Tennis Industry magazine


Set the Stage to Make Your Customer Service Shine

By Mike Carter

In our last customer-service article (June 2006, page 34), we were gearing up to kick off a big spring/summer with some new techniques and ideas. Now we are hot, dehydrated, with the farmer-tan in full bloom, and hopefully taking good care of our clientele. Well, take care of yourselves, too, because, with just a little tweaking, you are going to be diving right into a record-setting fall and winter program!

Let’s get started with part two in this series. The following ideas will be key ingredients to help you create an environment that will grow new customers and keep existing customers, so that they will spend their fitness and fun dollars with you.

In addition, you will create an environment that will be a fun and rewarding place to work. Without fun, happy staff members, running a successful, customer-friendly tennis business is nearly impossible.

Back in June, we mainly focused on the key traits that describe today’s active/fitness consumers. These traits tell us who our clientele is and what their needs are. Now, we are going to tackle maybe the most difficult, complex, and, in my opinion, most important part of customer service: The Essentials.

The Essentials are key “foundational” business and personal principles that make up you — Ms. or Mr. Professional — your staff, and your business. The Essentials involve “landscaping” and “manscaping.”


I’m not just talking about the lawn and bushes here. I’m assuming that you have that part all green and clean. You must know that the No. 1 thing that people care about in the places they shop, according to more than one study, is … cleanliness.

That probably wasn’t hard to figure out, but how clean is your place? Now, you’ve walked into your pro shop door so many times you may be numb to the pizza boxes, odor, dirty carpet, and dead plant in the corner. Look at it with a fresh set of eyes and see where you can take it up another level!

Did you know that people form 11 impressions of you and your business within the first seven seconds when they enter your facility or shop? It’s known as the “7-11 Rule.” And “cleanliness” is the first thing they look for.

The other impressions they quickly note about you and your business are: attractiveness, creditable, knowledgeable, responsive, friendly, helpful, empathetic, courteous, confident, and professional. Once they take all this in — in those critical first seven seconds — they make one of three decisions: they either like you, are indifferent to you, or dislike you.

But did you know the 7-11 Rule applies to the phone, too? Think about the other businesses you call; I’m sure you form a number of impressions yourself, whether you talk to a person or a machine. Sometimes it can be a great experience; many times it is not!

Harvey Mackay, author of Swimming with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and a tennis player, reserves the right to hire only one person in his business — the receptionist. This is a huge issue that you must not take for granted. Some of us may not be able to hire shop staff and must rely on an answering machine, and that’s fine. It may even be better; you can be assured that the “voice of your business” is always friendly, knowledgeable, and upbeat, and that the people on the other end can hear the “smile” in your voice. If you are able to hire a live body to answer phones, make sure each of the qualities listed above are “part of the deal” when they take on that role.

Now that everyone loves how clean, neat, and safe your place is, do you treat them to something special when they come in? What generosity do you show your clients? Cookies, coffee, and Gatorade are all pretty easy to do. Some fancy places vacuum the cars when their players come and play. Find your generous spirit and add some value to the experience of those who trust their limited time and money with you and your staff.


I may start to sound a little like your mother here, but this is important — you may not be as handsome as James Blake, but you can wear a clean and pressed shirt with the best of them. Manscaping is about hygiene, people! It is semi-easy because it’s totally under the control of the individual, but it can be tricky, too, because it is personal. You make the call, but some of you and your staff try to get by without making enough of an effort to look professional, and it can cost you and your business.

Stand closer to that razor and break out that iron before you go to work every day. Face it, we all act differently and feel differently when we are dressed nicely, as opposed to when we are walking around the house in our boxers with bed head. Check yourself and the staff and see if some “improvements” need to be made.

Lastly, your smile may not be as blinding as Cameron Diaz’, but you have one, you can use it, and it will be effective. I heard someone say that your business goes in the direction of the corners of your mouth! We all need to increase our smile ratio by 50 percent. In fact, John Newcombe used to make himself smile when he was angry on court. It is powerful enough to change your mood and the mood of others around you.

OK, there you have it. The lesson here is to Landscape and Manscape yourself to huge success on and off the court.

Remember this old theater adage: “A dramatic setting will create a dramatic performance.” When you create the perfect setting, you will create an environment in which your employees will actually enjoy working and people will want to spend their time and their money.

Have An ‘Option Seven’

option 7

There was an email going around several years ago about a bank and its unique voice-mail system. When you called the number, it sounded like any normal, well-organized system offering different options for you to push depending on what service you needed. But when you got to Option Seven, the friendly voice asked if you wanted to hear a duck quack. That’s right, if you pushed 7, you heard a duck quack! Now the employees at this bank could have been chained to their desks in the basement for all I knew. But my impressions were that this was a fun place to work and a great place to do business. What is your Option Seven?

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About the Author

Mike Carter has been a certified tennis teaching pro with the PTR and USPTA for more than 20 years. For the past 14 years, he has worked to promote and develop the sport for the USTA Texas Section. A guest speaker at tennis conventions, symposiums, and training seminars, Carter was recognized by Tennis Industry Magazine in 1997 as one of the Top 25 Unsung Heroes of Tennis.



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