Is The Customer Always Right?

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The motto of “old-school” customer service was “The customer is always right”. It is usually credited to Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London in 1909, to compel employees to give customers good service and to convince customers that they would get it at his store.

Taken to an extreme in our day, many customers believe this motto to be a constitutional right. It has been badly abused and is being abandoned by many companies who realize that trying to meet the needs of everyone is a costly and ineffective way to meet the needs of those who truly want, need and value their services.

For example, Author Alexander Kjerulf tells the story of a frequent Southwest flier who complained after every flight. After repeated attempts to appease her, her final grievance (about the sportiness of the flight attendants’ uniforms) was forwarded in desperation to the CEO, Herb Kelleher, who immediately wrote back, ‘Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.’”

4 Ways “New-school” customer service is different:

1. It’s targeted to the customers you want to keep

In terms of ROI, customers who are “not right”—for your camp—are simply too expensive, time-consuming and exhausting to try to keep.

At the same time, camps’ target market is MOM. She means business and you HAVE to keep up with her! There’s a fine line here that must be understood.

2. It’s relational

Connect with customers in all the venues where they’re speaking, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Share your various opinions and passions about kids and camps on your blog and social media. They want to know you care about their kids and their values, not just about your bottom line. They want to know you.

3. It’s about asking the right questions

Prioritize questions like “What do they want and need at search time/registration/drop-off/mid-camp/pick-up/after camp?” as much as “How can I increase my enrollment?”Creative questions lead to creative solutions to your customer’s desires, expectations, and problems, which will ultimately affect enrollment numbers.

4. It’s about offering value beyond your actual camp or clinic

  • Doing business with companies that give back to the community is important to today’s moms.
  • Offering statistics or thought-provoking, informative, interesting or humorous material on your blog or Facebook page about camp experiences, children’s needs, or current trends will keep them connected throughout the year.
  • Texting or tweeting reminders will help them keep up with important camp tasks and deadlines.
  • Making camp or class registration, payment and release-form completion as easy as possible eliminates stress for moms

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, may have defined a better motto for our time: “Start with the customer and work backwards.

What is your customer service motto?

8 Signs It’s Time to Rethink Your Camp Management System

You’ve learned a lot since you began managing camps and now you’re better able to evaluate the processes, systems and technology your camp needs to be successful. Camps have evolved and camp technology has too.

We’ve assembled a list of eight signs that mean your current approach has outlived its usefulness.

1.     Your online registration form is a downloadable PDF on your website

Because your form is “online” doesn’t mean you offer online registration… Families expect 24/7 convenience to complete the camp registration process at their leisure – from selecting camp dates, to choosing a transport option, to indicating dietary restrictions, to adding extra activities, all the way to requesting bunk buddies and buying camp merchandise. Look for a system that can handle all that, plus more.

2.     Your camp management software is snubbing your registration system

Look for seamless integration of your online registration data with your camp management software. As soon as a camper is registered via your online form, the data should automatically update your centralized database to reflect the new registration and to record the payment in real-time.

3.     You and your staff spend an inordinate amount of time chasing payments

Lost checks. Late checks. No checks. Sounds familiar? Put a stop to the insanity and look for an online camp management solution that processes payments securely in real-time and allows parents to choose to be automatically billed any remaining balance on its due date. You’ll be amazed at how your delinquent accounts receivables disappear, how much your camp parents prefer these options, and how little time it takes from your staff.

4.     You don’t have the ability to easily issue and accept coupons

Want to run a short promotion to fill the last remaining bunks? Interested in trying out a group buying program like Groupon or Living Social? Look for a software solution that lets you create coupon codes on the fly and automate processing when they’re redeemed. And with adequate reporting tools built in, you’ll have the ability to know exactly how many coupons were issued, used and by whom.

5.     Families complain that your online registration could be better

Let’s face it, even if you already have an online registration solution, if families aren’t thrilled about using it, it’s bad news. Search for camp software that offers a great user experience because it’s well integrated with your website and has all the functionality that parents crave, like the ability to register multiple kids in different camps at once, to securely make online payments and to manage accounts.

6.     You’re packing your data while kids are packing for camp

If you’re still working with camp management software that resides on your in-house server or computer, you might have developed the interesting habit of “packing” your computer and your data back and forth between your headquarters and your camp, so you and your staff can access camp information. Look for a software solution that’s “hosted” or “cloud-based” so that you can access your camp data at anytime, from any computer.

7.     You can’t automate targeted email marketing directly from your database

Look for an online registration solution that offers built-in email tools to create and schedule professional emails, including reminders and birthday wishes, as well as one that offers filtering tools to easily segment your database and send targeted messages by age group, programs, participation levels, etc. Some camp software also includes mass texting tools, a nice-to-have option for sending out timely reminders or notifications.

