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.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Develop True Customer Loyalty - 5 - Hiring to the Culture

TPC Sawgrass

In the first installment of this update to "The Winning Golf Culture" we started with the preface that customers who have a personal loyalty to your business should be every golf facility's primary goal. Patrons and/or members with this type of connection with your brand provide word of mouth marketing and both repeat and new business. 

In an effort to further develope this all-important theme we looked at the following five areas that could help refine our culture and reaffired that putting the right staff together that is capable of this refinement would be the last topic discussed, but perhaps the most important: 
  • 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 this Culture to create a memorable team

I'm going to repost the chapter from "The Winning Golf Culture" that deals with the hiring of an exemplary team and then add some new considerations in italics.

Fountain Head Country Club


Hiring to the Culture

Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.

 -     Kate Zabriskie

To quote Jack Mitchell again, author of “Hug Your Customer” and one of the owners of a 65 million dollar retail clothing business in a Connecticut town of 28,000 people, hiring to the culture is “the big secret.” Hire well; surround yourself with good people who take ownership and everything else becomes incredibly easier. The attributes they look for at Mitchells and Richards in prospective employees are the following:

1.      Competence
2.      Confidence
3.      Positive attitude
4.      Passion to be the best
5.      Integrity

Another company known for its service and hiring practices is Enterprise Car Rental. There are some similarities between Enterprise offices and golf facilities in that Enterprise keeps their management pipeline, as well as their counters, manned by hiring college interns who are then, when deemed qualified, offered positions with the company as seniors. Many of these offers are accepted because the Enterprise entry on a resume says all the right things about customer care. They ask open –ended questions at the interview that require applicants to directly relate examples of how they have helped people in the past. They look for the following skills[i]:

 1.      A passion for taking care of customers.
     2.      A willingness to be flexible. 
     3.     A work ethic based on dedication to the company 
             and it's mission.                
    4.      An eagerness to learn and work their way up.
    5.      Self- motivation and goal orientation.
    6.      Persuasive sales skills.
    7.      Excellent communication skills.
    8.      Leadership ability.

The attributes I feel are most important to gauge during the hiring, interviewing process are the following:

-          ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE – Is it crystal clear that this candidate is bursting at the seams to get this job? Body language is sometimes as revealing as their answer in that everyone is trying to land the job or they wouldn’t be there. If they are not super enthusiastic now they may be totally disinterested six months from now. Do they look the part and seem like someone your customers will enjoy getting to know? Most importantly, does their personality seem as though it will mesh with and not perch itself above or fall below the culture. If the prospective employee does not get along with the rest of the team they will produce contention that will eventually become a priority that you as a Leader do not need. The candidate will only improve your team by becoming an accepted part of it.

-          ABILITY TO THINK ON YOUR FEET – This is easy to determine if you include one or two open-ended questions in the interview that can only be answered with a story that couldn’t be rehearsed. When I first interviewed to be a golf rep 100 years ago I was asked “What have you done in your life that you are most proud of.” That was it, one question. I guess they liked my answer. I still use that question and at times other than interviews. Another one I like is to ask the candidate to sell me the pad I’m using to take notes. 

-          EMPATHY – Empathy is an important team value but more importantly if you believe in the maxim that “people do business with people they like” then the genuinely empathetic candidate is the only one to consider. Empathetic people are curious and good listeners. They look you in the eye when speaking to you. They are creative because it is part of their nature to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and direct the conversation accordingly instead of reciting the script. Those candidates who don’t convey this quality are usually doomed to shallow relationships and are complainers and blamers rather than problem solvers. During the interview ask them to describe the most empathetic thing they have done lately either at the last job or with family or friends. If they don’t know the definition of empathy help them with a synonym they understand but if, at that point, they are still stuck for an answer – move on.

Any golf facility can hire a great staff with some hard work, patience and a little luck doesn’t hurt. Set the bar high from the first meeting not only about the service culture but what will be expected from them as they fit themselves into the team. Educate often, evaluate those sessions and empower when the time is right.

Reward employees for good service and for salesmanship. Cash incentives and spiffs work well but are not the only way to say “job well done”. Awards, time-off and recognition in a 
newsletter or at staff meetings are powerful culture builders. Treat your salesman of the month to dinner and a movie for them and a significant other.

In order for a culture dedicated to customer service excellence to thrive and survive the Leader must have a burning desire that spreads to all staff members on a daily basis.

