Thank you to everyone who filled in our year-end survey. As a member-owned not-for-profit club, we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to the benefit of our members and we want as many voices heard as possible to guide our decisions.
Overall we found that people are very positive about the club in general which is fantastic. Of course, this does not mean that it’s time to sit back and rest on our laurels!
A few themes did emerge from the survey that we hope to try to address in some way.
1) Satisfaction levels of basic members was lower than premium members.
2) The most popular cited ESL changes were to play a small percentage of games at alternate times or to extend the season.
3) Primetime booking fees are very unpopular
4) While no-shows are annoying to some, the preference is to have a policy of gentle warnings before any actions are taken
5) For some people the lack of perceived value of the ESL add-on fee and narrow disparity in benefits between premium and basic membership was troublesome
6) There is some concern that the doubles court space not being used effectively
So far as we are aware, offering two-tier squash memberships is unusual at least in clubs that we are familiar with. One downside is that it can create friction between members who feel that their membership is not offering the same value to them as for someone else with a different membership type. Realistically though, not everyone has time in their schedule or a large enough squash social network to come out six or more times a month, and we feel that there should be an option for more casual players.
We do feel it’s important to have a low-cost option for people who are aware of squash but have not yet played it long enough to know if it is a good enough fit for them to justify the price.
It would be great to have unlimited access for everyone at a basic member price, but unfortunately, we would have to more than triple our membership count to make this financially feasible, and this would also exacerbate our difficulties with prime-time court booking during the ESL season that seems to be our number one issue.
With access to all of our open drop-ins, four bookings/month, fob access to the facility and unlimited access to the fitness equipment and steam rooms we thought we had a very compelling offering to attract new players but we acknowledge that for new players unused to the norms of court access during the weekday evenings we may not be providing the level of service and access that they might have been expecting when they signed up.
We also need to respect the fact that our premium and premium ESL members provide a large majority of our revenue, and by making a Basic membership too valuable we are perhaps devaluing our strongest supporters.
We will be looking at ways to either tweak the basic membership, add value to the premium membership or some combination of the two to try to come to an improved offering that will be better for our overall member satisfaction.
We have been in touch with the Edmonton Squash League with regards to the results of our survey and they were receptive to many of our more popular ideas. No final decisions have been made, but we are quite likely to move one or two home games in the season to an alternate time for each time to free up 10-20% of Tuesday or Wednesday evening prime-time slots to reserve for member bookings.
Prime Time Booking Fees
While there is no doubt that from a supply-demand standpoint our weekday evening prime-time booking slots are far more valuable than say, 9:30 PM on a Sunday night, the notion of paying a booking fee on top of a membership fee, especially the premium membership fee, was not popular. It is also not popular among the front desk staff either, as it would add an extra administrative burden that might detract from other areas. For now, we would like to avoid this and will explore some league and program tweaks, software upgrades and booking policies that will hopefully open up some general booking slots to more members during the weekday evenings.
Reaction to no-shows was mixed, and in some cases viewed as desirable by people hoping to snag an extra time slot to extend their play time after their booking was over. Still, just as a matter of respecting court availability, we will continue to monitor the situation.
We do not intend to implement any strict no-show penalties, but will rather send out friendly notifications to try to encourage better habits unless we run into chronic offender situations. We will have clearer booking and cancellation instructions and rules published on our website this summer.
ESL add-on fee
When we instituted the ESL add-on fee, it was with the thought that it would help us to keep general membership fees lower year-round, and to acknowledge that participants in the league would be dominating our most valuable court times. We get the sense that this added value is not been fully felt by all the members though, and may be the difference between some people enjoying the league and not playing at all.
Currently, we are considering dropping the ESL add-on fee charged on a per-member basis for a team fee. We feel this will be fairer to teams carrying 8 active members vs those who are effectively playing 4 people for the same number of court bookings. We are also examining other tangible benefits for the team fee.
