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!