may attach to one element of the emergency protocol but may not fully understand the entire process. This becomes an issue when an incident occurs and your staff, who has been present for hours of in-service training, is not able to execute the emergency action plan (EAP) properly. Practice your EAP from beginning to end, leaving out no minor detail. This consistent rehearsal of your EAP will not only get your staff well-acquainted with the emergency protocol, but it will also allow you to evaluate weaknesses that need be addressed during later in-service trainings.   
In-service trainings don’t have to be boring or redundant. With some intentional planning, every in-service training can be not only effective but also enjoyable for your staff.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How to Balance Rising Costs

Recently we posed the question to facility and program managers of how to handle the rise in operating costs. The main concern of rising costs is the ultimate loss of customers. As minimum wage increases, the costs to the customer increase, and often facilities see customers seeking the lowest-priced facilities, even at the risk of lower quality services.

There does not appear to be a single formula of how to respond to rising costs, but four key strategies for responding to the financial climate became evident in our discussion.

  1. Get creative. Since there is not a simple solution for how to reconcile the fact that spending and profits don’t rise at the same rate, it’s important to look at your situation with innovative eyes. Be aware that being creative may mean letting go of certain programs your facility offer.
  2. Shave off the excess. Did your facility incorporate a variety of programs when the economy was strong and wages were low that still carry on today? It’s helpful to evaluate if the programs your facility offers are truly valuable for your revenue.
  3. Choose your strength. There is always competition; decide your niche and focus on that. One manager in our discussion noted that his facility could not compete with the subsidized programs offered by the government facilities, so his facility decided to offer specialized classes that are not offered at the government facilities. Make your programs unique enough so the cost is not the driving factor in the customer’s decision-making.
  4. Educate your customers. Frustration is inevitable when managers see customers moving toward a lower-priced, likely lower quality, competitor. Some facilities have chosen to explain to customers why the cost to them has increased. If the rise in cost is to the rise in minimum wage, the explanation is ultimately education on the importance of quality lifeguards. Facility managers understand how essential highly-trained lifeguards and swim instructors are, but, unfortunately, the importance of lifeguards and water safety are not always the main motivation in decision-making for customers.   

Costs will always continue to rise, but sometimes they can rise suddenly with a change in regulations. These quick changes make it so that facilities are in the position of playing catch up financially. Be innovative and don’t be afraid to try something new to address the effects rising costs have on revenue.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Let Your Programs Be Known

Your facility may have some of the best programs and instructors in your area, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t have effective marketing methods. Effective marketing isn’t only marketing that advertises your programs, but it is also marketing that is cost-effective and time-efficient. Recently SAI posed the question about effective marketing methods to its clients, and six marketing strategies were consistently reported as being the most effective for retaining and gaining customers. These strategies can easily be layered to provide exposure of the great programs and services your facility offers.

  1. Word of mouth. If you do good work, people will tell their friends. In the same manner, if you do poor work, people will tell their friends. Let your quality programs and service advertise themselves.
  2. Social media. Keep your current customers and potential customers interested with new updates and information about what programs you offer. If you use social media, keep it active.
  3. Internal advertising. Don’t forget to post information about what programs you have to offer for customers to see while engaged at your facility. Move beyond the simple message board and advertise with banners or other signage in noticeable areas.
  4. E-mail listservs. Some facilities have found success with providing current and past customers with email alerts regarding upcoming programs.
  5. Paper brochures. Even though we live in a technology-driven age, the paper brochure ought not to be underestimated. A paper brochure can easily become a mainstay on a customer’s refrigerator and doesn’t require the customer to do extra work to seek out your programs.
  6. Community flyers and calendars. Integrate yourself into the community at large and reach potential customers who may not be seeking what programs you offer.