Everyone from day one needs to understand that they work for the customer. You cannot have a great golf facility without having a great staff.

The cliche is that -  the chain is only as good as its weakest link. It only takes one inappropriate exchange or action to ruin an experience and defeat all other purposes. Other than the brand and the missed opportunity, the team aspect is what is most affected by the bad apple and that is why a 90 day probationary period that allows without any penalty an assessment of the cohesion with the existing staff is actually best for both parties.

In 2009 I interviewed Phil Owenby who had built the Kinloch experience into an industry adage for service, this is what he replied when asked about his success at building a great culture:

"The Kinloch Experience is all about our team, their attitude and their passion. Every member of our staff has a passion for excellence, enjoys being associated with the golf hospitality business and wants to be a part of the experience. It is about creating relationships with members and guests that creates an atmosphere of camaraderie and friendship. I go back to the four points of service including attitude, anticipation, presentation and teamwork that we continually impress on each other daily. It is truly contagious if you impart a positive, genuine attitude with anticipation of needs and desires while showing a neat, clean and inviting presentation surrounded with great teamwork. I do agree that any facility can benefit individually and collectively from this strategy of enhancing the experience. The Kinloch Experience is our brand that we continually develop and improve through the ideas and performance of our staff members. Our facilities, systems and service all improve through a constant desire to get better at our business model."

In Summary, hiring good people is the most important part of creating a winning culture.

Specific actions to improve the hiring process:

ü  Realize that resumes and references alone do not make all-stars and an all-star team is our goal.

ü  Structure the interview process to include the following:

1.      More than one interview. We are not in a hurry. Think of it more as due diligence.

2.      Have sessions with key staff present as well as yourself.

3.      Ask open-ended questions that allow you to determine the customer friendliness and team spirit of the candidate.

4.      Lay the groundwork of an understanding of what will be expected in terms of service and sales effort.

TPC Sawgrass

[i] Kazanjian, K.,  Exceeding Customer Expectations, New York, NY: Doubleday, 2007.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Out of the Rough - Grow the Game

In the rough: The industry's slim revenue is the result of weakened golf participation.

More than 800 golf courses have closed nationwide in the last decade, as operators grapple with declining interest in the sport and a glut of competition.

Golf facilities provide economic, social, environmental and recreational support to communities - and are both publicly accessible and affordable. The game is innovating in ways we could not foresee, by more effectively managing natural resources, and building programs that are welcoming to juniors, minorities, women and disabled persons.
                    Mike Davis, Executive Director of USGA

The best perceived endeavors are typically the most altruistic. The most important dilemma facing the golf industry is the atrophy of the participation in the game, the clubs that cannot sustain and the condos being built on closed courses. Any effort to remove the elite veneer of the game and hopefully create interest among a larger segment of the population without destroying any of its prodigious equity would have to be considered important.

I have always believed that clubs that reach out to the community as opposed to being determined to “isolate from” could only improve the perception of the club and better the community. Obviously any effort to, or conversation to reach out and make the game more accessible has to start with creating passion among the young and the mothers and wives of the hardcore millions. The PGA, LPGA, USGA and First Tee all have admirable programs to push this endeavor. All clubs have junior programs that are well run and inspiring. Perhaps a charismatic “play it forward” technique could be easy and effective if embraced by the approximately 15,500 courses owners and operators and the 25 million plus avid golfers dedicated to improving the state of the industry.

As Golf Digest points out in "Is this golf's $35 billion opportunity?"

Conversations about growing the game are more common in golf circles than ever. As newly elected PGA of America president Paul levy put it recently, golf's ruling bodies have never been more unified around a single cause. To perpetuate this discussion, a study reported by the Irish Golf Desk this week raises interesting questions about how increasing female participation in golf could potentially energize the game. The report , titled "The Global Economic Value of Increased Female participation in Golf" and commissioned by Syngenta, a Swiss biotechnology company that deals primarily in agriculture business, concludes golf's global economy could be boosted by $35 billion if it converted more interested women into the game. So that further punctuates how vital it could be to bring the game to more interested women in the years. The next step, of course, is developing new ideas to energize growth amongst women. Executives in golf will welcome your ideas.

