Tennis Industry magazine


The Personal Touch

Providing good, old-fashioned customer service is rare these days, but it will make you stand out from the competition.

By Joe Dinoffer

I was shocked. We purchased some large warehouse trailers about 10 years ago and are now moving offices and selling them back to the same company we purchased them from (for only pennies on the dollar, of course). Once I accepted the lower buy-back price, we still had to arrange pick up. We were haggling for a few minutes over what would be a convenient time for the company to send a driver. Schedules were tight and there was tension in the air.

Then, all of a sudden, the buyer paused and said to me, “Hold on a minute, you’re the customer. Let’s work this out.”

Immediately, I was totally pacified — and the other person got it pretty much the way they wanted anyway. Yes, being reminded that I was the customer was music to my ears.

Since the business world is becoming more and more automated and less personal, and since real, old-fashioned customer service is becoming more rare, it’s easier than ever to excel. In order for your customers to actually feel special, rule No. 1 is that they have to have contact with a real live person. However, when you call most businesses these days, it’s surprising when you don’t find yourself talking to a machine. If you’re like me, it’s so infrequent to reach a live human being that when you do, you might even forget the reason you called in the first place!

The point of this article is simple. People are people. And, people want to be treated like individuals. Here are some fundamentals of customer service to help ensure your success, no matter what niche in the tennis industry your business is situated.

1. Answer the phone

It may sound fundamental, but easily reaching people on the phone these days can be a huge selling point for your program. Voice mail is fine, but if you can avoid a computer response as the first impression a customer receives, you’ll be one more step ahead of your competition.

2. Yes, what’s the question?

Be a problem-solver. A “can-do” attitude goes a long way toward providing what people will perceive as high-quality customer service. In other words, when confronted with a problem, be sure your staff members are solution-oriented first.

We all know the negative effect of a dissatisfied customer who tells others. It becomes a pervasive negative gossip chain that goes on and on for a long time. If someone has a problem, empower your staff to be able to solve it quickly and painlessly.

I remember a tip by nationally recognized teaching pro and manager Fernando Velasco. He would manage by walking around the courts during busy times with a new can of balls. If someone had a problem with anything, from the cup dispenser being empty to discarded towels lying on the court, he would compensate his club members by giving them a free can of balls. It didn’t cost him nearly as much as he gained in goodwill and future business.

3. Make friends with your customers

Ultimately, people are looking for friends. Get to know them. Know the names of their children. Learn the name of their dog. Care about them and they will naturally become loyal customers and care about you and your business.

The bottom line is to remember how good it feels when you are treated like an important customer. It may be a rare occurrence to be treated like a special customer these days, but it does still happen from time to time.

It’s just like the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat customers like you would like to be treated and everyone comes out a winner.

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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.



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