8.     Your system has never heard of peer-to-peer marketing or social media

Peer-to-Peer marketing is cheap and extremely effective. Make sure your camp management solution allows families to “Invite a Friend” during the registration process. The tool should automatically send a personalized email to the invitee notifying him or her that the inviter has registered for your programs and inviting them to join in on the fun. The invite should include a direct link to your online registration form. Also look for integrated social media functionality in your software. It should give families the ability to post “I just registered little Johnny to Camp X” messages on their Facebook page right from your registration form, further expanding your reach to their community.




Does your camp exhibit any of the above 8 signs? You might have learned to accept the status quo because of time or budget constraints… or just because. Like most camp directors, you probably know that continuing to work with dated or flawed systems prolongs inefficiencies and handicaps your ability to succeed.

Trust Your Gut, But Use Your Data

Michelle Mercier, our communities marketing maven, shares her insights into a discussion she helped host at a recent camps conference:

Last week, ACTIVE brought together a panel discussion at the American Camps Association National Conference in Dallas to discuss how camps are beginning to challenge the status quo and to use data as a core decision making tool. I thought I’d share a few key takeaways from the panel…

“Aligning programs with parents’ goals”
Avid4Adventure, an outdoor adventure camp, wanted to revamp their camp programs to better align with parents’ evolving needs. To do this, they put together a carefully thought-out process to uncover what their customers—moms—were truly looking for in terms of youth development. Combining the quantitative and qualitative data they collected, Avid4Adventure was able to create a new curriculum that not only met parents’ goals for their kids but could also be easily articulated in their marketing materials in a way that made sense to parents.

“Predicting new hire success”
One of our summer camp customers was looking for a way to predict new counselor success. Most hire decisions were based on gut feel, but it didn’t always work out and the camp director wondered if there might be detectable indicators. He started by changing interview questions and also added an exit interview. After analyzing the correlations between hiring interview answers and performance, the counselor uncovered a few key questions that were great predictors of counselor success. The camp has now been using this new data-driven interview process and is continuing to make smarter hiring decisions.

“Challenging traditional training models”
Industry consultant, Scott Arizala, urges his camps to challenge what they’re used to doing. Camp Kesem, is run by 1,500 student leaders from 41 college chapters across the country. Rather than relying on old training models that were readily available but would have been ill-suited for the camp’s unique staffing approach, Scott challenged them to completely rethink their training practices. The result? 98% of parents said that they intended to send their kids back to Camp Kesem again.

“Setting ambitious goals”
The Children’s Association for Maximum Potential (CAMP) camp manages a variety of programs aimed at special needs children and adults. Because the camp accepts people with a wide range of disability levels, offering a swimming program had never been considered until camp directors decided that they should have a pool suited for all of their campers. By collecting data about their campers’ needs, they were able to build an aquatic center that 99% of their campers can now enjoy.

And the Winner is….


Camp Tecumseh YMCA of Brookston, Indiana, was selected as the winner of the ACTIVE Network Campership Grant Contest on January 15, 2013. The $1,000 Grant was open for entries November 20 to December 31, 2012, and was established to support camps that were looking for funds to sponsor deserving children. More than 450 camps from Canada and the U.S. submitted a Grant entry form and the winner was selected at random among qualifying applicants.

“Camp Tecumseh YMCA is very honored to receive this $1,000 from ACTIVE Network! We will use the funds to provide scholarships for 10 day campers from our surrounding counties this summer,” comments Ben Meyaard, Director of Camper Support at Camp Tecumseh YMCA.

Located on 500 acres of riverfront woodlands, Camp Tecumseh YMCA offers day camps and resident camps to youths aged 8 to 15, along with retreats, leadership training and outdoor education. The camp aims to offer superb experiences to campers within a caring Christian environment.

“Our programs have a huge impact on less-advantaged youth. One parent recently commented on how a yearly week-long day camp at Camp Tecumseh had transformed her son, allowing him to grow in confidence, joy and faith over the years,” adds Meyaard. “Thank you again, ACTIVE Network, for supporting our mission and campers across America!”

“Our team’s vision is to help transform our youth to be more engaged and active. Giving more kids the opportunity to experience camp via our ACTIVE Campership Grant is a logical program for us to offer,” says Stephen Branstetter, General Manager of Youth & Education at ACTIVE Network. “We’re thrilled to support Camp Tecumseh YMCA in their mission.”

ACTIVE Network is the reference in activity and participation management technology, serving over 50,000 customers nationwide, including more than 2,000 camps. ACTIVE’s camp management solutions help GET more campers, MANAGE camps operations efficiently and BUILD an engaged camp community.

ACTIVE Network is a member and supporter of the ACA, PCCCA, CCCA and OCA.

Camp Marketing


Before you even begin thinking of flyers, emails or any form of advertisement, take some time to reflect on your Power Positions and how they relate to what parents want. This will help you market your Camp with much more clarity and impact.


