USA Volleyball Logo

USA Volleyball

Five Keys to Building a Strong Customer Service Environment for Your Team and Club

As the volleyball season progresses and the calendar steadily ticks towards tryouts, volleyball clubs and coaches are ramping up their recruiting efforts to attract the next big hitter, libero or setter that will push their team over the regional hurdle and on to nationals.  Even those teams that don’t actively recruit, still need to build a steady pipeline of young girls and families that will spend up to several thousand dollars for the right to play on a team.

After more than 15 years in organization/leadership development and executive (business) coaching and five years of coaching girls in the art of volleyball, I have come to realize there are certain pieces of the “customer service” puzzle that are necessary to create and maintain a club team, and dare I say it, a successful business; whether you are an individual coach, a club director or a club owner.  The pressures and responsibilities of running a team or managing a club, keeping parents and players happy, all while keeping business productive, is an ongoing challenge.

Through trial and mostly error, I have discovered five keys necessary to building a thriving business that will keep parents and players coming back for more.  I believe utilizing the following keys will enable you to run a more successful team or club resulting in a strong client base. Follow these five keys and watch your retention numbers soar and see a steady stream of new players that want to join your organization as your coaching image increases and your word of mouth advertising spreads.

1. Be transparent
Nothing earns you more respect as a coach, club director or owner of a business than to be fair and honest.  I have never done anything in my business to compromise my integrity, as I have always been fair to my clients. This has been invaluable to my business not only from a personal perspective but also for business as a whole. Parents and players value honesty and fairness.  Would you rather tell a prospective player/parents that she will be the eleventh player on a team of eleven and that what they are really paying for is the coaching and playing time during practice and risk that she will go to another club... or would you not say anything to the player/parent and potentially deal with an unhappy player and family later on when the individual gets limited minutes during tournaments. Being fair and honest creates a positive synergy throughout the club.  Even the appearance of unfairness or impropriety will spread quickly throughout the club and the local volleyball community.  Keep in mind; tournaments are littered with parents sharing stories about their “poor” experiences with their current or past club teams.  By not being up front about playing time, playing positions and promises of “developing them into the next Micah Hancock”, programs can easily get a bad reputation for seeming only interested in the dollars a player brings to the team.  Here’s your opportunity to break that stereotype and prove yourself a true professional.

2. Be consistent 
Inconsistency can have a pretty negative impact on your team and club. Rules are rules and the minute you play favorites or change the rules as an “exception” you’re opening up the proverbial “Pandora’s Box.”  Nothing breeds discontent more quickly in business or in sports than the appearance of favoritism.

An example of inconsistency might be that you tell parents that grades and school comes first and volleyball comes second.  However, when a player misses practice due to an exam or other school commitment when the coach is installing a new offense, does she lose her starting slot or see reduced playing time because of it?!  When the star player shows up late (unexcused) for practice or is taking a lackadaisical approach to practice, do you address the behavior in a consistent and appropriate way?

Share your expectations with your team and them hold them to your standards.  Players and parents may not agree with all of your decisions, however, if they know from the beginning what to expect from you they will have an easier time accepting them.

3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
More often than not, one of the most frustrating areas for players and parents is the lack communication from the coach and the club.  In our industry, good communication skills are paramount. This includes providing clear player expectations about practices, training routines, playing times and results, etc. If players and parents have a clear understanding on what to expect during the season, they will never leave due to unfulfilled promises.

Good communication skills especially apply to coaches.  If coaches aren’t able to offer clear and concise feedback, both positive feedback and feedback for improvement, the players will quickly become frustrated and dissatisfied.  This frustration quickly transfers to parents and creates a negative environment surrounding the team.

Effectively sharing even basic communication around changes in the practice schedule or tournaments can be the difference between a team rowing in the same direction and one that appears to be unorganized with a coach in over his or her head. As most of us have experienced quite often tournament schedules are not even posted until the week of the tournament.  The late posting can create great stress in parents as they try to coordinate their busy schedules.  As a coach, you have zero impact on when the schedule is posted.  However, if you explain the tournament process to your team, especially those new to club, it should prevent the parents from directing their frustrations towards you.  The more information you can provide to your customers, the more smoothly your season should go.

4. Be a good listener
As a manager and executive (business) coach, I have learned that there are usually two sides to every story. Listening closely to your parents, players, staff and coaches can help determine where you take your business.  Some of the best ideas for my business have come from clients. Providing an opportunity for parents to share their input on ways to make the team or club better makes them feel a valued part of a community.  Even when you are receiving negative feedback about the team or the club, based on the perception of a parent, that feedback can create a positive outcome.  Just giving the parent an opportunity to vent and more importantly hear your side of the situation in a calm and non-emotional manner provides a chance to manage or turn the situation around.  How a business reacts to a customer complaint will determine if the customer will remain a customer.

5. Knowledge is power
If you think you know it all, you’re in trouble. Some of the best business people, consultants and yes volleyball coaches that I know never let their commitment to continuing education waver. They realize the value in personal and professional development.  Even though for most of us, coaching volleyball is not our first career, it is extremely important to stay on top of the latest in volleyball education and training.  There are literally hundreds of opportunities each year to expand your knowledge as a volleyball coach through USA Volleyball and the AVCA.  Through its CAP certification program, USA Volleyball provides coaches with the latest and most effective training techniques and teaching tools. USA Volleyball and the American Volleyball Coaches Association are dedicated to advancement of the sport of volleyball and its coaches at all levels.  Visit www.AVCA.org.