It’s the economy…and your lack of service

“It’s the economy, nobody can keep members right now…”
“I heard XYZ club dropped their initiation fee altogether and are now offering a $500 credit in the pro shop for any new member they bring…”
“I guess we are just going to have to weather the storm…”
Nobody will deny the last few years have been pretty tough on the golf industry, worse though is when a private or public course runs the customer off for non-economic reasons.
Howard Feiertag outlined in his book, “Lessons from the Field” the real reasons why people stop doing business with you.  The results could be eye-opening:
1% – Death.  Members and customers pass away, but only 1%?  Hmmm?
3% – Move.  People take different jobs from time to time.  Others may move to a larger home after having a few children or to a smaller home after the kids have left the nest.
4% – Buy from a friend.  It’s always good to have a friend in the business and sometimes that is all it takes to steal a good customer away.
9% – Decide to buy from the competition.  Has your competition dropped the bottom out of their rates?  Have they offered buy one, get one on certain days?  Have their e-offers finally enticed your customer?  Has the elimination of initiation fee’s finally swayed the person sitting on the fence?
14% – Product dissatisfaction.  Are your bunkers hard as bricks or hardly ever raked?  Do the tee boxes look more like your rough?  Are your bent grass greens really poa annua?  Surprisingly, only 14% will leave because your “product” has deteriorated beyond an acceptable level.
68% – The attitude of one or more employee’s.  Ouch!  You can’t prevent death, a person moving, or a friend getting your customer/member a deal.  And let’s face it, there will always be a low-ball competitor, but chances are they will violate the “product satisfaction” item and will only get the cheapskate’s.  It is almost unfathomable that people will leave for such a (seemingly) innocuous reason, but 2/3 of your customers will dump you because of an employee’s poor attitude!  That should be a wake up call…or is it really par for the course when you consider most employee’s get less than a days training on what the expectations are with regard to how they are to treat the member or guest?
What can your team do to prevent this?
1. Handle things promptly – When your customer or member has a issue, speed matters.  Handling something competently and quickly extinguishes what could be a big fire down the road.
2. Dump your under-performing and poor-attitude employee’s – I have never understood why businesses feel the need to keep people that really don’t do much more than fill space but it happens every day?  Why?  The old adage certainly applies here:  “It’s the people you don’t fire that end up costing you more than the people you do”.
3. Interview your best clients – We have already talked about this one, but it stands to be repeated.  Your best customers or members are a wealth of information…that almost no one uses or misses…until they are gone.  Don’t make that mistake.
4. Hire the best you can afford.  If it took 5-10% more money to get the very best person for the job, would you spend it?  Of course!  Then why don’t you?  Your team is often only as good as your worst employee.  Somebody has to be on the bottom, just make sure your bottom would be among the best if they worked for your competition.

5. Hire ONLY genuinely nice people.  You can’t teach nice.  Most people either have it or they don’t, agreed?  It’s no accident Chic-fil-a consistently hires great people while their competitor’s seem to hire the nail-chewing-could-care-less-if-you-walked-in-the-door employee.  I would rather be served by an extremely friendly and slightly incompetent person, than the reverse, and so would most of your guests.

Free Appetizer Anyone?

I turned thirty-nine today and my wife asked, “if you could do anything you wanted today, what would it be”?  I said (of course), “probably play golf”.

Before I left out, I checked my phone which was going crazy with emails from friends wishing me a great day…and even more surprising was the number of emails I received from businesses offering me “Free dessert for your special day” or “Free Appetizer in the next week as a thank you for my loyalty as customer”.

What neat offer did I receive from the area golf courses I play?  Nada.

Did I expect something from them?  No, not really but I find it strange that restaurants I barely spend $300 a year with or less send me offers, but none of the area golf courses do, and I’ll assure you, I spend quite a bit more playing golf.

Our customers don’t like giving out their personal information…

We don’t have a very good way to track birthdays in our system…

Then how do other businesses do it?

My course of choice could have been an easy win for some proactive owner or GM if they would have sent any of the following:

“Bring three of your friends and your round/cart is on us!  Happy Birthday”!

“Complimentary greens fee on your Birthday!  Thanks for being a loyal customer”!

