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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Big Question

 I’m asked all the time “So what do you do?" This entry will list the areas I’m typically asked to investigate and the activities I execute in an effort to improve those areas.

I have been working in green grass golf retail for more than thirty years in sales and sales management as a VP of sales with Izod Club in the mid-nineties. For the past fifteen years I have been providing retail consulting, evaluation of current shop staff and status, development & initiation of buy plans, hands-on  buying and merchandising, employee product knowledge seminars and promotions at clubs such as Kinloch Golf Club, Ocean City Golf Club, Park Country Club in Buffalo, NY and 3 Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I have also provide marketing and salesmanship training to companies including Greg Norman, Polo, Full Turn, and Ouray Sportswear in Denver.

This is what I do –

For Clubs and ‘green-grass retail seminars’

·         Evaluate inventory levels and develop a buy plan and inventory levels based on space and sales history and what is needed for your clientele.
·         Develop a turn schedule of merchandise based on peaks in season as part of the buy plan.
·         Determine the products and pricing needed to be the level of “full-service” desired.
·         Develop “open to buy” and “count and fill” programs to complement the buy plan.
·         Establish strong vendor relationships – maximizing the resources they have to help your business.
·         Develop, design and help execute re-merchandizing and/or remodeling plans.
·         Provide retail salesmanship training emphasizing product knowledge of all inventory and the language and tone of enthusiastic customer service.
·         Conduct power point seminars about - How to – Create an effective buy plan and a winning golf culture.
·         Develop, train and inspire retail managers and staff to provide service that differentiates your facility from the competition and creates customer loyalty.

For Companies that sell to green grass shops

·         Provide retail and customer service seminars for customers that enhance partner-relationship.
·         Help develop product promotions and programs that appeal to the green grass market.
·         Conduct seminars and speak at sales meetings on sales presentations with emphasis on “the close”.
·         Train sales rep how to develop their territory, get their foot in the door and become the ‘idea man’ in their area.
·         Help set appointments and participate in sales calls of poignant importance.
·         Provide and communicate with my contacts the features and benefits of your products.
·         Provide publication of interviews and articles and linked banners on

Anyone wanting to discuss fees and /or implementation of any of these services for their facility, company, their group or section meeting or sales meeting can contact me at 443-309-3005 or


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Develop True Customer Loyalty - 2 - Empathy

This is the second in a series that attempts to comprehensively examine the continuing effort to define and refine the service culture provided by those staffs committed to a customer centric golf experience. Last week's entry discussed "Language and Tone". This week's topic, "Empathy", will be central to the real goal of customer service which is to provide a "Wow-Warm" environment that people associate with your brand.

The Shops at The Broadmoor

Customer service professionals agree that no two customers are alike and give varying opinions on the important aspect of customer interaction that endears customer satisfaction and ultimately loyalty - competency, attitude, resolution, etc. The most powerful tool (or weapon depending on your point of view) is more subtle and all-encompassing. Polls show the main improvement people would like to see implemented in companies they patronize is "better human service."

The author of "Thinking Fast and Slow", 2002 Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman,  says it best:

           "We are not thinking machines that feel, we are feeling machines that think."

If you reflect on what causes you to support and then comment on businesses that impress, it is often as not because it felt human, you were interacting with a person, not a script or company. It is about having empathy in customer service and walking in the customer's shoes as it affect's todays experience.

J. Crew in Toronto

Anyone scheduling five hours of golf for the day is foregoing something. It may be a meeting rescheduled at work, soccer practice with the kids or morning in church but in today's world they are giving up something, albeit for an activity they probably like a lot better. Human nature, however, is that as soon as the service (could be slow play, incompetency at check-in, etc.) is less than ideal the comment will be "I gave up XXXX for this."

Recently on the first tee this came home to me as our foursome was being recited the 15 rule sermon while we were standing, driver in hand, waiting for the glee of a properly struck concussion that lands in the fairway and starts a day of 18 hole camaraderie. The first tee 10-minute lecture has always seemed an anethma to me and the antithesis of empathy for the experience of those feeling dressed down. I played a week later at a different club where we drove from the range past a marshal who explained the cart-path only holes, pointed to the first tee and added "Have a good day."

Congressional Country Club

Daniel Pink, author of "A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future" has a great quote:

          "Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, 
           seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it
           makes the world a better place."

Customer service doesn't always Wow, but it can always deliver empathy. This isn't something you're born with, but it can be learned and improved like all other customer service attributes. The staff has to care about the mission statement and the leader or leaders need to take seriously that training is part of development of staff and culture. "Tell the tell."

Spend time with businesses and people outside of golf who provide exceptional service. Practice and inspire your staff to practice using phrases that make your customer feel valued.
  • You play here often, we appreciate your business.
  • We appreciate your membership. Let us know if there is anything special we can do for your guests. 
  • How is your game? What can we do to improve the range?
  • I understand your concern. If I were in your position I would be asking the same questions.
  • Is there anything, big or small, we can do to make your experience with us better?
  • Thank you  for your patience. We want to help you with this, give us just a little time to figure it out.
The National in Saratoga

Customers who do not feel empathy take their business elsewhere. This is true no matter the context. When I speak to vendor sales groups I explain that golf buyers and pros want to buy from "idea guys" who they feel are empathetic to their business.

There is a high price to pay for delivering poor customer service. The effort invested in getting it right cannot be empirically measured as I espouse when speaking at club service seminars, but the bottom line is that now is always the right time to start training your staff to start recognizing and understanding your customer/member's wants and needs and executing on that empathy to provide that wow-friendly atmosphere that people talk about.



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 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

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
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 and we can discuss details.