How we serve our customers - a note to the team

Just as Yoda is the guide who helps Luke Skywalker achieve his full potential as a Jedi, Riverdale Y (through you, the staff) helps participants achieve their full potential, as parents, as athletes, as performers, as fulfilled human beings.


Each individual wakes up in the morning with their own agenda, their own struggles, their own journey. We are each the hero (protagonist) in our own story, and we are wired to seek out tools that help us survive or thrive. This is true for our customers, they are on their own journey. As an organization, we have to fit into our customers’ journeys. For them to embrace us we have to position ourselves as the guide that helps them achieve their goals.

Who are our customers?

We have a wide array of customers: fitness enthusiasts (with different degrees of enthusiasm); preschoolers; seniors; campers; green shoppers and more. As such it is easy to be confused about who we serve and how we fit into their lives. While we play an important role in the lives of all our customers, and should have campaigns that speak to all of them, we need to have a primary position for our organization. Because the majority of our programs are actually geared towards parents, and because we make most of our revenue on these programs, we need to position ourselves primarily in the lives of parents of school-aged children.

What are our customers goals/needs?

External Needs

External needs are the obvious ones. Parents need their children to learn to swim; they need afterschool and camp so that they can finish their work days; they may need transportation and extended hours.

Internal Needs

Internal needs are the real motivators. Parents need to feel like they are doing right by their kids, giving them every shot at a life better than their own. Parents need their kids to develop into well-rounded people who are confident, compassionate and courageous. Brands that answer internal needs resonate with customers, and as such, get chosen over brands that speak only to external needs.

Philosophical Needs

Philosophical needs are based on deep-seated principles people hold. They usual include words like “should” or “ought to.” For example: Kids should be given every opportunity to explore their passions; Parents ought to teach their children about community and acceptance. Brands that speak to philosophical needs enjoy the most loyal customers. It’s not what we do, it’s why we do it. The philosophies behind Apple are: Technology ought to help us and not intimidate us; People should be empowered to express themselves; Our privacy should never be compromised. Apple users buy into these philosophies and, as such, will buy anything Apple produces sight-unseen.

So how do we channel our Yoda?

Yes, we need to communicate how we answer parents’ external needs with flexible hours, transportation, and suitable facilities. More importantly, we need to communicate that we understand and share their internal and philosophical needs.

good parenting

Parents invest in sports not because they believe they have the next Aaron Donald on their hands. They want to be sure they haven’t impeded their child’s chances of becoming an NFL MVP for sure. They also want their child to learn teamwork, how to be a good sport, how to give 100%, and how to accept defeat. In short, they want to prepare their child for life.

Parents invest in swim lessons so that their child learns to face their fears, and might recognize the triumph of conquering what once seemed indomitable.

Parents invest in music lessons and ballet so that their child might access an elite class that might lead to doors opening in the future.

Parents invest in theater so that their child might gain self confidence and possibly gain public speaking and presentation skills that will move them forward in their career one day.

Case Study: Being Yoda in Sports

In our leagues we have a few athletes who score a lot of points. It’s very easy for a parent to complement their star player. But every good parent is going to say something to their kid on the drive home, or at the dinner table. Perhaps they’ll say “I’m proud of how hard you pushed today,” “I see you getting better every day,” or “You’re a great team player.” If the coach is to be a Yoda to the parent they would preempt what each parent should say to their kid and say it to the parent, focusing on the inner needs of the parent: “Brian works so hard out there, he is so driven” “Brittany is improving every week, I can see her thinking ahead.” This kind of support is invaluable to the parent and will keep them coming back to our leagues.

To sum it up

Let Yoda be a reminder that we are here to help our customers on their journey. When you relate to parents, remember the needs that motivate them and inspire brand loyalty. Talk to them about how we answer those internal and philosophical needs.


As for our programs that aren’t geared towards parents

The lessons of Yoda, and of internal and philosophical needs apply to everything we do. Adults who come to our Senior Center have a need to feel connected, to feel useful and valued. They want to exercise their bodies and minds so they don’t lose them. We meet those needs.

People who patronize our Sunday Market believe deeply in responsible consumption. Their external needs of bread and vegetables can be more easily and cheaply met elsewhere, but they believe in supporting local producers and in sustainable farming. They will pay more to adhere to these standards. This is the kind of connection we need to nurture with all of our customers.