The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Swim Lessons Cancellations and Make-ups

What do you do when you cancel swim classes for thunder and lightning?   BUT shortly after, the weather clears up and the instructors are gone!
What do you do when a customer shows up with their little one?  BUT you cancelled classes for the day and THEIR CHILD is devastated!
What do you do when a pump motor goes bad and you have to cancel class unexpectedly?  Even though you reschedule, it is NOT convenient for “some” of your families.
What do you do when a student misses class due to illness, travel, or because of another commitment?  But you already paid the instructor, you paid your pool rent, etc.

I am here to tell you, there is NO one right or wrong way to handle these situations. What is right for your business may be detrimental to mine. What works for me may be a disaster for you.

Also keep in mind:   What felt comfortable when you wrote your policies and procedures may not feel so comfortable now that you have an angry customer on the other end of the line.  This is normal.  And this is why we have to always be open to change.  Change is inevitable. When you choose to embrace change you will begin to see it as an opportunity for growth.

So where do you start? Personally, I start with my customers. If they aren’t happy, quite frankly, I am not happy. Second, I listen to my staff. If they aren’t happy, I am not happy. Third, I listen to my gut. If my gut tells me it doesn’t feel right–it’s time for a change!

I did leave out a fourth area that gives you an opportunity for positive growth. Research! There is no shortage of great information out there. When it comes to customer service, one of my favorite books is called “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless, by Jeffrey Gitomer. He really inspired me to make it a policy in my office to NEVER use the term policy. That’s right. We have NO POLICIES!

When you’re in the customer’s shoes, how do you feel when you hear the “policy” excuse?  Me? I feel that the business doesn’t value me as a customer. When I feel that way, I take MY business elsewhere!  Where is “elsewhere?”   Usually the nearest competitor!  

Do I ever feel taken advantage of?  Admittedly, I do. It’s not a good feeling either.  But only on a rare occasion do we take a stance and put our foot down.  Because usually we realize that the alternative is worse.  Upset customers tell everyone who will listen their side of the story–not ours.   In those situations you not only lose that customer–but perhaps several other potential customers.  Today with social media, several can become thousands overnight!   So in the end, you have to ask yourself, “is it worth it?”  “Which decision will help me sleep better at night?” That’s the bottom line.

So what can you do?  When our customers register, whether online or by phone, they acknowledge ONE BY ONE  a number of “Registration Agreements.”  If there is a problem later, my office  can refer the customer back to these BUT we handle each case individually and with care. Our goal is to make each customer feel appreciated.   As of today, here is what The Swim Lessons Company families agree to (in terms of cancellations and make-ups) when they register:

____In order to determine your make-up when a class is cancelled due to weather issues, go to and select the “Make-up Schedule” button in top navigation bar.  All make-ups due to weather will be posted within 24 hours.

____If your class is cancelled for any reason, it will be made up at the same time and same location on another available day, i.e, Thursday or Friday. The make-up will be posted on the website under “Make-up Schedule.”

____In the event of an unforeseeable cancellation, i.e., an instructor is sick, pool mechanical problem, water temperature issue, etc.—an SLC representative will call you on the number you listed under “home phone” when creating your account. This is the only contact number shown on the instructor’s roster.  If you would rather us call your cell phone, please contact the office immediately to change that information.

____While there are no refunds for missed classes that have been taught, if you miss class due to illness, travel, other obligation, etc., email Jim Reiser at  Let him know that you missed your class and would like to schedule a make-up.  Providing there is a class opening available, we can offer you a makeup at that time during the back half of the session (In other words, once the Live Online Registration Period has ended to avoid over booking a class). If all classes are full and a make-up is not possible during the current session, we are happy to offer you a full credit for that class with no expiration date to be deducted against a future registration.

So that’s what our customers “agree to” when they register, whether online or over the phone.  There are also a number of other registration agreements, but that’s how we handle “Cancellations & Make-ups” today.   I do believe that by publishing your terms and conditions in a contract form, having the customer physically “check a box” beside each term is a very pro-active way of preventing problems from arising.  It may not prevent them all, but in the big picture, you will find it to be a very effective strategy. 

I hope today’s blog helps you!  If you would like to schedule a “One-on-one Phone Consultation,” you will be delighted to see how reasonably priced they are.  To schedule your personal consultation OR for more information, check it out on the Swim Lessons University website today!

