2. Know Your Customer

Customer service is about relationship building. Though players may initially come to you to improve their tennis, they’ll continue to book time only if they enjoy being with you.

To build that relationship, get to know your students beyond their tennis game. Learn about their families, other interests, anniversaries and birthdays.  Here are a few things that we do at my club that have been extremely successful.

On our program registration forms, we include a line asking for birthdays. For the juniors, we ask for month, date, and year. For adults (who may be sensitive about their age) we simply ask for their birth month.

This information goes into our database and, when one of our customer’s birthdays (or birth month) arrives, they receive an email wishing them a happy birthday. The email includes a certificate for a free can of balls (for the adults) or ice cream for the kids.

If you don’t have the technical resources of a facility, put the information in your smart phone with alerts. For each member of my staff, I have their birthdates stored in my iPhone. Two days before their birthday, I receive an alert, which reminds me to get them a birthday card and small gift.

For our juniors, prior to each season, we send an email to all of our high school players’ parents thanking them for signing their child up for our program. We also attach a “Tennis Inventory & Goals Sheet” and ask them to have their son or daughter fill it out and send it back prior to the first day of class. The sheet asks the players to assess their current tennis strengths and weaknesses as well as tell us what their goals for their game are.

We tell the parents that the sheet “not only helps us get to know your child but also allows us to begin to put together programs that will help them achieve their goals.”  This sends a very strong message that we’re engaged with their child, and serious about helping them improve.

Something similar can easily be done before starting to work with a new student privately. If you’d like to see the Inventory & Goals Sheet we send, feel free to email me at Gmoran@4seasons tennis.com, and I’ll be happy to forward it to you.

Casual conversation during your lessons is also a great way to gather information. When talking with one of your customers, never be intrusive but pay attention. The little pieces of information you pick up can then be used to make that person feel special at some point in the future.

For example, I have a student who I learned (during an on-court water break) collects vintage watches. When my Sunday newspaper had a vintage watch section, I saved it. For our next lesson, I brought the section to the court and gave it to him. His face lit up.

Jack Mitchell calls this "hugging" your customers. Jack, owner of “Mitchell’s” one of the country’s most successful high-end clothing stores defines a hug as anything that exceeds a customer's expectations.

“Watch your students play matches. If you teach high school players, attend the local high school matches. This is a great time to chat with parents, players, and friends. Return on investment is a 10 out of 10.” Kirk Anderson

For us, as tennis coaches, a “hug” might be asking a student how they played in their latest match or how their new fitness program was coming along. Perhaps, at least week’s lesson, a mother mentioned that her daughter was testing for her black belt in a few days. At the next lesson, asking how the test went would make a huge impression.

In simple terms, a hug is something that makes your customer feel you care about them beyond forehands and backhands.

Here are a few more “hugs” that top coaches give to make their players feel special.

  • Video their lesson and email it to them with commentary.
  • Send email recaps of lessons with things to work on before the next.
  • Send links to articles, books or videos.
  • Suggest (and connect them with) potential practice partners.
  • Design (and send them) a practice session they can do with a friend.
  • Watch their next match—without expecting to be paid for it.

The list is endless.

Something I like to do, after working with a junior for the first time, is send the parents an email saying:

Hi Mr. & Mrs. Smith,

I had the opportunity to work with Jack yesterday and was very impressed.

He had a super attitude, gave a great effort and accepted (and applied), instruction extremely well. He was a pleasure to have on the court. I hope he’s enjoying the program.”

Sending emails like this takes less than a minute but has a tremendous impact. It also opens the line of communication which could lead to more business.

The key is to develop both a professional and personal relationship with your students. People will always do business with those they like and that they feel care about them.

“Over time, a unique personal and professional relationship develops between the business (coach) and customer—a loyalty built on trust. Once relationships are established with customers, they become friends.”   Jack Mitchell - Author, Hug Your Customers