Each of us needs to be reminded of the basics every now and then. These tips will help you service your customers the best way possible.
by Tim Strawn
No matter what your level of experience, everyone has his or her own ideas of exactly how a business should be run. As racquet technicians, each of us has invested a certain amount of financial resources and time into training.
But how many of you implement all the practices and methods you’ve learned on a daily basis? Do you ever find yourself falling into patterns, for whatever reason, where you stray from the path of racquet service righteousness? Be truthful now. When was the last time you put a racquet on the stringing machine without inspecting it first? I bet I caught you on that one, didn’t I?
Maybe a simple review might help us spot a few more things to take a closer look at.
It all starts with the customer. Make sure you treat your customers the way you would expect to be treated if the roles were reversed. Customer service should be your No. 1 priority. Everything else builds from there.
Think about it. You can be the very best in the business, but what good is that if people won’t patronize your business? If you’re difficult to deal with, they’ll settle for second best in a heartbeat if they feel they’re treated better somewhere else.
Systems and Processes
Do you have dependable systems and processes in place? Maintaining good records is important for many reasons. Not only might your customers ask about past purchases they’ve made, but if you’re in the U.S., the IRS may ask, too. Plus, good accounting software can keep your business running smoothly, saving you valuable time and surprise expenses.
Having processes in place to deal with warranty returns on racquets, standard product returns, irate customers, unhappy employees, or difficult vendors can save you time and headaches, too. When you have the necessary processes in place, you’ll be prepared to tackle tough situations head on.
Care and Service Basics
For many, this is a passion, not a job, so excellent racquet service is and always will be a top priority. Are you following basic practices that provide your customers with the service they seek? Here’s a quick review:
- Keep accurate records: This is essential. There are several good software programs available that allow you to record any and all data you choose when you service a racquet.
- Machine maintenance: Calibrating your stringing machine is essential to consistent performance. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for frequency of calibration and procedures. Clean and adjust the clamps regularly. This will depend largely on how many racquets you string and partially on the types of strings you’re using most. Some strings have more residue than others, so you may need to clean your clamps more frequently.
- Prior to mounting the frame, thoroughly inspect the racquet. You’re looking for cracks in the frame, damaged grommets and bumper guards, drill flash rattling around in the frame, or broken butt caps.
- If the grip is worn, point this out to the customer, but let them make the final decision to replace it.
- Stringing requires methods and processes just like the rest of your business. The No. 1 goal in stringing is consistency, so develop your own style and stick with it. Whether you prefer standard one-piece stringing, a variation of the many one-piece ATW (around-the-world) patterns, or stringing with two pieces of string, if you make sure you’re doing the same thing consistently, your customers will appreciate it. This can actually become an added benefit to you and your customers. There’s a level of comfort in knowing the same person will be stringing their racquet every time.
- If, in your inspection of the frame, you see cracked grommets or a damaged bumper guard, let your customer know about it so he or she can give you the OK to replace it. If you don’t have a set in stock, explain to your customer that the work needs to be done the next time the racquet is serviced (unless they’re in no hurry and can wait for you to receive the new B/G set). If they give you the green light, go ahead and order a new B/G set for the frame. This gives them a heads-up of the additional cost for the bumper guard/grommet set on the next service. If the grommets are damaged you can use Teflon tubing for additional protection until you install the new B/G set.
- Adding special touches can make a difference in how your customers view your services and elevate your status as a true professional. Placing a service sticker on the frame shows who the work was done by and the date, plus any other data you feel the need to include.
- Stenciling can be an option if the customer prefers, but always ask first. Some people do not like the racquet to be stenciled.
- The last touch is to bag the racquet in a clear poly bag. It looks professional, and you’ll be amazed at how much your customers will appreciate it.
- The software program I use allows me to send email reminders when it’s time to restring, and also when the racquet is ready for pickup. This erases any doubt that the customer was contacted and gives me a way to quickly notify them when I’m finished with the work.
Other Care Tips for Customers
One last thing you might consider is to warn your customers of the dangers of heat exposure to their frame. Racquet frames can typically stand heat up to 300 degrees F., but the strings, grip, and other parts of the racquet are more sensitive to high temperatures.
A racquet bag with a good thermal pocket will keep the racquet at a more consistent temperature for a longer period of time, but the best advice is to tell your players not to leave the racquet in the car during the hot summer months. It’s also advisable to tell your customer to carry their racquet on board the plane if they’re flying, where it won’t be subjected to temperature extremes in the cargo hold.
Just remember, it’s the little things you do that make a big difference. Your primary goal is consistency. Once you’ve achieved that you’ll be amazed at the long-term benefits you’ll reap and just how much your customers will appreciate what you do for them.
Leave Your Mark
One of the ways I keep track of my customers’ frames is to add my own racquet label. The label is generated with the software program I use for racquet data and printed using a Brother P-touch label maker. It has the customer’s first and last names, a designated number for the racquet (especially important if they have more than one frame of the same model), date, string used and reference tension, and my business name and phone number.
I also print the DT (dynamic tension reading from the Beers ERT 300 taken immediately after the racquet is strung) in the lower left-hand corner of the label for quick reference. If the customer brings in a frame and wants to know if it needs new strings I can quickly take a DT reading and compare it to the one on the label. Players love this useful little label and for me, since I have a lot of customers, it helps me identify them when they come in with a quick glance at their label.
See all articles by Tim Strawn