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."