Sunday, May 27, 2012

The A, B, C's of Service

No one argues with stressing the importance of "exemplary customer service", in fact everyone I speak with in the industry believes they have it at their facility. This aspect of the business has been described at this site as cultural, Salesmanship, mandatory to success and the great differentiator. It has been discussed with PGA professionals such as Phil Owenby, John Marino, Gene Mattare and Scott Nye. It is the subject of "The Winning Golf Culture" which I consider to be the best thing I have written about our industry and so it is pretty obvious that it is something I feel strongly about. It is however like so many other factors involved in the business of managing golf facilities not cookie-cutter.

Below are descriptions and evaluations of four different clubs, all providing a terrific product but clearly not in the same manner.

Club A has a low handicap, die-hard membership that enjoy the challenge and comraderie commiserate with their high-slope course. They like and respect the head pro and his staff but there is not necessarily much contact as the member can park and walk to the first tee. Tee times not being required is part of the exclusivity and attraction to this avid and affluent member. The staff is always available, friendly and professional but seem to be needed only on special occassions. The shop is well-merchandised and the logo is recognized and desirable, but visiting the shop often is not part of the day's round.

Club B also has a quality staff and shop as well as a well maintained golf course. There are a lot of national members and cottage accomodations. Tee times are quite often booked well in advance for business golf and members are proud of the attention paid to their guests. Staff interaction focuses on this aspect of the experience and it starts with inquiring early on as to special needs, guest names and affiliations. The head pro and key staff see to it that all guests are welcomed and thanked for spending the day. Great service is often described as anticipating needs. The head pro at this club will tell you this is not magic. The shop does considerably more than the national average in dollars per round.

Club C is more family oriented, has a competitive ladies group and a huge junior program. The head pro not only adheres to the 10 foot rule of acknowledgement but mandates that his staff is capable of doing this on a first name basis. Invitational guests names and club memberships are memorized and at the end of any event all guests have been introduced to the entire staff at some point. Birthday cards are sent daily by the staff as well as appropriate congratulations for graduations, etc. Tee times can be made on-line but most members prefer to call as they enjoy the banter with the staff.

Club D has a small local membership but the vast majority of its 30,000 rounds are destination clientel.
Outside staff greet the arriving players at the bag drop and courteously ask names and tee times. The focus of the greeting has recently been changed by new management to more of a welcoming and less of a listing of the rules. Once the group and carts are organized a member of the staff introduces himself by name and accompanies the group to the shop where they are introduced to an inside staff member by name who helps them settle up the day's rate and inquire as to the day's needs. The starter at the first tee shakes everyone's hand. Carts are equipped with range finders, the rules and suggestions per hole as well as the ability to take lunch orders. They display shop promos and offer a discount after the round for anyone opting in to recieve email notifications about booking and ecommerce specials; you can also email yourself your score. The bartender at the 19th hole is informed as groups finish their round and the names of the guests that will be entering his domain.

All of these facilities provide their brand of service and culture in an incredibly informal and friendly manner such that any golfer whether he or she be a frequenter of an A,B,C or D type of facility will speak highly  and often of their experience with any of the above descibed staffs. While the term "exemplary customer service" is nebulous and diverse there is no mistaking good from bad and I still believe it to be the great differentiator, instituted and nurtured by a true leader and followed through with by a quality staff that is always only as good as its weakest link.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What’s Not in Stock

 Tan Parsons, the news editor for, recently wrote an article “What’s in Stock” where he posts this picture and makes the following point.

It seems like an obvious part of retailing – making sure you don’t run out of the things you sell so that your customers are happy and can get what they want when they visit your shop. But a news item on Marks and Spencer this week illustrated that even the big boys can get it wrong. Marc Bolland, the chief executive said some best-selling lines like blouses and tops, especially knitwear, sold out far quicker than expected, leaving the retailer “short of stock in best-selling lines”. What’s your approach to getting your availability right in your store? And have you ever been caught short by a freakish demand for a particular product?

I recently spent a day at a shop that I have been working with for a couple of years that increased its retail revenue about 50% last year and is on pace to repeat that feat this year. The shop has about 800 square foot of selling space and is not going to get any bigger. The two categories that are accounting for the majority of growth are men’s shirts and head-wear. It is easy to increase the exposure of head-wear, but not so easy to do the same with men's shirts.

 In the case of our hypothetical shop we needed to do both and we accomplished this with 2-ways which increased our capacity to hang shirts by approximately the 100 units we needed and the extra turn we needed will be summer fill-in of off-price which will drive the margin as well as the volume.

One of the things I find myself saying often to shop managers and head pros that I work with is that “we don’t need to increase the capacity; we need to increase the turn”.  Obviously the point here is the exposure is fine – it needs to be filled more often; you can’t sell from empty shelves and great display of the right capacity of goods is the formula for success.

Basics (solid shirts, rain-wear, peds, etc.) need to have par-levels that keep you in stock. The best way to establish these levels is to understand the fill-in time and add a week’s worth of sales to that. If for example you average sales on basic white logoed knits of 12 units per week and the vendor you buy them from says it will never take longer than two weeks to fulfill your re-order  - your par level should be 24 units. If the basics are filled-in religiously once a week and the turn of fashion is planned well for so that the shop always looks like you want to do business you will have gone a long way to answering Tan Parsons’s question  -  What’s your approach to getting your availability right in your store?