“Come into Shady Tree golf club and receive a free sleeve of Pro V’s for your Special Day with Round of Golf”!

Guess how many people I would have told had I received an offer like any of the above?

It makes you wonder…when margins are tight and the number of rounds played is down, some things never change.

It’s the little things…

So yesterday I played as a guest at one of my favorite golf courses anywhere, Holston Hills in Knoxville, TN.
 
Holston Hills is a wonderful Donald Ross course that has remained as true to the original design as any in the United States.  I could go on an on about the course, but what really separates it from the rest is the consistency of its staff with regard to service.
 
I have played in the clubs two-day Invitational tournament for the last several years and may play another two to three times as a guest throughout the year…and without fail Assistant Professional, Sean Rice always greets me (with a firm handshake no less), knows me by name, and will usually chat about the state of my game for a few minutes.
 
I am no celebrity, but every time I see Mr. Rice he makes me feel special…and my guess is, he treats everyone this way.
 
Being friendly costs nothing…and is worth its weight in gold.
 
Greeting your guests with a little more than, “Last name?  How many are in your group today”, sets a tone.
 
Does your staff know your members and guests by name?
 
The difference in “how’s it going today” and “how’s it going today Mr. Smith” is huge!  
 
Ever read the classic, “How to win friends and influence people”?  More importantly, has your staff?  
 
In today’s economy, the difference between a person choosing to spend their hard earned dollars with you or your competition often comes down to the little things.  
 
Each time a guest or member walks in the door, it is an opportunity.  An opportunity to be memorable or forgettable.  An opportunity to serve.  An opportunity to grow your business or unknowingly destroy it.
 
Oftentimes, the least expensive touches linger longest in a guest’s mind.  

What is your identity

In a down economy, being all things to all people is usually a fiscal loser.  It is impossible to please everyone, but many businesses in a good economy can get away with it solely because of the economy.  Specialization, unless you are selling commodities (think Wal-mart), is the trend today especially with businesses that rely heavily on service as their calling card.

When I say “Starbucks”, what comes to mind?

When I say “Donald Ross course”, what does that name conjure?

When someone mentions your golf course or club, what image comes to your customers mind?  And more importantly, is that the message you were hoping to convey?

Your message or identity has nothing to do with the feel-good mission statements of the 90’s that no one read but President’s of many top companies spent days crafting (and framing), today, it has to do with your viability!

What should your Private club or course do in the next thirty days?

1. Identify your identity.  Are you a Golf club or Country Club?  An upscale public course or more of a beginner course that people can get around quickly on?

2. Live your identity.  If you are a Golf club, make the Golf course the star.  If you are a country club, make the events and family atmosphere your focus.  If you are known as the beginner’s course in town, find a way to make it more novice friendly.

3. If you can’t raise your price, Raise your value proposition.  If you are a Private club trying to grow Golf members, why does the Tennis pro always have more events than your Golf pro? How many email blasts a year do you send to your customers offering them tips on the golf swing?

4. Change your marketing!  Most Private and public course websites stink!  If you haven’t changed the look of your site since Presient Bush left office, you might re-visit what has become the most common way people view your business today.

▪   Are your pictures up to date or do you still have those embarrassing one’s of your ‘gym’ circa 1987?

▪   Were your website pictures professionally shot or do they look like someone took them on their iPhone?

▪   Is your site easy to navigate?

▪   Why are you hiding your club’s monthly newsletter?

▪   Golf is subsidizing your food and beverage business, why does your food/beverage business appear to be the focus?

▪   Does your website build enough interest that people will come back again and again

▪   What compelling reason would a person have to visit your club or course after viewing your website?

5. Survey your best clients (do you know who they are individually?).  Find out why they come back consistently.  Find out their likes and dislikes.  Ask them for suggestions…and then listen closely, don’t justify anything, just listen.  Whatever they say will probably be the thing you need to keep doing or implement going forward.

“I doubt any of my customers would fill out comment cards…we have tried that”.  

I didn’t say, “fill out a comment card”?  Meet with them.  Buy them lunch.  I guarantee, it will be the best $7-10 you ever spent.