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The Wave Aquatic and Fitness Center, the featured facility of the September/October issue, is quite an anomaly. Nestled in Whitefish, Montana, a town of just under 7,700 people, The Wave has 6,750 members. I’m no business expert, but an 87% market share seems astounding.

As shared in this issue’s cover story (shameless plug), there are a variety of reasons The Wave has been so successful, from decades of anticipation to the active nature of a region that plays host to Glacier National Park.

However, I learned from my conversation with Art Krueger, the director of The Wave, that a major contributor to the organization’s success is a principle that translates to any market: being customer-centric.

“We’re in the service industry,” shared Krueger. “If you look at what we do and what we sell, we’re in retail — our widget is the facility, and people are renting time from us. And it all has to be customer-centric.”

Adopting a customer-centric attitude is nothing groundbreaking, but it’s easy to lose focus on this principle during the daily grind of member questions, equipment repairs and facility maintenance. Truly putting your members first requires a concentrated effort, and at times, a lot of patience.

“I’ve worked in the industry for years, with members who want change, and you’ve got to be patient with them while coaching and teaching,” said Krueger. “You also need to be patient with your facility’s processes, so you can improve the lives of the community you serve.”

And since patience is essential to member interactions and changing lives, a customer-centric culture starts with your staff. Therefore, it’s imperative to empower your staff, and the likely result will be an attentive and caring group of people who constantly meet members’ needs.

“My philosophy is that you need to take care of home first, which means you need to take care of the people you work with,” explained Krueger. “We need to serve each other first, so we can make the greatest impact in serving our members.”

As a leader, listening to feedback from both members and employees is important to sustained success in community recreation. The more your staff feels listened to, the better their performance will be, and thus, the better your members’ experiences will be.

And delivering positive experiences is the primary goal. “We want them to be here often,” said Krueger. “So, their experience has to be the best it can be.”

As you continue to evaluate the performance of your organization, first ask a simple question: how customer-centric are you?

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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