, , , , , , , , , ,
December 30, 2013 at 5:42 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lessons Parents

Last night my wife overheard a swim instructor tell one of her swim lessons student’s parents that “he was not listening very well today.”  She could be mistaken, but she believes that was pretty much the beginning and the end of the conversation.   The swim instructor, in my opinion, is otherwise fabulous!   But I want every one of our swim instructors to remember  that PARENTS WANT TO HEAR GOOD THINGS ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN TOO!  By no means am I saying that the parent doesn’t need to be aware of a behavior issue, but they also need to know that YOU (the instructor) still enjoy teaching their child and that you recognize the positive things about their child too.

In our swim instructor training, we train our teachers to do three things with our young students every class:

1.  Warmly greet your students, hold their hands,  and walk them up to the pool.

2.  Teach Like a Pro!

3.  Walk them back to mom or dad, and ALWAYS tell the parents about something good, i.e.,  any improvement, something funny their child said or did, or simply how proud you are of them.

These three simple steps go a long way in establishing customer loyalty (your students will come back to take more swim lessons with you).

I also want to challenge instructors to do the following when you have a behavior issue:

1.  EVALUATE YOUR APPROACH!  Were you clear on your “START SIGNALS?”  Did you keep children moving and limit downtime?  Did you communicate your expectations clearly?

2.  ASK FOR HELP!  If you are struggling with behavior issues, have a senior staff member or manager observe your class.  Sometimes another set of eyes can give you a different perspective.  My wife still does this for me all the time even when I don’t ask for her opinion, LOL!  Although I’ve been teaching for 30 years, her insight always makes me better.  In fact, she’s the one who inspired this blog.

3.  TALK “WITH PARENTS” vs. “AGAINST” THEM!  If you come across as confrontational(especially this day and age),p arents will be quick to defend their child.  If you come across as “someone who really cares and is looking out for the best interest of their child,” they will love you for it.  Say something like this:   “Nolan’s skills are really improving.   I am just amazed by his progress.  I did want to ask you though, do you have any advice for me?  Sometimes I feel like I could be doing more to keep him on task… any suggestions?”  And then listen.   Then say: “Thank you so much.   That is helpful.   I can’t wait to see him next class!”

I hope today’s blog will help you and or your staff!   OH!  One last critical tip:  ALWAYS keep your conversations on the professional level.  Avoid talking about personal matters at all costs!  Also, when a parent asks you how you are doing, always respond something like:  “I’M GREAT, THANK YOU!” NEVER RESPOND: “I’m making it or I’m getting by.”   If you’re having a bad day, never wear it on your sleeve.  As the saying goes, “fake it until you make it!”

Thank you for visiting our blog page!

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim was the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at 

We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).


, , , , , , , ,
May 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm Comment (1)


I really enjoy traveling via Amtrak.  Traveling in their View Liner suite is great, and I prefer it any day over flying or a long drive.  But Amtrak is really “missing the boat” on their customer service and their “policies” on their Amtrak Guest Rewards system.  Suddenly they are reminding me of the airlines.  My blood pressure is probably off the charts right now they have me so angry.   So here is the experience I had today, and followed by my professional advice on how to take care of your loyal customers.

NEVER BUY AMTRAK POINTS! The Amtrak Rewards system  doesn’t add up or make any sense. They had an Amtrak Points Rep tell me to buy $270 worth of points to and my next trip would be free.  It ended up being a free trip via Coach which is worth about $100.00. Their terrible policies don’t even let their managers refund my $270 for the points I purchased three days ago!  Their excuse:  Because points are through a 3rd party service,!   Well someone has by $270 and I would bet Amtrak has most of it!  Talk about bad customer service. My blood pressure is off the charts right now!  By the way, I called   They told me they didn’t have authority but Amtrak did.  They put my call back to Amtrak.  Do you see the pattern?  I feel like I have been robbed.

If you’re going to have a “guest rewards” system, shouldn’t the goal be to make your guests feel special?  Well I feel “especially ripped off.”

If you’re in business, whatever you do, do what you can to make your guest feel special.  Let them know that you care.   Throw out policies that will make them never want to use your business again and tell their 800 plus friends about their bad experience on facebook (which is what I just did).   I guess big companies, especially those that have a monopoly on their market can afford it.  I know my swim school can’t.   And I know one thing for sure… I NEVER want to make a customer as mad as Amtrak made me today, especially without ever coming up with a solution to make things right.  Every business is going to fail their customer at one point or another for one reason or another.  But what makes you great is how you react and respond to the problem.   I was going to tell all my Swim Lessons University and Swim Lessons Company friends and followers about how Amtrak fixed my problem.  Instead I am telling anybody and anyone who wants to listen that it feels like Amtrak just robbed me of $270.00.