A power position is a superior placement in relation to other, similar offerings. It’s the thing that differentiates you from others. It is what your Camp offers that is:


  •  Important to your customers
  • Unique to your programs & that you deliver with excellence
  •  Defensible (you can prove through a stat, quote or story that it is true)


Most Camps have (within their genre) similar goals for kids and offer the same types of activities and experiences. To make your camp stand out, you need to evaluate what you have that is different and point it out to your audience.


If you don’t know where to start, here are some areas that are important to pretty much all Camp parents:


·Quality: In an ACTIVE survey of over a thousand parents, “Quality of Programs & Staff” was stated as the number one reason parents chose a Camp. You have an exceptional program – make sure your marketing shows off the quality of your programs and staff. Can you capture metrics that show a high percentage of return campers? Do you have elite supporters or the endorsement of a well-known individual? What and who can help support your quality claims?


· Convenience: No one has time to print out forms, hand-fill them and mail them with a check, or worse, drive them to you. Paper days are o-v-e-r. Yet many Camps still “force” parents into this outdated process… Look at what parents actually crave. Think of what you do or could do to be insanely convenient to do business with. For example, you could give parents a way to register their kids online and pay the fees 24/7, and you’ll not only attract more parents but you’ll also create a positive experience for them.


· Results: “Skill Learned” was the fourth-highest rated criteria for parents in our survey. Think about your success stories and how you can use them to show parents the skills that their child will learn at Camp. If character-building is the desired result, ask campers to share stories of how Camp changed their lives for the better. How can you measure skills learned and communicate them to prospective families?


Often, just thinking through this process will surface the fact that your power positions are, well, powerless… You might have interesting aspects to your Camp but if they’re no different or better than your competitors and if parents don’t really value them – you really have no power position.


Remember the sequence:


1st: What’s important to parents

2nd: What’s unique & exceptional about your program

3rd: How you can defend


The “NO-BRAINER” Camp Marketing Framework

Here’s a good approach to tackle the task of creating a marketing plan for your Camp. The framework below is meant to trigger ideas and organize your thoughts in order to deliver your story with a punch.


1.         Understand your audience

Your target audience is primarily busy moms. Like all consumers, they’re looking for exceptional experience, convenience, savings, fun, and results. To find out how they decide on Camps, ask a few of them:

·            What kind of information gets their attention?

·            Who do they listen to for advice?

·            What do they want in a Camp experience for their kids? (from registration to Camp’s end)

·            Where do they research Camps

2.         Make your camp stand out

Many Camps offer the same types of benefits: skills and endurance training, character development, good habits, and increased self-confidence. These are great, but they’re expected. Standing out is tougher than ever!

To win, you need to be “differentiated”. It’s a fancy term that means this:

·            What makes your Camp different and better?

·            How can you deliver excellence in a remarkable way?

If you don’t know the advantages of your Camp, how will your audience know them? Use stories, quotes from satisfied parents or campers, or statistics that show the growth of your camp or another important value you deliver.

3.         Toot your own horn—loudly!

The Rule of Seven says that people typically must see a message seven times before it registers! It takes multiple communications from a variety of channels to reach your audience

·            Word-of-Mouth: In our 2012 Parent Camp Survey, 60% of parents said they find out about Camps through friends. Ask for referrals, and provide easy ways (and incentives) for your Campers to let their friends know about your Camp.

·            Social Media: Today, word-of-mouth happens online, on social media sites. If you’re not proficient, find a mom or kid who can help you find and engage with campers and parents on at least Facebook and Twitter. Extra bonus points if you’re also on Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. (Moms LOVE Pinterest!)

·            Leverage your community’s schools. 46% of parents from our Parent Camp Survey said they learn about Camps through school flyers. Note: You’ll have to do something extra special to stand out above the back-to-school noise.

·            Place an attractive kiosk and a friendly representative where your target audience visits, such as your facility’s entrance.

·            Leverage your online Camp registration providers public listings of the Camps that use their service. (e.g.

4.         Plan for next season

The end of Camp is the perfect time to capitalize on the built-up enthusiasm of your Campers:

·            Provide post-Camp surveys that ask kids and parents what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what they’d like to see again. Be sure to ask how Camp changed them (to use in next year’s campaign).

·            Offer a discount on next session’s registration fees by registering now. (Of course, that means you have to have many details ready early, but that will only continue to pay off throughout the year.)

·            Utilize camp software to gather your data. While your memory is strong and your next project hasn’t started, analyze the data of attendance, financials, what worked, what didn’t.

·            Network with other Camp organizers and coaches. Most people need support to stay enthused and build a successful camp. Whether that support is better tools or new ideas from peers or industry leaders, don’t try to do this alone!

You might also like:

·            5 Motivators That Drive Buying Decisions