Friday, December 15, 2017

Happiness is ........

My wife works at a large University. She recently attended an 18 hour management seminar – 3 hour sessions, twice a week for 3 weeks. When the ordeal was over I asked her what she felt she had learned. She smiled at me and said that I could have taught the course and that the core message was that no matter what you are selling, even academia, you are selling an experience that comes about as the result of having created a culture that delivers and develops the desired experience. 

She had helped me edit and type “The Winning Golf Culture” and so she knew that her summation of her findings would resonate with me. I asked her how she thought that manifested itself as at her particular college and she quickly replied HAPPINESS

Now this gave me pause and I suddenly felt that I had learned something from the seminar. The most evocative messages always seem to come in the simplest packages. I was reminded of what I’ve always considered the genius of Coca Cola’s IT’S THE REAL THING

A customer calls to book a tee time. What has happened in his or her mind – probably at least some of the following:
·         Taking the day off from work.
·         Weather report is good.
·         Picking up good friends to make a 4-some.
·         Course was in great shape last time I played
·         Drinks and good conversation after the round.
·         Practiced yesterday. Hit it well.
·         Opportunity to impress guests with your choice of haunts.

Whether any or all of these are the case they have just booked 4-5 hours of happiness. It is now our job to do everything that we can to fulfill that experience. The only way to do this is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think through the event, step by step. Imagine it, feel it, you’ve encountered it elsewhere; that day away from the office, of total relaxation, of golf and happiness. 

Now ask yourself does this vision, this virtual be the customer dream produce happiness at your facility. Is it the primary goal of your staff, are their people skills honed to this purpose – is it their priority. Is it the primary function of the rest of the services provided and the presentation whether it be the beverage cart, locker room or the merchandise in the shop.

I probably suggest too often that staff meetings are great places to discuss these concepts, inoculate the staff with the culture and ask for their input and ideas to continue to develop it.

We all have had the personal incident and that caused us to tell stories of service and expertise that made an incredible impression and subsequent understanding. Think of Disney and their young and transient staff. They consistently provide the experience through training and an on-going culture that defines explicitly “the role”, defines expectations, empowers the staff to provide what the culture preaches and has the employee who most recently performed “the role” mentor their replacement before they move on. I love the line in the Mad Max movie from the tribe of kids that save Mel Gibson in the desert who are raising themselves and clinging to the hope of rescue with the “tell” and a culture of “tell the tell”. 

The Disney culture is a “tell the tell” culture, but it didn’t spontaneously combust. Its structure, history and ability to recreate itself are epic and worthy of study. It is unique in its size and grandeur and thus genius. They get it, they sell happiness. They make me think enough of my venture into their world to want to mention it to others. I am impressed when I park my car at the thought that was put into this normally insignificant part of the trip.  I am obviously not implying that golf facilities be run like Disney, as a matter of fact the directive, authoritarian management style to maintain the “script” is not conducive to the golf culture, but the attention to detail and the buy-in on the part on the part of the staff are uncanny.

Any time spent by a customer/member at your facility that does not produce this pleasure with the experience and desire to tell others is a missed opportunity. Miss enough opportunities and customers stop providing them – time runs out. Provide an incredible happening and listen to golfers discuss it when they don’t know who you are or don’t think that you are listening.  I recently spent time with the Gulf States PGA at an educational seminar where service was one of the topics and B.J. Antill the head pro at Bayouu CC in Thibodaux, Louisiana said that their club's mission statement was to provide a "cruise ship on land" experience.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

In-House, On-Line

 About the same time as the Y2K scare there were a number of companies competing to own and IPO the online tee-time business -, etc.  Part of the marketing strategy of these efforts was to promise the shops they were partnering with free in-store kiosks where members/customers could make tee times online and/or shop with participating vendors in real-time inventories tied into POS systems, which were also going to be provided. As it turned out most of the promises were smoke and mirrors, most of those companies are gone and the only thing remaining is the bad reputation of the term shop-kiosk.

Daniel Island Club

One of the first entries on this blog in 2009 entitled ‘The Climate in Orlando’ references reducing inventories by cutting back the space you need to merchandise with a sitting area. One of the asides mentioned in that discussion was that this area could be a spot where shop staff could sit and go through readily available catalogs of partnered vendors and make special order recommendations.

This entry will suggest taking that concept one step further by adding a laptop to the area with a desktop of icon links to all of the major vendors affiliated with the shop. Envision this laptop sitting on a coffee table in front of a small sofa that used to be functional only as a place to sit and try on golf shoes and where now customers can basically point and click to the entire inventory of goods that you have access to by virtue of the shop’s accounts. The backdrop for this desktop of links could be the message that the shop is in the business of servicing the members/regulars corporate and tournament needs. This is obviously an effort to drive the special order and corporate business, but it also accomplishes some things that are more subtle and perhaps, not quite so apparent.

Most customers today fall into one of two categories: Customer A – the computer savvy, who like most of the population, are increasing their online shopping exponentially every year; or Customer B – the computer fearful who have trouble opening their email let alone point and clicking to drill down to a leather jacket from Peter Millar.

Sand Hills Golf Club

 The laptop kiosk being suggested would intrigue Customer A to take the time to become increasingly familiar with all the goods and services your shop can make available. More interesting perhaps is the opportunity for your staff to teach Customer B how easy it is to navigate the desktop and shop online; more of the ‘above and beyond’ service to which we keep aspiring.