                                                           Golf Digest

I have known Kelsey MacLean since shortly after she identified a niche in golf retail for infants and kids apparel that is quality fabrication and can be customized. She is not a player but realizes the cultural as well as the business importance of the game. This is how The Huffington Post describes Kelsey and Fore Kids Golf:

Kelsey is an outspoken advocate for the importance of growing the game of golf from birth. he is a lifestyle expert and is eager to show everyone that the stuffy old world of country clubs and resorts is finally giving way to an exciting new lifestyle for the modern woman and family.

Her clothing line has earned Preferred Vendor status for The Ritz-Carlton Hotels, is an Official Licensee of the Tournament Players Club (TPC) Network and has been featured in such media as Vogue Magazine. People Style Watch, The Huffington Post, etc.

Kelsey's idea - to film on location at golf facilities looking to reach out to their communities and ultimately show that golf clubs, country clubs and resorts are a one stop shop for everyone in the family and is multi-generational has created a great deal of traction with everyone who has seen it.

When Kelsey sent me this video the idea immediately went to how do you market this as a "play it forward" piece that clubs could send to members, play in the shops and incorporate into membership efforts. The idea would be to feature clubs, resorts, sponsor vendors and interviews with leaders in the industry in similar videos that explore all the important social and cultural aspects of a life that includes golf. Here is the video:

It is obviously important to inspire avid golfers to become ambassadors. 
Reaching out to the non players ande converting them to the game as well as having golf facilities become more involved in their communities takes special tools that can create a social, ground-swell, viral, cultural impact. The plan with videos like the one Kelsey has done a great job putting together can quickly create traction and change the industry if embraced and "played forward". Everyone reading this should send it to their email list, golf pro, club members, anyone interested in the game with an "ask' that their readers do the same, not to promote Fieldstone GC, but to see if  a GrowGolf.Com project based on focused videos that could be disseminated through the industry and all the people it touches could attract advocates, promoters and sponsors.

  • If you are a golf vendor and want to get the message out as to how you are helping grow the game. 
  • If you own a facility and would like a video to send to your members, prospective members or customer base. 
  • If you are involved with an organization that is involved with game and realizes the importance of that participation's (cultural and marketing) perception and impact we are asking that you call us and let's discuss some ideas.
Both Kelsey and I can be reached at 484-732-8824 and 443-309-3005 respectively and look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Develop True Customer Loyalty - 4 - First Impressions

This series, "Develop True Customer Loyalty" is ideally about the customer telling your story and in so doing sell your brand. Short of that, the topics Language, Empathy and Anticipation are refinements of a customer-centric business plan that makes the customer want to come back, to keep doing any golf related business with us, be it playing next weekend or buying new shoes. Any marketing of this type of mission statement starts with or implies "First Impressions".

Everything written about first impressions in regards to customer service starts by quoting the cliche "You never have a second chance to make a first impression."  A trip to any facility has numerous first impressions and they all set the stage for the interactions which will determine various categorical perceptions. The rest of the story is last impressions, the cliche here is they last. The golf experience should be discussed in terms of first impressions, interactions during the visit and lasting impressions. At staff meetings, for example, it is much easier to focus if you break down a phrase like golf experience into components. "Anticipate", "Empathy" and "Language" are the subjects of preceding entries in this series which refine the middle ground between these first and last impressions discussed here..

Magnolia Lane - Augusta National

A day of golf involves many first impressions. The drive into the facility can be diverse as the splendor of Magnolia Lane to the remote feel that comes with the turn into Sand Hills.

Sand Hills

There is the first encounter with the staff whether it be at a bag drop or entering the shop with the feel of the shop being as important a first impression as is the condition of the first tee, first green, etc. All of these, depending on the facility, provide opportunities to impress, some more controllable than others. The bag drop at public facilities can be make or break, the wow factor of walking into a well merchandised retail space speaks volumes and obviously the condition of the course are all areas affected by the leaderships and their decisions.

At the bag drop, a welcome, a smile, the appropriate attitude and questions about tee time, etc. that facilitate the task at hand are all that are needed. The effective leaders I've worked with know their tee sheets and make a point of being part of the welcoming hand-shake and greeting particularly when the guest has some notoriety, perhaps is very important to a member or perhaps could be a prospective member at some point.

Greeting anyone who enters your retail space is Retail 101. Whether one is on the phone, helping another customer or doing paper, a smile and acknowledgement that you will be right with them are important. It doesn't seem that a shop properly staffed would have the same member of the team involved with greeting new customers and answering the phone, but obviously this happens.