, , , , ,
December 8, 2011 at 3:31 pm Comments (0)

How Can You Make Your Swim Instructors Smile?

How Can You Make Your Swim Instructors Smile?

Dear Swim Professor:

How would you encourage, insist, demand, or coax an excellent instructor into smiling and quit frowning?  I have tried everything.  He loves what he does… he just doesn’t and cannot display pleasant facial expressions, and has a natural “concerned” look most of the time.  He is excellent, he gives high fives, kids like him.  It bothers me and I feel parents don’t see him as a great teacher.  They have referred to him as a “structured” teacher.  I’m worn out addressing issue with him and lost.  He says he’s trying but I don’t see it!


Judi M., Swim School Owner



Dear Judi:

This is such a great topic.  Smiling is such an important aspect of swimming instruction, customer service, and even customer loyalty for our swim schools.  I have put together a fairly extensive article for you to share, and I hope other swim schools and learn to swim programs will benefit from today’s blog as well.

In 1989, my sophomore year in college, I started my first Swim Lessons Program at California University of PA.  I was entering unchartered territory, having convinced the university to allow a student (me) lease their swimming pool to teach swimming lessons to the children in the community.  Up until that point, I had been my father’s assistant.  My dad was also a Water Safety Instructor, and he was my first mentor.  I remember standing in my dorm room.  I was both excited and nervous at the same time and he knew it.  He told me, “Jimmy, just smile while you’re teaching, maximize practice time, and your classes will go great.  What great advice!  22 years later I remember it like it was yesterday.

I will say this:  Smiling is not always easy for young teachers.  They do have a lot to think about, a lot of responsibility, and they know it.   My best advice to get a young instructor smiling is to tell them to “be a little silly.”   If you can make your students laugh now and then, you are bound to smile and laugh with them.  How can you not?  Smiles and laughs are contagious, especially when they are coming from children.  I would caution young teachers to be careful not to lose the integrity of the class, use good class management skills, and keep it structured—but you can have both structure and fun.

While I don’t think we can “make” our swim teachers smile, we can help them if they want to be helped and we can try to inspire them by sharing the benefits.  Of course if they don’t want our help or they aren’t making an effort to improve, we need to decide if we want to keep them around representing us.  Our instructors are the lifeblood of our business, and for many of us, our business is the lifeblood of our paycheck.  Like you, I have swim teaching techniques, philosophies, and lesson plans that I expect my swim school staff to follow so we can be consistently successful. But if we’re going to be successful, we as swim school owners and program directors need to be great leaders.  To quote John Wooden, we should “Strive to build a team filled with camaraderie and respect:  Comrades-in-arms.”

So what research has been done on the smile?  What are the experts saying?

In his article, “Teacher, Do You Smile,” Mr. Harekrushna Behera, Unchahar shares how a teacher touches the heart of a student through the magnetic touch of smile. He adds that a smile creates confidence & love among the children. ‘Unless the children love the teacher, how can they love the subject?’ The smiling face of the teacher says “love and caring,” and creates a positive vibration among the children who become fearless to express everything. They begin to ask questions. ‘Freedom automatically happens when smile exists in the classroom’. Asking questions then empowers their capacity to learn.

Smiles make things right again and say much more than words can. If you’ve goofed, said something less than complimentary, feel lost or alone, or feel down, a smile can set things right again. A smile lets other people know that you’re prepared to be open to them, and that you’re willingly agreeing to set things right where needed.

Smiles create trust and rapport. A smile is a great way of establishing mutual feelings of being on the same level as others, whether that is one-to-one or in front of a group giving a presentation. A smile says “I’m OK, you’re OK, and we’re all going to enjoy one another’s company”.

Research shows that when we smile, even when we’re not in the best mood, we begin to feel better. Marianne Douglas, a blogger for Secrets of Success for Teachers, points out that our bodies equate certain expressions with certain feelings. We can feel good and smile or we can smile and feel good. It works both ways. That’s why people who are feeling sad are asked to “smile” to feel better. We actually do. So here we are as the teacher smiling and feeling better. Our smile is reflected back at us by the students who in turn feel better. A great way to start a class! Your students will have a better chance of enjoying their time in your class too!

