Q+A with our Group Swimming Manager, Jacqui Tillman, on navigating the continuation of swimming at Everyone Active during an unpredictable year.
Once the Government advised swimming pools can reopen, what was the process at Everyone Active in deciding how and when to open to customers?
For us, it was all about safety. We were keen to reopen, but we wanted to make sure we reopened responsibly, in a way that ensured the safety of our customers.
During the lockdown, we worked closely with industry bodies, Swim England and UK Active. Our swimming product manager, Ian Cotton, sat on Swim England’s Operator Group and the Club Task Force allowing us to work closely with the industry to formulate guidance on the appropriate measures we would need to implement, based on a variety of activities.
With safety at the fore, activity in the pool needed to be controlled so swimming lessons, lane swimming and swimming club sessions were the only activities that allowed us to strictly adhere to Government and industry guidance in the first instance.
The entire pool programme required rewriting and the necessary uploads to manage site bookings were essential; for swimming lessons, class sizes were reduced, times were staggered to decrease the number of swimmers easing traffic flow, and consideration was given to all our existing customers to limit time changes and any inconvenience. We also introduced moving swimming lessons online, so our customers have the power to move their children from one class to another at home.
To aid customer experience and swimmer numbers all lane swimming sessions were introduced as book online, allowing the sites to manage capacity and customers to plan ahead.
Following clear guidance from Swim England we were able to work with affiliated Aquatic Clubs as part of phase one, enabling them to return to the water as soon as practicable.
This has since opened to the non-affiliated clubs.
Customer communications was paramount during this time so we were tailoring communications to all our customers, making sure they were given the information they needed. Updating our website, app and social media pages in co-ordination with our emails and letters was crucial too – we needed to make sure we were communicating consistently across all of our platforms and keeping everyone updated.
Colleague training was vital during the early days of reopening, preparing them for the ‘new normal’ and making sure they were confident to implement and manage all reopening measures.
It’s been a long, complicated process and working around the clock across our teams but we’re absolutely delighted swimming is back!
How many children are learning to swim at Everyone Active following the reopening of your centres?
We are thrilled that over 70% of our swimming lesson customers are back – that’s over 100,000 children swimming every week.
Lane swimming has proved very popular during the reopening period with numbers matching those from the previous year, seeing in excess of 250,000 lane swims during a single month in August 2020.
What has the feedback been like so far?
Exceptionally good! We’ve received fantastic feedback from our customers, commenting on how delighted they are with the way the sites are set up, one-way systems have been embraced and cleanliness has been a key feature.
“I have just returned from the pool, and just want to say how well organised you were, and the staff were very helpful, It must have taken a lot of thought putting safety measurements into place so congratulations you succeeded.”
Is the ‘new normal’ here to stay or can we expect swimming safety measures to be relaxed at Everyone Active?
The new safety measures won’t be going away anytime soon! We have been and will continue to keep ourselves well informed with the latest Government guidance and continue to work with the Governing Body regarding industry guidance to ensure our centres operate safely.
How have you found the whole experience of decision-making and navigating the world of swimming during the pandemic?
The pandemic has and will continue to affect how we deliver our service day to day. It has and continues to be a massive learning curve. We have embraced change at every junction and wherever appropriate adopted efficiencies allowing changes to be made for the greater good of the operation.
Much of our delivery is online, our digital offering continues to grow and communication with our colleagues and suppliers has all moved online through the Microsoft Teams platform, helping us to stay connected and work closely together.
Travelling has reduced between sites arguably making the teams more time efficient, keeping us all safe and reducing our carbon footprint too.
I’ve found the ‘new normal’ and our digitally savvy way of working is proving successful!