Friday, March 17, 2017

Develop True Customer Loyalty - 1 - Language and Tone

Customers who have a personal loyalty to your business should be every golf facility's primary goal. Patrons with this connection with your brand provide word of mouth marketing and piece of mind that pricing wars among the competition will not be your concern. Maintaining an ardent customer base relieves that anxiety while it creates both repeat and new business.

"The Winning Golf Culture" examines the importance of developing a customer-centric service culture and explores per chapter areas such as:
  • The role of the Leader.
  • The importance of the Wow factor.
  • The Intimacy that exists in pro shop retail that differentiates it from typical retail because of mutual respect for the game.
  • The emphasis that should be placed on professional Salesmanship.
  • Hiring to this Culture to create a memorable team.

Fountain Head Country Club

In an effort to further develope this all-important theme there are five areas to look at that will help refine this culture.


  • The Empathy that your staff projects to the customer's desired experience.
  • The First Impression that the customer has of your facility - both visual and emotional.
  • The Anticipation and fulfillment of customer's needs.
  • This entry will look at the Language and Tone of your brand.
  • Hiring to the Culture will be revisited.


The words, the language, the brand vocabulary and the tone that your staff employs is the underlying characteristic of their commitment to the culture that is probaly the most memorable albeit somewhat subliminal.

This is a concept often mentioned and referred to as the Chick-Fil-A (CFA) way. The "My Pleasure" story (as opposed to "You're Welcome") is attributed to the company's founder, S. Truett Cathy, who was inspired by the Ritz Carlton to treat his customers as though they were at a luxury establishment. The tone created by this attitude is mentioned almost whenever the CFA brand comes up in conversation which, because of their service reputation, is often. If I had to name it for marketing purposes I would call it a "smiling tone." A staff field trip to the local CFA would not be a bad idea even if you don't eat.


The entire area of vocabulary and tone should be discussed as part of the culture and perhaps role-played at staff service meetings. The desire should be to not be scripted but to instill staff with an altruistically personal and conversational tone.


Columnist Michael Hess at CBS news Money Watch focuses on wordplay in his article "The Six Best Words in Customer Service":

  • Delighted
  • Absolutely
  • Pleasure
  • Happy
  • Sorry
  • Yes
Hess points out that these words are active, genuine and upbeat. They won't be misconstued as the robotic delivery of a company script.



Flavo Martins in an article on winthecustomer.com writing about "The Language of Customer Service" lists the following:

  • Positive customer service language focuses on actions that can be done.
  • Positive customer service language offers choices instead of roadblocks.
  • Positive customer service language is helpful and encouraging.
  • Positive customer service language includes positive consequences that can be expected.
  • Positive customer service language is timely and time bound so customers know when to expect service results.


Your brand should have a language that sets a level of empowerment to the staff member and confidence in the customer.

  • Welcome to our facility.
  • How can I help?
  • I can help you with that.
  • Let's get you set up with a locker.
  • Let's get you set up for the range.
  • I don't know, but I'll find out
  • I'll take responsibility for that.
  • We appreciate your business.
Create the tone through attitude and training that you want patrons to remember and then own it; keep raising the bar!






Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Outfit Table


In traveling around the country the last few years doing Sell-Through boot-camps, sectional presentations and educational seminars, one topic that always comes up and demands retail discussion and scrutiny is the ladies business. Are we devoting too much time, effort and inventory? Does everyone have the same low bar of “break-even and be happy”. The tone of these discussions is almost always negative.



I’ve also found in traveling to various clubs that quite often the amount of apparel inventory overage is usually disproportionately ladies to men’s no matter what the overall percentage of business per these two categories. Typically, both as a concept in conversation and in the reality of scrutinizing the inner workings and merchandising of many shops the questions manifest themselves around collection buying. It starts with “do we have room to devote to this kind of presentation” and almost always ends with “do women buy this way any-more?” Collection buying defined for this conversation as buying all the items in the collection or a goodly portion (12-15 skus).

 It occurred to me while I was working at a high volume club with a relatively small shop that ladies collections were not appropriate to the space available when sure enough the next customer (a very patronizing male member) came in to complain that he always had trouble finding his wife an outfit in the shop. So much for that line of thinking or MAYBE not. Outfit became the key word.

