Saturday, September 26, 2015

Primer and Pertinents

Successful apparel buying for any retail space, including the typical golf pro shop, is about 80% science and 20% art. Everyone is an “artist” but very few “buyers” in golf fully understand the science.

Lost Key Golf Club

The philosophy that makes the most sense for golf pro shop retailing and the areas that I work to improve both with the blog and hands-on as a retail consultant can be summed up in a few key phrases. A well planned shop, in order to be successful, needs to be attractively merchandised across all appropriate categories of goods that make it full service without being over-inventoried and it needs to provide service that is “above and beyond”.

Ask yourself a few pertinent questions:

Does your buy plan accomplish your sales goals?

Do you have the proper mix of apparel to make margin?

Is your retail space properly fixtured for maximum volume?

Would you be better off having a retail professional do this for you as well as train your sales staff to sell the goods?

Do you often find yourself over-inventoried and priced at a ‘no-margin’ level?

Los Altos Golf and Country Club

Whether you are attempting to manage your pro shop yourself or with the help of a professional retail consultant or buyer, the best way to institute a plan to address the scientific area of the formula is the ‘buy to space’ approach. Understanding the clientele and their wants and needs and tailoring this unique mix to the existing fixtures, traffic patterns and peak selling periods is part of the challenge. Having orders arrive that are expressly designed to fit a specific space, that are planned out according to the right turn ratio and that allow for a variety throughout the year of vendor, color and seasonally appropriate goods is also fundamental.

Desert Mountain

Another part of the equation involves establishing partnerships with key vendors both in hard goods and apparel. Titleist, Foot-joy, Zero Restriction, Fairway and Greene, Greg Norman, E.P. Pro, Imperial, Peter Millar, Pima-Direct and AHead are vendors that have partnered well for me and are willing to help key accounts with staff apparel, shop fixtures, visual display and product-knowledge seminars. Regional Golf Shows are the venue to be on the lookout for new and ‘next best’, but key vendors should be having their representatives visit the club often and with a purpose.

Staff appearance is critical for many reasons, not the least of which is that they are the first impression the Club gets to make. A staff that does not come to work well-groomed and properly attired will never be perceived as truly professional.

Prairie Falls Golf Club

 Perhaps the most important part of the job of a Head Professional and the staff they train is to provide a ‘cutting edge service’, attitude and atmosphere. This can only be accomplished when the bar is set high, expectations understood and the proper education provided. A knowledgeable staff of walking mannequins that enjoys conveying that knowledge to members and guests is imperative to having a profitable shop that members/regulars are proud to patronize. A pro-shop that provides this type of service is open until the last member leaves for the day, it is also usually one with turnover due to promotion.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Follow Up

A merchant who approaches business with the idea of serving the public well has nothing to fear from the competition.
- James Cash Penney

Independence Golf Club 

Pre-service skills as well as shop salesmanship savvy are both important opportunities to “wow” the customer and enhance the service reputation of the facility and staff but perhaps the sale follow-up is the most compelling. "Follow-Up" is perhaps my favorite service topic and probably the easiest to institute.

Once you have bought into pre-service, post-service becomes an automatic. The phone and email skills are the same. The industry wide problem is many facilities do neither. However, if you are reading this and realize that every day is an opportunity to enhance the experience your facility provides, you will find it easy to compete and your customer will tell the story for you.

Ballyhack Golf Course

Near the end of last October, I received a phone call from the General Manager at Martin Honda Dealership in Newark, Delaware which is where I purchased my last car. It is, by the way, a very busy dealership with an incredible service department. Here was the message.

“Mr. Kirchner, this is Ron Applegate from Martin Honda. I’m calling to ask you to do me a favor.”

“Sure Ron, what can I do for you?”
“Please tell your wife that everyone here at Martin wishes her a happy birthday and thanks to both of you for your business. Also, I notice you are on our maintenance schedule and I want to make sure you are happy with our service department.”

“Yes, they are great in fact.”

“Thanks again and anytime you need anything or just want to talk about cars call me – my personal number is 555-5555 and I’d love to hear from you. Thanks again.”

I hung up the phone thinking three things:

1. Why would I ever want to buy a car anywhere else?
2. Do the shops I work with make this type of call?
3. I’d better get my wife something for her birthday.

Bearpath Golf and CC

 At a golf shop consider the following two scenarios.

1. A club member at an east-coast high-end club has a guest in from Chicago. He buys a Peter Millar shirt in the shop. The assistant at the counter introduces himself as Jeff, thanks him and asks him for a business card. A week later the young man sends our Chicagoan an email.

We hoped you enjoyed your day with us last week and are happy with the Peter Millar shirt you purchased. If I can ever do anything for you including gift wrap and ship some similar logoed shirts to your friends please let me know. My number here at the shop is 555-5555.

All the best,

XYZ club.

Mr. Chicago immediately forwards the email to the member who invited him to the club with a note praising Jeff, “The golf staff at your club is the best in the country, no question.” He then tells the story every time the subject of service at golf clubs comes up.

2. A customer buys a new driver, a rain jacket, two new shirts and a hat, spends $1000. It is two weeks later and no one has even thought about calling him to see if he’s hitting the ball further. There is no Jeff at this Shop.