A number of people pointed out that removing the underutilized doubles court and replacing it with one or two singles courts would help with the prime-time booking situation. Unfortunately, due to structural constraints and a mezzanine stair placement that was restricted by fire code, there is only room for one singles court there, not two. At the moment we hope to better use this space with more emphasis on doubles programs, moving more junior activity to the doubles court, and having more fitness based options tailored for better squash performance in that area.
Future Aspirations and Goals
When we opened the club, our board’s mandate was to increase the squash court count in Edmonton. We were successful in that four new courts were built, but sadly this was only after the loss of the courts at Grant MacEwan, Riverbend and Mayfield. Fortunately, there are now additional courts at GARC, but if at all possible we would like to grow our court count even more, to allow the Edmonton Squash League, Junior and Adult Programs, and general bookings in the evenings without tripping over each other.
To do this we first need to make sure that we are running a profitable and sustainable club. While our year-end figures for the 2017/18 campaign are still rolling in (our fiscal year runs from June-June), we seem to be well on our way to achieving profitability and hope to be running with predictable and sustainable cash flow soon.
At the same time, we acknowledge that our fees are definitely on the higher side when compared across other clubs in Edmonton. For those used to golf or curling memberships the prices are reasonable, but when viewed and compared to many fitness options, and especially for our younger members, fees for the premium membership with ESL may be prohibitively high.
Over the next few years, we hope to continue to grow our membership, install better partnerships with high-schools and post-secondary institutions to develop new players, grow our participation in the women’s game, reduce our fees and expand our offerings for our premium membership, and establish a solid financial foundation to set the stage for building new courts, either as an extension of our current facility or as a second facility in South Edmonton.
What is your current membership type? (test for image)
How long have you been a member at ESC?
Question 3 & Question 4:
How satisfied are you with the current fee structure overall? Junior, Basic, Premium, Premium + ESL.
Considering your OWN membership level, how satisfied are you with EACH of the following aspects of your membership?
(1) Number of court bookings allowed per month
(2) Cost per month
What is your experience of court availability?
On weekdays, how important is access to courts during prime-time hours to you? For reference, prime time is currently 4:30 PM – 9 PM during the week.
Consider the following two time slots and your usage of them. How important is it to you to book courts during these two times?
How many times a week do you typically book a court on average?
What is your experience with respect to cancelling your court bookings?
Are you aware that booking a court, not cancelling, and then not showing up, negatively affects other members?
Do you support a policy that enacts a penalty for a “no-show”, defined as a court time that has been booked, not used and not cancelled within 4 hours of the court start-time?
Most of the “other comments” suggested that we implement a friendly warning system to try to encourage better cancellation habit, and also often last minute cancellations are because of the secondary name attached to a court, and not the primary booker which is a good point to consider.
Membership at the ESC has grown since we opened and we are noticing much more pressure on court availability weekdays from 4:30 PM – 9:00 PM. We are exploring options to allow more member booking availability during these times. Would you be supportive of a court booking surcharge during weekday prime-time? (a per-booking fee that gives you access to prime time bookings)
Do you have additional thoughts on a “prime-time booking fee”?
Comments generally suggested that adding extra fees on top of monthly fees did not sit well with them, and would make them consider finding other places to play. A few people suggested that Prime-time booking fees should be for basic members only.
How many seasons in the last 5 years have you played ESL (from any club)?
Did you play on an Edmonton Squash League team (as an ESC member) this past season (Oct 2017 – April 2018)?
In order to increase court availability at ESC for all members, how do you feel about EACH of the following options? Please respond to each one.
In order to play on an ESL team out of the ESC it is required that you have a premium membership. This also provides members with unlimited court booking. If it were to be an option to play on an ESL team out of the ESC with only a basic membership (which provides only 4 court bookings per month) would you be interested in this?
Any further comments?
To avoid any identifiable information, we are only mentioning comments that were repeated more than once, but rest assured that we read them all, and will do our best to address suggestions as best we can when feasible.
1) Get rid of the doubles court for one or two singles courts
2) Great front desk staff
3) More ESL out of prime-time
4) More programs to benefit members