Tennis Industry magazine

 

First-String Players

Our tips and exclusive guide will help you generate more revenue from your stringing business.

By Bob Patterson

My father used to tell me, “You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make sure it is a good one.” While my dad was sharing this pearl of wisdom about life in general, the old adage is very applicable to your racquet service business.

Whether you are a home stringer with only a few clients, a large retail store with thousands of customers, or something in between, you have to make a good impression to attract and retain customers.

Competition in today’s marketplace is abundant and diverse, regardless of the size or scope of your operation. So how do you compete? What can you do to separate yourself from your competitors? How do you make that good first impression? The answer to all three questions can be summed up with one word: “professionalism.”

If everything you do exudes professionalism, your customers will take notice and you will reap the rewards of a loyal customer base that will not only continue to do business with you, but also will sing your praises to everyone they know.

The First Impression

When a potential customer walks into your business, what is their first impression of your racquet service operation? Is there even any evidence of its existence?

Often, racquet service is tucked into a back room or a desolate corner away from the traffic flow. The stringing machine and other tools of the trade should be proudly displayed front and center so that there is no doubt that professional racquet service is available. The stringing machine itself should command attention.

David Pavlich, owner of North Shore Tennis in Mandeville, La., believes that the stringing operation should be very visible in your store or pro shop. “Make sure that your machine and other equipment is in good shape and has a ‘wow’ factor,” he says. “I have a Babolat Sensor in my store, front and center. It is big, modern-looking, and quite attractive. I have a regular customer who calls it the ‘Starship Enterprise’!”

Make an Investment

If your machine doesn’t have the “wow” factor or looks a bit worn and dated, you may want to consider investing in a new one. I use the word “investment” simply because that is what a machine purchase is — it should pay you dividends for many years to come.

Regardless of the size of your racquet service operation, your stringing machine is vital to the success of the business. Like any investment, you should analyze your needs and do as much research as possible and then make your decision based on what makes good business sense for you.

There are about as many options in stringing machines as there are stringers in the world, and choosing the right one can be a daunting task. Once you look at your particular needs, then you can utilize the information in this issue as well as the machine reviews and comparison charts available from the USRSA website, www.racquettech.com. You can evaluate and compare the various functions, designs, and workability of many of the machines available in today’s market and decide what would best serve your business.

Return on Investment

Another reason for making the investment in a new machine is simply the return on that investment. If you do your homework and invest in the right machine for your operation, you’ll reap the rewards with increased business for years to come.

With the proper set-up and attention, racquet stringing and racquet service should be the most profitable aspect of your retail operation. Most pro shops and retailers make 70 percent to 80 percent gross profit on racquet service. Wouldn’t you love to get those margins on racquet, apparel, or shoe sales? With such profit-generating potential, why wouldn’t you place a major emphasis on your racquet service operation? And, why wouldn’t you invest in good equipment?

You may not be able to afford the most expensive machine on the market, but you should select the machine that best meets your needs. Then, make it the centerpiece of your business. Whether a new machine is in your budget or not, at least make sure your machine and the surrounding work area are neat and clean in appearance.

As with any busy workspace, it is easy to allow clutter to accumulate. Tools and other items should be stored in an orderly manner. Finished racquets and racquets awaiting service should be separated and neatly stored. Your work area should always project a professional image.

Expert Staffing

Another important aspect of professional racquet service is the expertise of your staff. Your equipment is only as good as the personnel who use it and provide service to your customers. The most impressive racquet service area in the world will not be utilized if it is manned by an inexperienced employee with little or no training.

The personnel in your racquet service area should be experienced and well-trained in all aspects of racquet service. Ideally, each should be certified through the USRSA as Certified Stringers, if not Master Racquet Technicians.

At North Shore Tennis, Pavlich is a staff of one, but he proudly touts his MRT status and has built a loyal following from players in the New Orleans area. “I run ads on the local cable channel highlighting my experience. I am the only MRT in the area and that fact is mentioned in the commercial,” says Pavlich.

As true professionals, it is essential that your racquet technicians be able to answer questions and guide customers in string selection, tension and racquet customization. If your operation sells racquets, they should also know about and be able to assist customers with racquet selection. Being certified as an MRT will ensure that the staff keeps up to date on the latest racquet technologies and are able to provide customers with the best possible service.

Finishing Touches

With a first-class presentation, top-notch personnel, and premiere customer service, the only thing left is adding amenities. Paying attention to the details will keep your customers coming back and telling their friends about the great service they received in your establishment.

“We put our finished racquets in a poly bag with our store logo on it,” says Grant Morgan of String n’ Swing in Memphis. “It costs us a few cents for each one, but the customers really like it. They see the pros pulling fresh racquets out of the poly bags on court and it makes them feel just as important.”

Pavlich is also a proponent of the poly bags. “It gives a professional impression and it actually protects the racquet to some extent,” he says. “And because each bag has our logo on it, we get an on-court advertisement every time a customer pulls out a fresh racquet.”

Offering faster turn-around than your competitors is another way to make your customers choose your business. Knowing that they can depend on getting their racquet serviced and be back on the court is important to a busy player. Offering an express service, even if you charge an extra fee, will certainly set your service apart.

“I guarantee 24-hour turnaround,” says Pavlich. “I also offer Express Service: $5 for four-hour service and $10 for one-hour service. Our customers know that we will go out of our way to accommodate their needs.”

Keeping accurate service records is another plus for your customers, according to Tim Strawn of Baseline Racquet Sports in Roanoke, Va. “I label each racquet with the date of service, string, and tension,” says Strawn. “I also keep records of every string job. My customers appreciate the fact that I can tell them what string and tension they were using over the last several years.”

Putting forth the extra effort to make your racquet service as professional as possible will pay big dividends to your bottom line. “Know your product, both racquets and strings,” says Pavlich. “Also learn as much as possible about the technology so that you can better assist your customers. Being able to tell a customer why one string does what it does in a specific frame goes a long way in instilling confidence and comfort in a prospective customer.”

Investing in a professional racquet service operation, and all that it entails, will pay big dividends for your business.


What Your Customers Should Know

A little knowledge can go a long way, and for your customers, providing them with some basic information about strings and stringing may help generate more interest in your stringing and customization business.

When it comes to restringing, the basic rule of thumb still applies: A player should restring as many times each year as he or she plays each week. But better yet, check the string tension regularly and suggest they restring each time their racquet loses 20 to 30 percent of its freshly strung value.

A few other general guidelines that you should make sure your customers are aware of include:

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About the Author

Bob Patterson , the founder of the RacquetMAXX customization service, is a Master Racquet Technician with more than 20 years of experience. He was RSI's Stringer of the Year in 2005.

 

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