The process of creating this desktop should involve asking the following questions:

·        Do the vendors you are researching have web sites that sell to the public? If they do you may want to reconsider your account.

·        Does your mix of vendors include categories such as tailored clothing, lady’s handbags, luggage, crystal, blue jeans and tennis shoes. This is the perfect way to provide these categories with a minimum of - or no inventory?

·        Does the shop want to go after ad specialty categories such as pencils, name-tags, key chains, tee shirts; who are these vendors and how do we open accounts with them?

·        Do we have someone on staff that has the computer savvy to make this seamless and can they be incentivized to take ownership of the project?

·        Could this concept work better in the locker room or the 19th hole?

·        What is going to be the best way to introduce and market this concept to the customer base or membership? Obvious are newsletter and email announcements, but a special order contest among staff members could be fun also.

 Make the screen saver a rolling slide show of pictures from the member guest or corporate outing.  Also icons to vendor videos would provide in-depth product knowledge that could enhance sales. This will certainly attract attention and promote conversation.

For many shops, whether at private clubs or public facilities with a regular customer base, the special order business can represent as much as 20-25% of the total revenue per year and with a healthy hard-goods business, maybe more. Special orders other than the result of a lesson and club-fitting are almost always the idea of the customer. The kiosk will help inspire more of these ideas in-house. If you are already doing this or something similar please leave a comment.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Intimacy Factor

Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more than they expect to get.
- Nelson Boswell

The major difference between Golf Shop Retail and other retailing is what I refer to as the Intimacy factor. The finite number of frequently visiting members and or regulars who are there to play golf, expanded by their guests is an intimate customer base. This is obviously more pronounced at private club’s shops than it is at daily fee facilities but most daily fee courses built in the last decade market themselves as providing a “country club for a day” experience. The point is we are not talking about providing superior service to the general public so much as we are creating relationships with avid golfers who are regular visitors to our golf course and shop and who are often as not the more affluent people in the community. This factor is only limiting if misunderstood; it is actually an incredible leg up.

It is easier to acknowledge someone and strike up a conversation if you know their name, their occupation, the rest of their foursome and their handicap. It becomes even easier if you know their likes and dislikes, the clubs they play and the beer they drink. You can personalize this visit by knowing their birthday, their wife’s name and everyone feels special if you ask about their kids. Jack Mitchell who wrote “Hug Your Customer” talks about being able to name his top 250 customers and in many cases mention their dog by name when they enter his domain. Capturing, retaining and then learning to use this information to enhance your customer’s experience should not be considered above and beyond but rather standard operating procedure for your staff and a fundamental of the culture you are striving to create.

Consider the following experience:

“Mr. Smith, good to see you again. We have some lockers set up for your guests and the Titleist ball that you play are on sale. By the way, how is your boy Kevin doing at the University of Michigan? Is he still on the golf team? We just put out some of those Adidas shorts he likes so much. When your friends show up I’ll check them in and send them up to the range. I am really looking forward to meeting them.”

Now consider an alternative typical occurrence:

Mr. Smith walks in to the shop and has a tee time in ½ an hour with three friends who have never played this course which is Mr. Smith’s regular stomping ground. The assistant pro behind the counter asks Mr. Smith his name and tee-time even though he has played there twice a month for the last five years. “Is the rest of your group here yet? Please see to it they check in and that will be $100 each for the tee time. Report to the starter, show him your receipt and he’ll get you on the tee.”

These incidents could as easily take place at private as well as semi-private or daily-fee pro shops. Mr. Smith A is impressed, bought his son a pair of shorts, himself a dozen balls and is going to make sure to introduce his friends to the staff. He will probably tell anyone who will listen about the way they take care of you at his course of choice. Mr. Smith B is not impressed, as a matter of fact that evening he runs into Mr. Smith A and decides over drinks to change up his regular haunt.

Capturing and retaining information to be used as in the Mr. Smith sample above can be as simple as asking for a business card or jotting some notes and adding to a file but retaining customer information is much easier than it used to be when good retailers kept card files or hand written rolodex. Thirty seconds in the right computer screen and Mr. Smith is becoming a relationship instead of a greens fee.

Both Mr. Smiths made their tee times for themselves and their friends a week ahead of time. Your staff is looking forward to their arrival and impressing them and their guests with proactive service or they are missing an incredible opportunity. It should be standard operating procedure to prepare for arrivals with as much of a personal touch as is possible. If the understanding of the staff/customer interaction at your facility is that they take the money for the tee time and go back to whatever it is they were doing when they were interrupted ala Mr. Smith B then you (the Leader) are a poor captain of a rudderless ship.

The leader and staff that serviced Mr. Smith A realize that in order to continue to effectively Wow customers we need to capture, retain and learn to use pertinent information about pertinent regulars.

Possible specific actions:

  • Challenge each shop associate to create a customer profile of all the existing members/regulars that they have developed a relationship with. This can be done individually but more effective is electronically with Excel or specific software that the entire staff can access.

  • Discuss at all staff meetings creative ways to use these profiles.

  • Challenge each key staff member to develop at least one new relationship and profile per day. At clubs this may seem like a finite number that would be quickly exhausted but it isn’t when you consider guests of members.

The best prospect for a new member and loyal customer is an impressed guest.