For Tennis Universal, It’s About Customer Service
Tennis Universal started in 1979, when people kept asking Allan Gardner’s son, a teaching pro at the time, where to get various court products. His son made deals with some suppliers, and sent out a mailing.
“That first mailing brought in $49,000 in sales,” says the elder Gardner, who at the time was an electrical contractor and involved in construction. Gardner saw the possibilities, made an agreement with his son, and took over the company in 1980, gradually leaving his electrical contracting business behind.
Now, nearly 30 years later, the business that started essentially on a whim is big business. Tennis Universal offers virtually every product a facility, public park, school system, or teaching pro can use, along with products and equipment for other sports and sport facility maintenance.
“What we offer can be beneficial to any court owner, at any budget,” says Gardner, whose title is international sales manager of the family-owned company, which is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Over the last few years, the company has used the Internet to expand into the U.S. and other international markets.
“We have an 800 line [800-263-8800] and make sure that there’s somebody available to handle calls, especially on Saturdays and Sundays, since a lot of the work our customers will do will be on the weekend,” says Gardner. “Most of the calls are made from right on the court, as they’re doing the work. We get back to them within half an hour or so.”
That’s important because one of the services Tennis Universal offers is do-it-yourself court resurfacing — not typically a job most court owners would try to tackle themselves. Tennis Universal offers information and products to fill cracks and level the surface, and then has its own MultiMate brand coating materials available in 5-gallon pails.
“All they have to do is add water, follow our directions, and mix it up,” says Gardner. “Resurfacing is a three-man operation — one person mixes the paint, one pours the paint on the court and gets refills, and one walks the court with a squeegee.” Tennis Universal carries all the tools needed to resurface a court, and also rents out a line-taping machine.
Gardner prides himself on servicing his customers. “I spend 75 percent of my time on the phone, just talking to people,” he says. “It’s not selling. We spend whatever time a customer needs to be comfortable with what he is doing.”