Tennis Industry magazine

 

Net Connection

Improved customer service and convenience have made TennisConnect.org a hit with tennis facilities across the country.

By Kristen Daley

Linking tennis players to other players, facilities, and organizations is a reality for the nearly 100 tennis facilities and CTAs that have taken advantage of the Tennis Industry Association’s TennisConnect.org software since its launch last October.

Tennis Connect

With the TennisConnect.org technology, increasing communication and frequency of play has been made as quick and easy as a click of a mouse. Features like the court scheduler, program calendar, and online registration help keep a facility’s members or patrons up to date about tennis opportunities, and the “player match” engine connects them with others of similar age, location, ability and other characteristics.

Currently, about 25 percent of the operations online with TennisConnect.org are public parks, 8 percent are CTAs, and the balance is private or membership facilities. As of late March, more than 30,000 tennis players have registered on TennisConnect.org, and more than 100,000 court reservations have been made using the system.

Ken Olivier

“We’re in the information age now,” says Ken Olivier (right), former director of the Faulkner Tennis Complex in Tyler, Texas. “People want info and they want it now. And that’s what this software provides.”

“Facility operators cannot overlook the power of the internet and the opportunities it provides to grow your business,” says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “We did a lot of research to find a product that is very easy to use, requires no technical training and can have a facility looking like an expert webmaster to their members and their community.

“The TIA in following our mission statement — promoting the growth of tennis and economic vitality — realizes the importance of giving facility operators this packaged web marketing tool [TennisConnect],” de Boer adds. “This product has already had a significant impact in how people are promoting tennis and connecting to players.”

Create Your Own Site

All of TennisConnect.org’s features can be accessed 24/7 from any computer with an internet connection. Creating and updating the site is easy for facility operators, who have the support of the software’s creators. Olivier utilized the TennisConnect.org software at Faulkner, where he worked until this March. “I built the whole site myself, because it’s a simple system,” he says.

Olivier says the applications available through TennisConnect.org software were just what the public membership facility needed to help it grow. The resulting website, www.faulknertennis.com, was used as a marketing tool and helped the facility simplify court reservations.

“We’ve seen an increase in customer satisfaction and court reservations,” says Olivier of his former facility, which is planning to promote the website in an upcoming $20,000 advertising campaign. Olivier plans to incorporate TennisConnect software at the two facilities he now runs in Topeka, Kan., the Wood Valley Racquet Club and Fitness Center and the Kossover Tennis Center.

Also while in Texas, Olivier used the software to create a website for the Northeast Texas Coalition Tennis Association, netxcta.org. At the site, visitors can access information or links to 10 different CTAs in the region. Olivier credits the website with helping the coalition secure a $20,000 grant from the USTA Texas Section this year.

Promoting Programs

Bobby McKee

Tennis operations like Faulkner and the Lake Naomi Tennis Center, a private, seasonal facility in Pocono Pines, Pa., are taking advantage of the ability to promote their tennis programming through their new websites. “I love the calendar,” says Lake Naomi Tennis Director Bobby McKee (right), applauding the ease with which visitors can navigate the feature simply by choosing a month, getting a comprehensive list of programs and having the option to register online. “I think the easier you make things for people, the more they are going to do it,” he adds.

“With calendars, tennis facilities can place all of their activities online — it makes it convenient for the player and is a big promotional tool for the facility with no costs for printing, postage, etc.,” explains de Boer. “Plus, this product allows group e-mailing features that can keep a player and facility in touch and informed.”

Recently, the calendar’s reach has grown by leaps and bounds through search engines incorporated onto sites like Tennis.com (the official website of Tennis magazine), MyTennisCenter.com, and soon TheTennisChannel.com. Programs and facilities marked as “Open to the Public” are made accessible through these engines, and the listings include links to the host facility’s website.

Tennis.com soft-launched the TennisConnect.org software on its site in mid-March, in conjunction with Tennis.com’s 10th anniversary celebration and site redesign. “This is a very important tool for our visitors because it helps them play more tennis,” says Liza Horan, director of Tennis.com. Visitors to the site can use the engine to find facilities, programs, tournaments, players, and more.

Improving Customer Service

Keith Wheeler
Carl Hodge

New to TennisConnect.org is a webcam option/feature. “The idea for the webcam is to provide a real ‘view’ of the court conditions,” says Charlie Ruddy, TennisConnect.org’s developer. “From a customer-service standpoint, this capability should also cut down on phone calls to the clubhouse in the hour or so before league play or busy clinics.”

Keith Wheeler (top right), executive tennis director at the Orindawoods Tennis Club in Orinda, Calif., had seen webcams featured on ski area websites and approached Ruddy about the possibility of adding one to his site. The club premiered its webcam in March. “You can go right on the site and see what’s going on,” says Wheeler.

At the John Drew Smith and Tatnall Tennis Centers in Macon, Ga., the TennisConnect.org software is not only used to generate interest and business from tennis players, but also to cultivate relationships with potential tournament sponsors. Carl Hodge (bottom right), director of the two public facilities, uses a website created with TennisConnect.org to attract sponsors for the many tournaments it hosts, including local, regional, state, and national events.

“We run large events, from 300 to 1,200 people at time,” says Hodge. On MaconTennisConnect.org, visitors can find links to the local sponsor hotels, making the site a one-stop spot to plan their tournament experience, a benefit for all involved.

Improved customer service and convenience has been one of the biggest benefits for facilities using TennisConnect.org. “The new site provides members access to the services they need and the information they want even when no person is available to help them,” Wheeler says of the Orindawoods website, created with the software.

Adds de Boer, “The TIA is packaging solutions so facilities can concentrate on running tennis programs and know that the TIA has user-friendly tools to help them offer better customer service through online convenience. ”

“In a nutshell, it’s an interactive software,” says Olivier. “Used correctly, it’s a way to drive business. It’s an excellent product that the TIA has developed.”

For more information on TennisConnect.org, visit TennisIndustry.org or call 843-686-3036.

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About the Author

Kristen Daley  is a contributing editor for RSI magazine.

 

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