I wrote a post HERE about moving our tennis coaching programme to a direct debit / recurring payments system, which we did in September 2020.
Now, in October 2022, two years on, it’s time for a ‘where are we now’ post. If you haven’t read the previous post, please read it first as it goes through the reasons that we decided to do it, the process and the initial results.
So let’s move onto where we are now………..
The results have been life-changing
Let’s start with some numbers. Numbers aren’t everything of course. There are other important measures, such as the quality of the coaching, the quality of the service provided, the improvement in the childrens’ tennis and more. But numbers do tell a story. Below is a quick snapshot of the numbers of children in our regular programme and one week of tennis camps – firstly from 2019, just before covid happened and before we started recurring payments – and then in 2022, very recently.
Note: these figures do not include our schools programme, adult tennis coaching or inclusive programme, but they do include tennis camps as those have some relevance to this system.
Number of children in our group tennis coaching programme
Summer Term 2019
Summer Term 2022
Number of children in our 2nd week of summer camps (just a snapshot)
So you can see straight away that there has been huge growth in our programme. And that is not ALL down to our direct debit / recurring payment system – but a lot of it is. Here are some more details about how it is going……..
The best way that I can summarise how I feel about this system is that I just could not imagine going back to the old way of doing things now!
Our system of giving tennis camp hours as part of the package
I’m not sure if anyone else has done this, and it wouldn’t work for everyone, but we wanted to ensure that monthly payments were continous, never stopping – but we still wanted regular sessions to stop in the school holidays.
So we came up with the idea of giving some hours of tennis camp as part of the package, which can be used at the parent’s discretion over a year. So, for example, our ‘Bronze’ package (one lesson per week during the term) includes 20 hours of tennis camp per year. The package looks like this:
- £40 per month
- 40 hours of tennis during school term (one lesson per week)
- 10 hours of tennis camps, plus a bonus 10 hours of tennis camps. So a total of 20 hours tennis camps per year.
- Tennis camps are 3 hours for a morning or 5 hours for a full day.
This has worked really well. It has resulted in our tennis camps being packed full of children who are on the programme, PLUS lots of other children who are not on the programme. It means that the regular children also do more tennis in a year than previously, because they have the incentive of using their 20 hours of camps. It feels like a real win-win situation for everyone.
This won't work for everyone
The system detailed above – giving tennis camp hours – has been great for us, but it works because we have well established tennis camps running in all school holidays. We have lots of courts available, a good sized clubhouse, a great team of coaches and many young assistants. We have good systems for organising the camps, taking bookings, coping with the large numbers (sometimes over 100 children per day).
If you don’t have this in place, you may need to come up with another solution to ensure that monthly payments don’t stop, but also accounting for no sessions taking place in the school holidays. Having not done this, I can’twrite from experience, but here are the options that I have heard about, along with my thoughts:
1. Continue lessons through the school holidays
I think this is a bad idea and will deter people from signing up. If they will be away lots during the holidays or simply changing their plans, they will end up paying for lessons that they do not have.
2. Keep lessons to term-time only, but work out the exact number of weeks that the lessons would run for in a year. Add up the total cost of that, divide by 12 and that becomes the monthly payment
– the good thing about this is that people are not paying for sessions that they do not receive, but on the negative side, if they do not continue for a year, you will lose our financially. Let’s look at the figures:
- You work out that there will be 40 weeks of lessons per year at a rate of £8 per lesson.
- 40 x £8 = £320. Divided by 12, this is £27 per month.
- But, if somebody stopped their lessons after a month, for example, each lesson would only have cost them £6.75.
So I think if you use this method, you need to charge more per session. If you were to change the above to £9 per session, this would work out at £30 per month, but anyone stopping early would end up paying about £7.50 per session. This could be a good middle ground. You could even pay back the extra to anyone staying over a year, or give them some kind of loyalty bonus.
What have been the challenges?
I can honestly say that the benefits have FAR outweighed the challenges, but just to give a blanced picture, here are some of those challenges:
People who don't want to use our system
There is a very small minority of people who just don’t want to pay monthly, for one reason or another. This was more difficult right in the beginning because we were changing existing clients from the old system to the new one – and there are always going to be people who don’t like change. But for new people coming into the programme, it’s such a small minority who don’t like the idea that it really doesn’t affect us. For every one person who objects, there are probably another 50 people who are fine with it. Actually most people love it – after all, the system is not just easier for us, it’s better for the parents and children as well!
People who don't want tennis camps included in their package
This is an easy one – we just work out a price for them which does not include the camps, a bit like the alternative examples listed above. But we do not advertise that we do this – it’s just for people who ask the question.
Payments failing or people stopping their monthly payment without telling us
Again, this is such a small minority that it is not a problem. And it is nothing compared to managing payments in the old way.
Getting the parents to understand how everything works
This is an area which we have tweaked and improved over time. We have a really smooth ‘onboarding’ system which I talk about in THIS POST. Every step has good communication, mostly made up of template emails which we have gradually improved. We also have a dedicated information page on our website for parents. You can see that page HERE. And we have added to that page regularly – every time someone asks a new question, or if we realise that there is an area where parents are unclear, we adapt our template emails and information page to include that information.
I’ll repeat a couple of phrases used earlier – the results are life-changing and I could not imagine going back to the old systems. We still use the ‘course’ model in some other areas, like schools or smaller clubs where we are building up a programme. But for our main junior tennis coaching programme, the monthly payment system has been just amazing and we’ll be doing it for a long time to come.
All the reasons mentioned in the earlier post have turned out to be correct, plus many other benefits that we did not anticipate.
If you have any thoughts, questions, comments, success stories of your own or ideas, please comment below.