This particular shop was doing one-third of their apparel volume in ladies categories but had an over-inventoried situation that was 50% ladies goods. In an effort to minimize the amount of space and skus devoted to the collection mode of buying and merchandising while at the same time perhaps improving our critical member’s ability to buy for his wife we came up with the concept of the OUTFIT TABLE.




 This is a great way to showcase ancillary items (totes, pillows, jewelry, etc.) that complement the outfits and easy for the shopper who may be looking for the perfect gift. Rather than wandering around the store, he or she will find a table with a finish look from head to toe. This gives the consumer a few options with different colors and allows the buyer and staff to showcase their facility’s style.

Grace Schory – Golf Shop Buyer – Ponte Vedra Inn and Club


An Outfit Table displays multiple ladies’ bust forms -dressed with 4-5 piece outfits, surrounded by a size run inventory for each sku as well as shoes, headwear and accessories that coordinate well with the outfits and create a lifestyle presentation.  Outfits do not necessarily have to be from the same vendor but should look great together on the busts and be diverse in color. As the table sells through outfits should be replace by new outfits (perhaps a new vendor) and certainly a new color palette. 

In this case, the table chosen was already housing 12-15 skus. We placed the table in a location where the three full-size ladies’ bust forms on the table would not block any view across the shop. It is anticipated that there would be no back-up buy per outfit. Although the dilemma of “we’ll be out of it if you wait will certainly be true of some outfits from some vendors, it will certainly not be true of ALL outfits. The point is fill-in purchases for new outfits could be pre-booked, filled as needed either or a combination of both - this could be viewed as a 'count and fill' area - bought for as needed.




The Rule of Three

In creating displays, most visual merchandisers will often refer to the rule of three, which means that when creating a display, try to work in sets of three. This means that based on how you’re arranging your products, you’ll want to have three of them side by side, instead of just one. For example, if you were arranging things by height, you’d have items that were short, medium, and tall. 
The reason behind this thinking is that our eyes are most likely to keep moving and looking around when we’re looking at something asymmetrical, because when we see some symmetrical or balanced they stop dead in their track.

This also alludes to the "Pyramid Principle," where if you have one item at the top, and all other items “one step down”, it forces the eye to look at the focal point and then work it’s way down.          Humayan Khan.....shopify.com

The hope is to inspire more multiple piece purchases with this approach by showing more combos and colors in less space and create an area of interest that will encourage regulars to check out immediately what new outfit is being displayed in the shop. This could replace collection buying in the shop, but not necessarily, depending on the size and history at the facility. The main goal is to free up valueable space and to have less residual inventory at the end of a sell -through.











Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Wow Factor

Of all the concepts and buzz-words developed in my manual “The Winning Golf Culture” the one that has gotten the most feedback is “The Wow Factor”. I have had dozens of pros tell me that their staffs are buying into the idea that every day, every round and every customer are opportunities to create exceptional experiences and memorable moments that will have people talking about their facility and staff.



There is no question that the best prospect for a new member is a wowed guest and that customer loyalty is the by-product of proactive customer service. This is the chapter in the manual that directly speaks to this aspect of a winning culture but it is also one of the key underlying principles that runs through the entire manual.


The Wow Factor


There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.
-Roger Staubach

Simply defined, the Wow factor is the process of creating positive impressions consistently above the normal customer expectations. Wow service leaves the customer with such a favorable impression of the experience that they grab the first person they see and look them in the eyes and shout – “You need to play there, it is really special.”

I was in the Philadelphia airport recently and I was wearing a belt with a repeating Kinloch Golf Club logo. A man I had never seen before approached me, half-gestured at the belt and asked me if I was a member. I had to reacquaint myself a bit with my outfit and replied that I was not but had the pleasure of working with the staff particularly in regards to the shop. The fellow introduced himself and began his “Then you will appreciate what I am about to tell you” story.

"I was in Richmond recently on business I played there with a member and can’t wait to go back."

"It’s a great course isn’t it", I said.