The merchandising effort in the shop can range from truly distinguished to mediocre. This is a very manageable aspect of creating an unforgettable image that doesn't take much effort or cost much but does involve some expertise. If no one on your staff has any exceptional merchandising vision, the soft money you spend to bring in that help will more than likely off-set itself.

Kevin Stirtz, author of "More Loyal Customers" has many memorable quotes, but two are particularly appropriate here as are his take on the seven seconds that are the first impression: 

"Providing great customer service is the most natural activity in the world. It's fun to help others because it feels good."

"When the customer is satisfied and everyone is happy, the job is not finished. Give them a reason to come back."

"A new customer will develop an impression about your employee (and your business) in their first seven seconds with your staff. In that slice of time, they will judge your employee in eleven different ways all of which affect how likely they will be to do business with you. The eleven ways we are judged are :
  • Cleanliness
  • Knowledge
  • Professionalism
  • Friendliness
  • Helpfulness
  • Courtesy
  • Credibility
  • Confidence
  • Attractiveness
  • Responsiveness
  • Understanding

The outcome of these judgments is important. Our customers will roll these judgments into one opinion of our business which will determine how likely they are to become a new or repeat customer."

The end of a four hour round of golf produces last impression opportunities with shop staff, outside staff and in some cases the bartender at the 19th or the fellow running the locker
room. The "Philadelphia Story" which is part of the previous entry about "Anticipation" is a good read at this point.

We all have stories about bartenders that remember your drink of choice and more infrequently there are locker room attendants that offer to take your outfit to the dry cleaners and hang it back in your locker. These are the stories that need to be part of the culture at your facility's staff meetings. It should also be planned that there is always someone strategically placed to bid the fond farewell, unscripted, and with a true feeling of appreciation.The lasting impression needs to have the customer thinking: "I'm glad I'm a member"; "I should be a member" or at the very least "I want to play here again."

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Develop True Customer Loyalty - 3 - Anticipation

In an effort to bring up to date "The Winning Golf Culture" focusing on the customer retention and word of mouth advertising that come from customer loyalty this series of entries has looked at the "Language" of your brand and the "Empathy" of your staff. This entry will discuss "Anticipating" customers' needs.

Kinloch Golf Club

 When speaking to groups about customer centrics and in particular the "Wow Factor" of anticipating needs I usually tell what I like to call the "Philadelphia Story".

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."

Anticipating that cold water driving off -campus in the July Virginia heat would be well received seems almost goes without saying, but a man I had never seen before could not wait to tell me about it in the Philadelphia airport. Think about how many times he's told that story to people he does know or whenever the subject of service comes up.

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

The Ritz-Carlton trains their staffs that the three basic steps to keep in mind as necessary to earning a guest's loyalty are:

  • A warm and sincere greeting
  • Anticipate each guest's needs
  • Provide a fond farewell
Carmine Gallo (a communications expert) in an article in Forbes discussing this issue talks glowingly about the Grand Del Mar in San Diego:

It sits on a beautiful property in the hills, but there are plenty of gorgeous locations in San Diego. It's the "attentive" service that Trip Advisor featured in it's review and has earned my loyalty. But exactly what does the staff do that sets them apart and, more important, what can all businesses learn from their customer service techniques? The Grand Del Mar's customer service secret became very clear to me on this recent visit - the staff finds small ways to unexpectedly delight their customers and they do so by anticipating unexpressed wishes. Here is one of the many examples I noted:

My daughters discovered a small sand area near the pool. Within seconds - not minutes - a staff member casually walked by and, without saying a word, dropped off sand toys for the kids. The kids looked up and there they were , seemingly out of nowhere.

Gran Del Mar

I was recently on a Southwest Airlines flight and needed to take some medication. I took the pills out of my blazer pocket and by the time i had tapped the dose I needed in my hand the flight attendant who had apparently seen me holding the prescription bottle was standing next to me with a cup of water.

The serviced customer who has not requested service will be a loyal patron.
The advice seems to break down very empathetically:

  • Observe
  • Plan around trends and patterns 
  • Inject yourself between the customer and a problem before it develops
  • Provide resources
  • Think like a customer
  • When possible, know your customer - a built-in golf retail advantage
Bandon Dunes

Listening and interacting are important customer service skills and often provide above average service. The savvy among us like those mentioned above know something most others don't necessarily consider and that is that what customers/members don't say is often more important than what they do say  and provide the most meaningful opportunities to earn their loyalty, provide them with wow ammunition and ultimately retain them and their golfing friends