I don’t know if I have ever heard anyone in any shop make this type of personalized thank you and “anything I can do for you” call or email but it should be standard operating procedure and is almost guaranteed to create business. When the customer with the new driver is called with an inquiry as to his satisfaction and the comment is made to close the call “if there is anything I can ever do for you” the new-driver-guy is already thinking about what that could be.

Golf Shop at TPC Sawgrass

 In summary pre-service, retail salesmanship and follow-up ultimately increase sales by providing better service and taking advantage of the intimacy that we have with  our repeating customer base due to the mutual love of the game.

Some specific actions to take to accomplish this:

- Contact any scheduled group play to offer all available services.
- Prepare for arriving customers by making it Standard Operating Procedure for your staff to familiarize themselves with profiles when they exist.
- Challenge your staff to learn three things that aren’t apparent about every item in your shop.
- Role play approaching customers in the shop.
- Challenge your staff to pick one customer a day who they will totally wow to the point where they have to tell the story.
- Thank the customer before they leave the shop and when possible walk them to the door.
- Challenge each staff member to make three follow-up thank you calls per day.

The golf industry and your facility in particular should take heed. The successful, as we have been discussing, are those who are trying harder, much like the more I practice the luckier I get.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Pre-service as a Strategy

Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota

Today, with increased competition, customers are much more discerning than they have ever been and only the retailers who understand this have been able to grow their business. Clubs as well as public courses that don’t provide commendable service, professional salesmanship and an incredibly friendly environment will not be attracting members who want to entertain guests or repeat customers who recommend the facility. Whether the customer has just paid a membership fee or waited in line all night for a tee-time at Beth Page, the days of tolerating dirty shops or rude clerks is history. Customers expect to be acknowledged and engaged in conversation by a friendly, smiling, upbeat staff that has been educated to point out value, features and benefits. They look to be professionally attended to, for product to be attractively displayed and they look to be sold.

The days of the self-service shop with the “hang it up and they will buy it” mentality has deteriorated to “hang it and hope” and the hope isn’t being fulfilled. The consumer, no matter what his station in life, knows how much harder he is working and how much more knowledgeable he has to be to make ends meet and expects similar effort before deciding to get out his wallet.

With this as mantra let’s take a look at some examples of “pre-servicing” in this posting and at one of our hypothetical staff meetings.

The introduction by this meeting’s team leader could be something like the following:

“Anytime we know ahead of time someone is going to play our golf course, whether they are driving around the corner, staying at the hotel, booked into a cottage, or part of a group or an outing they are a potential shop customer. Any potential customer can be pre-serviced, not pre-sold, we want to talk about offering services that can enhance their experience at our facility. Our staff needs to understand the effort as an important part of the Wow culture. What can we suggest to our “soon to arrive” customers?

The following contact possibilities are discussed:

“Colonel Mustard, this is Katie at the club. You have a group of seven and yourself booked into the cottage in a few weeks. Could we get your guests a shirt and a hat and have them on their bed when they arrive? We have your company logo and could put it on the sleeve of a club logoed shirt. I’d be more than happy to take care of this for you.”

Pestana Golf

 “Professor Plum, this is the shop at XYZ. You’ve booked an outing with us for the weekend of the Fourth of July. Can we help you with a favor for each of your players, perhaps one of the new performance shirts would be hit with your group? We typically can get you a better deal than you would get from other suppliers and we can see to it that they’re individually wrapped and handed out with a smile.”

“Mrs. White, good day. We just received a new delivery of Tail at the shop. Would you like me to put some outfits together in your size and hold them until you come in Friday?”

“Miss Scarlet, this is Cary at the club. I noticed you are on the tee sheet to play your first round this season. I checked your bag in storage and our records and your clubs have not been re -gripped in over a year. Would you like me to go ahead and take care of that for you?”

“Mrs. Grey, we want you to know how much we appreciate you bringing your ladies group to our course for this year’s outing and that we will be putting a sleeve of a new ball designed for ladies play in each cart for them to try. We were wondering if there is anything else we can do to make them feel welcome.”

The Greenbrier

 “Mr. Green, this is Jason at the club. We received the new Tech hats from Imperial your foursome was inquiring about last week. Would you like me to get them personalized for your friends and you can surprise them this weekend?”

“Mr. Blue, this is Jeff at the club. I noticed you are scheduled to play this Friday and noticed that it’s your anniversary. Would you like me to get you a bottle of that wine from the dining room your wife likes so much? I can have it here at the shop when you finish up your round.”

“Mr. Black, this is John at XYZ. I thought I would email you when I noticed that you are bringing some guests with you to Sunday’s tee time who have never played here before. We know you drink Bud-Lite but what about your friends?” If one of these guests drink Sam Adams Summer Lager and it’s waiting for him in a cooler on the cart on Sunday you will have wowed the group.”

Think about all the things in your life that are scheduled or regular in nature and now picture yourself being offered a ride to and from work when you drop your car off for service or you arrive early for an appointment to get your hair cut and they offer to get you a cup of coffee knowing you take cream and two sugars.

Belfair Plantation

There are a number of head pros with whom I have worked over the years who view any type of selling as hard-sell that could get someone upset with them. Customers who would be put off by the examples of service provided above must have been living under a rock the past year since the current economic climate has resulted in most businesses realizing that retaining existing customers is at least as important as advertising for new.
What is required is a sense of empowerment on the part of the creative employee and a commitment on the part of the Leader to training on the use of the phone as a business tool and email as a way to pre-service.