Hire Right and Keep It Fun to Turn the Tide of Turnover
By Joe Dinoffer
You see it all the time at small to medium-sized tennis facilities across the country. A customer walks into a tennis pro shop and the person behind the counter is either on the phone with a friend or hanging out with some kids who are there to keep him or her company. Usually that counter person is a high school student who likes tennis, is fairly outgoing, and needs a part-time job.
Unfortunately, those five to seven seconds waiting for the desk person to get off the phone with their friend is enough to spell b-a-d customer service. It will be an uphill battle to change the customer’s perception to win back their confidence, unless something drastically changes.
If you are a shop manager who argues that you cannot hire anyone else because you can only afford to pay minimum wage, I’d like to change your mind by giving you some alternatives. Besides improving customer service, you should also be motivated by another carrot we’ll dangle: turning the tide of high staff turnover.
But first, let’s move beyond your pro shop to zero in on the type of personality you want to hire. Walk through a local department store and take a look at the customer service staff. One of the first things you’ll probably notice is that the sales people are generally outgoing and enthusiastic. While this is good, it is also a dilemma. The problem in retail is that managers usually look to hire exuberant people. But these types also need constant stimulation. And, face it, retail is often repetitive and can be downright boring at times.
This might surprise you, but for retailing, you want steady, loyal people who are not overly enthusiastic. It may sound strange and somewhat counter-intuitive, but it’s true. So, what are your non-high school student options?
Hire a boomer. It’s broadly known that the baby-boomer generation is one of the largest and most hard-working segments of the U.S. population. The oldest of the boomers are approaching the 60-year-old mark, and every day, 10,000 people in the U.S. turn 50. How does this help your pro shop staffing challenges? Simple. Significant portions of these boomers are now looking for part-time work. Their children are grown. Many are even retired. They are competent, mature, and stable. Plus, many don’t care exactly how much money they earn. Some may even work in exchange for privileges at your club or facility.
One thing is for certain. No matter who you hire, you’ll need to be a little creative to keep them excited to be on your team. Here are some tips and ideas to help keep things fun and interesting!
Years ago, when I managed a small pro shop in Puerto Rico, we created a simple sales figure goal each week. It was achievable enough that we hit it about half the time. This club had a snack bar that made the most wonderful milkshakes. So, being young and not yet worried about putting on extra pounds, we had the pro shop reward every team member with a thick and creamy milkshake when the goal was reached.
In my office, we have a monthly pizza party. It’s simple and everyone has a great time. Often, the intangibles are the reasons people stay at a job. They need to feel liked, needed, and in a thoughtful and fun environment.
Another idea we started at my company is to have what I call “five dollar pop quizzes.” Basically, I go to the bank and get about 30 five-dollar bills. Then, I create a simple “quiz” consisting of about five questions that are basic to the operations of our office, but challenging enough that only rarely will someone get all the answers right. We pass the completed quizzes around from one person to another for grading and then review the questions. For each correct answer the individual receives a crisp five-dollar bill.
Since everyone loves a party, another great idea to help the team spirit at your business is to celebrate each person’s birthday. It can be as simple as having everyone sign a large card, including as many members at the club as possible, plus a cake or cookies. Remember that it does not have to be elaborate. It’s the thought that counts.
The bottom line is that staff turnover costs time and money. Minimize them by trying to select the best people possible, and keep them by being fun and creative.
See all articles by Joe Dinoffer
About the Author
Joe Dinoffer is a Master Professional for both the PTR and USPTA. He speaks frequently at national and international tennis teacher workshops as a member of both the HEAD Penn and Reebok National Speaker's Bureaus. He is president of Oncourt Offcourt Inc. and has written 16 books and produced more than 30 instructional videos.