Tennis Industry magazine

 

Clickety-Split!

When players sign up online, you’re providing the ultimate in customer service and giving your business a boost, too.

By Charlie Ruddy

When we think of using technology in business, we often think of the internet. Too often we think of Google, and marketing, and the billions of eyeballs that ought to be searching for our most excellent programs.

But tennis is a 15-mile-radius business. Sure, you want your website to be easily found on Google, and hopefully come up on top. But the players in a 15-mile radius from your facility are your bread and butter. How easy is it for them to find out about your programs? How informative is that first experience with your marketing? How easy is it to get signed up for the right clinic, camp, or league?

As early as 1996, I stopped calling airlines on the telephone. Around 2000, my bank stopped taking my phone calls, referring me to their website. Around the same time, the USTA took a leadership role in tennis by requiring tournament enrollments to go through something called TennisLink.

Today, we embrace the internet as the ultimate form of customer self-service. Ever present, ever available, the internet has saved countless voice-mail volleys and an untold number of hours of recording, playing, and replying to old-fashioned messages.

When I’m looking for service, I want immediate gratification. If you struck a chord with me about how fun your summer camp would be for my child, or how I could stay in shape playing Cardio Tennis, I want in. And I want in now.

And now, using online event enrollment, it’s easy to turn your website into a virtual customer-service machine that sells for you all day (and night). You don’t even have to be there — you can be on the courts running your programs, or at home after a day’s work.

Customer Benefits

When you upgrade your website to offer online enrollment, five things will happen for your players:

Convenience for You

By keeping the data from program to program, you also build a database of program participants who you can reach out to for marketing upcoming events. (“Hey, John Doe, if you liked tennis camp this summer, develop your skills even further with our fall after-school program — click here for details …”).

“Roll-call sheets are even easier to print from an enrollment database,” says Billy Power, director of tennis for the Texarkana (Ark.) Tennis Club, “so participation, business billing and customer statements are more accurate than ever.”

At the Forest Hill Tennis Club in Baltimore, players took note when Director of Tennis Jon Jacobson added online enrollment to his website. Even before the club opened this summer, Jacobsen filled his May Vic Braden Clinic and already has a waiting list for several programs in July (now Jacobsen can look for additional staff to meet that demand).

In Houston, Juan Bracho, director of the Juan Bracho Tennis Academy, allows players to search for and sign up for lessons online. Since offering online lesson enrollment, Bracho says lesson revenue was up 40 percent in 2007, and he expects the trend to continue. “It’s just so great that my players now know to go to my website, where they can check for lesson availability and book a lesson — and I don’t have to call them back, leave a message, juggle my schedule, etc.,” he says.

Growing Numbers

Want more proof that online enrollment for tennis programs and court booking is becoming more and more popular in the U.S? Just look at some of the recent data.

In 2007, nearly 820,000 tennis court reservations were made through TennisConnect-powered websites, up from nearly 568,000 in 2006. And so far, in just the first quarter of 2008, there have been nearly 250,000 online court bookings. Online tennis event enrollment also has been increasing each year, to more than 43,500 in 2007 from less than 30,000 the year before.

“Searchable” online events also has shot up dramatically in the last three years. In 2007, there were about 32,500 events posted online for consumers to search for; in just the first three months of 2008, the number of searchable events has doubled, to more than 64,000. Clearly, tennis pros and directors are finding out that having events listed online is valuable to their business.

As further proof that consumers are going to websites for more and more of their information, in the first quarter of 2008, there were nearly 5.7 million “eCalendar” queries on the GrowingTennis system, more than double the number in the same three months of 2007. Page views have continued to rise every quarter for the last few years, topping 7 million in the first three months of 2008.

So, how do you get set up for online program enrollment? First, you want to make sure your facility and programs are listed for free on the “GrowingTennis System” by going to www.GrowingTennis.com. Then, just follow the links on that website to various online enrollment options, including the use of your own payment system or by hooking up with Active.com. Next, if you want to integrate the enrollment process on your website, check out the upgrades available by using the TennisConnect software and website hosting for your website from the TIA (www.tennisindustry.org).

If you let your website do the work for you, you’ll find that it’s easier to fill courts, lesson and clinics — and your bank account, too.


What the Pros are Saying

Does online enrollment really help your bottom line? Here’s what tennis directors around the country are finding.

See all articles by

About the Author

Charlie Ruddy  is a recreational tennis player with more than 40 years on the courts and 25 years working for major technology companies. Currently, he is responsible for delivering TennisConnect services and providing assistance in technology to the Tennis Industry Association.

 

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