Being honest about admitting a mistake, when it comes to double booking, failing to put a lesson on the calendar, and doing something nice to try to make up for the inconvenience, those kinds of responses can actually gain you more loyalty when you prove yourself human. On the other hand, when you are so reliable, that people know they can count on you and not only are you on time, but you are early and prepared, this will set you apart from other pros and you can charge more than they do on that basis. The default position for the tennis consumer is they often do not get timely responses to communication, the pro does not show up on time 99% of the time, and they are not always fully engaged with the lesson, instead distracted by many things.
It’s happening less frequently these days, but at least 3 times a year I have to admit that I made a mistake. In the early going it was probably more like 3 times a month, but I sometimes tried to shift the blame onto someone else, or a circumstance. It’s far better to plan things more conservatively for times sake, and assume that there will be a delay of up to 15 minutes on your way somewhere. I used to think “I want to arrive exactly on time, because then I maximize my dollars per hour”, but now I think “I want to arrive early, so I can get my mind right, and be the anchor for the time, and be 100% prepared to help calm the client down, so that I can charge a premium rate.” Nowadays, my clients say that my lessons are like therapy. But that is only possible if I have dealt with my on anxiety before the lesson has even begun.
No Surprises Policy
Being reliable also means that there are few surprises. Giving people a heads up about changes that are coming in the months ahead, so that they can plan makes a huge difference. I have made the mistake of springing sudden changes on people, and I have also tried my hardest to inform everyone to the best of my ability through word of mouth, posters, newsletters, emails and the like, only to have people say, “…but you never told me.” They say that as though they have en expectation that I am going to call every single member on the phone personally to read the newsletter for them. So, there has to be a balance. No matter how hard you try, there will always be the 3% of your clientele that create 97% of your problems. They are not the ones you are trying to please, it’s the 97% who appreciate that you used different mediums to reach them, because everyone has a different style of communication. When you work hard to get good at every style of getting your message out, then you will meet your clientele more often, more thoroughly and avoid a lot of problems.
One example of this is that I had instituted a new program at the club where I was a director. The program grew so fast, that in the short run we had to communicate that it was full. People who wanted to retain their spot in the program had until a certain date to sign up before we might open it up to a new player. It would have been tempting to immediately change the schedule to accommodate more players. Instead, between my staff and I, and we made a great team, we planned out the fastest practical transition to a new schedule. We had launched the program at the beginning of a school year, and it was mid October, but we needed to make changes for the spring. Assuming that there would be a steady enrollment or drop off in the winter, we decided to change the schedule for March of the next year.
Communicate Early, Often In Every Way
Because changes were coming, we began to tell everyone in the program once a week, that there were going to be changes, but we did not tell them what they were going to be. In a few weeks, we let everyone know that there would be a shift in the program in March. Then just as we entered the final session of the year, we started to give the details of the new schedule. In January we did a mass email, flyers, and communicated in every way possible what the new schedule would be in March. Of course, there were a few clients who could not make the new schedule, but for the sake of progress of the entire program we couldn’t let that bog us down. We did the best we could to work with those who were being displaced, and we communicated that we were genuinely disappointed as they were about the fact that they would not be available, and we also asked about their future availability so that we could take it under advisement for building the new schedule in subsequent seasons. Because of the early and frequent communication we retained many of these clients, and served many more. If we had remained static, we would not have grown and served more, advancing our players. The change meant that some got lost in the change, but the communication made it possible to keep as many as possible. Some families with a couple of months notice will make some adjustments to their family schedule, but not if you spring it on them at the last minute.
The last thing you want to hear is “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?”
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