"Yes, it is – but the whole experience was incredible. I drove to the course and when we first went in the shop the head pro introduced himself, shook our hands and asked me if I wanted my car detailed while we played. The staff at the front door had already valeted the car and had the keys, all I had to do was say yes and I did. When we finished for the day my car was waiting at the front door, bags loaded, staff thanking us for being there. It was a hot July day and two things that struck me when we got in the car was that the car hadn’t been this clean since I bought it and there were cold bottles of water in the console with a ‘Thank you for spending your day with us’ note. I drove the car about 50 feet in the driveway, re-parked and went into to the Pro Shop to thank someone for the thoughtfulness. I ended up buying $500 worth of shirts and shorts and the friends that I had played with did the same. The shop was great also by the way."

The point of this story is that you never know what will be the Wow Factor that will have people talking about your facility in airports, with people they don’t know. The devil is most definitely in the details and it is more often than not the small thing that ends up counting the most. You want the underlying philosophy of your culture to be that any visit that does not provide such a story and the desire to tell it to someone is a missed opportunity.

The Wow factor and the subsequent word of mouth are worth more than can be measured and other than well trained staff often doesn’t cost anything. In the case of the Philadelphia gentleman – it cost a bottle of water.

There are many aspects of impressing people that are unique to Golf and Pro Shop retail.
There is the layout, maintenance and design of the golf course. I’ve heard people come home from a weekend at the Greenbrier and talk for day’s about the ‘best ham sandwich I ever ate” or the “best tomato soup on the planet.” Of course one of the most obvious pluses or Wows as regards Pro shop sales is the notoriety of the facility’s logo and the inherent history that it represents. It would be nice if every facility had a reputation for any or all of the above or had a U.S. Open logo to retail but the ultimate success of any facility including Pinehurst or Pebble Beach in today’s competitive market place has to do with the hard work and planning it takes to create a culture geared to providing Wow experiences. No one talks about how wonderful it was to pay for all the goods and gifts they bought at Merion or Hagan Oaks when they were there as a guest but they may tell you how willing and informed the staff was that helped them.


In summary, we have a Leader who is not satisfied with basics and is committed to the Wow Factor philosophy of exceptional service throughout the customer’s experience at his facility. Executing this process successfully involves the following actions:

• Set the bar high during the hiring process.

• Continue to define the Wow factor both by example and in one-on-ones with staff members.

• Provide a forum for everyone involved in the process to introduce ideas for discussion of ways to enhance the customer’s experience.

• Discuss negative as well as positive incidents at these meetings, realizing that any and all customer problems are an opportunity to make a friend.

• Identify barriers that may exist and could potentially interfere with your customer service commitment.

• Challenge your staff to attempt to personalize every customer interaction with their own particular style.

• Communicate that it is not only key staff that understands this commitment.

• Involve local reps or vendor sales managers in educational staff meetings –having them provide product knowledge and their input and stories on salesmanship and service. They will become some of your best word of mouth.


Other specific actions:

Challenge yourself and your key associates to pick a member/regular per day who you will totally Wow with a personalized service.

Make a point of directing the Wow techniques that you and your staff have developed toward those members/customers who do not typically patronize the shop.

Communicate to all employees regularly that the Wow Factor will make their future and careers more meaningful both professionally and personally.

Set as a goal of the instituting of the Wow factor to turn the 80/20 rule into a 60/40 realization. To the extent that you are successful your retail should grow accordingly.




The Table of Contents of the 40 page manual shows best the other topics addressed:

Table of Contents

The Culture
The Leader
The WOW Factor
The Intimacy Factor
Salesmanship is Service
Pre-service
Shop Salesmanship
Follow Up
Hire to the Culture
The Result


The opportunity for the golf industry and more specifically golf retail to separate itself from the box store mentality of no-service has never been more poignant. Fine men’s clothing stores are fast going the way of full-service gas stations but a goodly number of their customers are members of the local club. Many of the shops at these clubs are a revamped product selection and tweaked salesmanship level away from being able to replace this part of their member’s lives and this is the reason I wrote “The Winning Golf Culture”.



The best way to introduce someone to my services is to let me spend a typical day. Since I work per-diem, this is an easy proposal. I can develop a buy plan in the morning, merchandise in the afternoon and have a staff service seminar early evening after the shop closes. Anyone interested in getting to know me and what I do can call me at 443-309-3005 or contact me at craigrkirchner@gmail.com and we can discuss details.