Tennis Industry magazine

 

Connect With Your Customers

For a facility in Georgia, TennisConnect software is helping out all aspects of their business.

By Robin Bateman

Raise your racquet if you want to grow and manage tennis in your community and at your facility more efficiently. Want to extend your marketing reach? Increase staff productivity? Provide better customer service for your tennis players? Make more money?

And hey, what about giving your customers a tool that lets them take control — at their convenience — of things like acquiring event information, registering for one of your programs, or reserving a tennis court?

Think you’re asking too much? Guess again. I’ve got a tool for you: TennisConnect, from the Tennis Industry Association.

What? A website builder can do all that? Yes. This website software can — and does.

As a parks and recreation tennis facility manager in Macon, Ga., I assist in the creation of promotional materials, coordinate numerous programs and leagues, direct USTA tournaments, supervise employees, and carry out many other managerial tasks associated with the everyday running of a 12-court tennis center. I work under our department’s tennis manager/head pro, and in conjunction with another 24-court facility. Together, a team of employees promotes, instructs, and manages tennis in our community. After trying out several other websites, we chose TennisConnect.

TennisConnect (TC) may be the new kid on the web (2004), but don’t let that scare you. TC’s developers have been creating web-based applications for more than 13 years, and business software applications for nearly 25 years. Working with large companies like Intel, AOL, IBM, and Peoplesoft, TC’s team has helped empower software applications for business productivity and customer service.

The site emerged after its lead designer, Charlie Ruddy, experienced difficulty obtaining tournament information from his own tennis club. A longtime web designer, Ruddy put his talents toward building a website specifically for the tennis industry.

As a recreational tennis player, Ruddy knows what players, and spectators of the game, are looking for. As a tech designer, he knows what businesses are looking for, too.

And he delivers. For tennis managers and professionals, TC delivers a site rich in features like group email, online registration, interactive event calendars, and the ability to update programs and event information any time of day or night. For tennis players, TC delivers a site with options like online court reservations, player match-making, and find a program.

TennisConnect answers the needs of the manager, program coordinator, teaching pro, and the player, connecting courts, programs, and events with players, facilities, and sponsors. TennisConnect.org has stepped up its approach to what normal websites have to offer, allowing the entire tennis community to benefit from its package.

Connect Your Business

For me, the strong attraction begins with the very foundation of TC. Since it’s built for tennis facilities, TC naturally makes it easy to create simple things like online forms. For example, when creating online enrollment forms, I don’t have to instruct IT to include drop-down menus for “leagues,” “lessons,” “tournaments,” etc. Tennis lingo is already included.

Connect With Control: Another underlying feature is control. With this special software, we are in complete control of the look, feel, and layout of our site — everything from color scheme, to the web pages, to graphics and messages.

Also incorporated is the ability for me, and the others on my team, to do our own updates, which provides us with cost-savings and convenience elements not typically found in most other websites. An event may undergo changes in date, cost, location — we simply log on and make updates. Before, we had to wait for our IT vendor, knowing extra fees would be tacked onto the bill.

Connect With Growth, Marketing Reach, and Promotion: Another key aspect, separating TC from other websites, is its connectivity. When you become a TC subscriber, you aren’t just getting one stand-alone website. You’re getting a family of sites, maximizing your world-wide-web exposure. Once you create your site, add your programs, events, leagues — these become publicly listed.

Because TennisConnect is part of the Tennis Industry Association’s growing tennis efforts, your programs, your information, your events are now searchable from over 100 tennis-related “open-to-the-public” websites including TennisWelcomeCenter.com and CardioTennis.com when your facility is involved as a site. Talk about increased visibility and also doing your part to increase tennis participation!

The TIA has also encouraged major industry partners such as Tennis magazine and The Tennis Channel to include a Find A Facility, Find a Player, Find a Program functions on their websites. These searches are powered by TIA’s TennisConnect and have offered consumers an added way to get involved with tennis in their community.

“When we looked at consumer research, we saw more and more people using the internet and turning to technology to save them time,” says TIA Executive Director, Jolyn de Boer. “Players wanted 24/7 online services for finding information and online registration. The research also made it clear that if we don’t ‘connect’ with our players and keep them active in tennis, other influences could pull them away. The TIA then researched the market to find an exceptional and affordable online product. As a result, TennisConnect was created to give facility operators and pros the tools to help their business and tennis grow.”

Let’s not forget about the promotional benefits, either. Sarah Witherspoon, a programs coordinator on our team, loves the group email feature. “I can send email reminders about upcoming programs. I can direct players to the site where they can register for programs when they feel like it, not just when our office is open,” she says.

Tennis Connect

Connect with Efficiency and Increased Staff Productivity: Now that we have a centralized place to post our information, not only can we direct our players and participants to the website, but we can also send all our employees there as well. In doing so, our staff is always kept up to speed with the latest news, events, and programs. Furthermore, when participants are signing up online to enroll in programs, staff has more time to devote to other tasks.

Connect With Your Sponsors: Obtaining sponsors for our tournaments is a vital part of our success. “The TennisConnect software is not only used to generate interest and business from tennis players, but also to cultivate relationships with potential tournament sponsors,” says Carl Hodge, the tennis manager/head pro for the city of Macon. “Our facilities host large events, from 300 to 1,200 people at a time. On our website 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.” When approaching companies about possible sponsorship, we view our website’s visibility as a significant component to their coming on board.

Connect to Your IT Team: TennisConnect’s IT team is always there for us. They offered assistance while we set up our site and have continued to provide prompt, reliable support when we have questions. Subscribers are also given access to forums addressing a wide variety of technical issues.

Getting in touch with TennisConnect’s IT team is just a toll-free phone call away. Working in a public facility, our phone service doesn’t provide long-distance calls. TC’s toll-free number (888-620-6696) means I can talk to an IT member when I need to.

Connect Your Players: Players like TC for many of the same reasons you will: convenience, 24/7 access to information, event calendars, online enrollment, and communication through email when they want it.

Brian Branch, a captain for a men’s 3.5 team, says, “The website is great. I like the convenience of reserving courts online — not having to think about calling in during normal business hours. I can immediately see which courts are open on what days. And with the advanced notice, my team can make arrangements to be there.”

In addition, MyTennisCenter.com is a public magnet, connecting players to the find a player, find a facility, and find a pro function, giving them information for programs in their town, neighboring towns, and even to towns they may travel to in the future.

Online tennis games, interactive polls, and a court-cam are just some of the optional functions players will enjoy should you decide to incorporate them into your website.

According to the TIA, more than 350,000 online court reservations were made at TennisConnect facilities in the first three months of this year. And in the first six months, facilities using the software collectively generated more than 4 million page views.

For us, the impact TennisConnect has had on our programs and participation is undeniable. The ease with which we are able to grow, manage, promote, and instruct tennis can be attributed to the software TC has to offer. The ability to develop and maintain customer-service relationships with our players and participants only underscores the advantage of being a TennisConnect subscriber.

What are you waiting for? Go get connected!


TennisConnect is available through the TIA as part of the FacilityPlus membership, which includes additional marketing tools, services, and benefits to help your business grow. Annual dues at the FacilityPlus level are $545 (or $149 quarterly). For more information, visit TennisConnect.org or TennisIndustry.org, or call the TIA at 843-686-3036.

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About the Author

Robin Bateman is the site coordinator for the Tattnall Tennis Center in Macon, Ga., where she coordinates tennis program and leagues, is a tournament director, serves as a team captain, and assists junior teams competing at district, regional, and section events.

 

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