Steve Nakamoto says that unfriendly habits make other people feel uneasy right from the start. Your job as a master communicator is to greet every person you meet in a friendly manner so that they can feel the natural warmth of your kindness, acceptance, and recognition. Except for the more serious circumstances, a warm and enthusiastic smile creates the best starting point for a mutually enjoyable conversation.

The point here is that you must possess inner feelings of warmth, excitement, and joy in order to radiate a genuine smile. When you have real positive emotion behind your smile, you can be more effective with other people than you would be by acting with only politeness or courtesy.

Remember, by beginning in a friendly manner with a true eagerness to share, you will be developing one of the smartest communication habits for establishing or building important person

As swimming instructors, one of the easiest techniques that I believe we can use to start smiling more is to cause our students to smile.  When you make your students smile, it will be easy to smile back.

Another technique I use is to have my students do cute things that cause their parents to smile or laugh.   Same result.  Take a quick peak at the parents after you do something cute with their little one, and you’ll see them smiling.  Smile back!  In our Foundations of Teaching Video Course, we use what I call “Fun Feedback.”   These clever little tricks will make your swim parents smile and giggle every time.

I also wanted to share with you a few YouTube videos I found that do a wonderful job of communicating the importance of a smile.

This first short video is by Michael Kerr, an award-winning international speaker, and he talks about the importance of a genuine smile, and challenges us to make other people smile, as I just mentioned.  This is a great, entertaining little clip. and professional relationships

This second short video is by Jeffrey Gitomer.  He talks about “What Makes You Smile,” and gives two inspirational lessons on the power of kindness and the power of cute kids:

The third and final short video I wanted to share is by Cary Cavittt.   The first two minutes of this video is very informative and entertaining.

I have one last little study that many of you will find interesting.   An experiment was done where men were shown pictures of women and were asked to rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. When the same women was shown in a different picture but smiling, men gave her higher score and they thought that she was more attractive. So in addition to the mood improvements you will get if you smile often–you will also appear more attractive!

Thank you, Coach Judi, for your question.  I’d like to leave you with a bunch of quotes I found on the effect of a smile:

A smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks.  ~Charles Gordy

Today, give a stranger one of your smiles.  It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.  ~Quoted in P.S. I Love You, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

A smile confuses an approaching frown.  ~Author Unknown

People seldom notice old clothes if you wear a big smile.  ~Lee Mildon

The world always looks brighter from behind a smile.  ~Author Unknown

If you smile at someone, they might smile back.  ~Author Unknown

Life is like a mirror, we get the best results when we smile at it.  ~Author Unknown

Always remember to be happy because you never know who’s falling in love with your smile.  ~Author Unknown

Everyone smiles in the same language.  ~Author Unknown

If you don’t have a smile, I’ll give you one of mine.  ~Author Unknown

I’ve never seen a smiling face that was not beautiful.  ~Author Unknown

The shortest distance between two people is a smile.  ~Author Unknown

Is a smile a question?  Or is it the answer?  ~Lee Smith

Smiling is my favorite exercise.  ~Author Unknown

Every day you spend without a smile, is a lost day.  ~Author Unknown

Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.  ~Mother Teresa

A smile is the universal welcome.  ~Max Eastman

Keep smiling – it makes people wonder what you’ve been up to.  ~Author Unknown

You’re never fully dressed without a smile.  ~Martin Charnin

A smile can brighten the darkest day.  ~Author Unknown

Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.  ~Janet Lane

All the statistics in the world can’t measure the warmth of a smile.  ~Chris Hart

Smile!  It increases your face value.  ~Robert Harling, Steel Magnolias

Peace begins with a smile.  ~Mother Teresa

Most smiles are started by another smile.  ~Author Unknown

It takes a lot of work from the face to let out a smile, but just think what good smiling can bring to the most important muscle of the body… the heart.  ~Author Unknown

A smile costs nothing but gives much.  It enriches those who receive without making poorer those who give.  It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.  None is so rich or mighty that he cannot get along without it and none is so poor that he cannot be made rich by it.  Yet a smile cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away.  Some people are too tired to give you a smile.  Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give.  ~Author Unknown

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim was the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at 

We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).


, , , , , , , , ,
September 21, 2011 at 2:44 am Comments (0)