Golf clubs, driving ranges and high street stores; who delivers the best fitting experience?

Working exclusively with GOLF RETAILING, 59club – Europe’s leading customer service analysts and training provider – have gone undercover to determine who delivers the best custom fitting experience.    

59club called on their team of ghost golfers to deliver a mystery shopper audit at a sample of golf clubs, driving ranges and high street stores, to test the expertise, professionalism and service as delivered during each custom fit encounter. The 59club benchmarking criteria is fair and non-subjective – the only anomaly is the ‘type’ of venue visited. As consumers become increasingly aware of what ‘good’ custom fit looks like, staff need to ensure they consistently deliver the very best experience. Quality can only be guaranteed when a system for dealing with equipment enquiries, fitting appointments and aftercare is adopted. As an industry how do we perform and are we fit for the job?

Custom Fit Enquiry Call 

The test results indicated that during the telephone enquiries, the driving ranges came out on top overall, having scored 47 per cent. That score is some way from flawless, but let’s remind ourselves that of all the venues tested within this report, none have been privy to 59club’s measurement criteria, they are not 59club clients and as a result the test is a fair representation of the industry norm. When it comes to the telephone enquiry, let’s pause and consider the components and techniques that make up a ‘good’ custom fit sales call, and consider areas that we can all adopt.

The initial welcome received during the telephone conversation takes into consideration the Speed of the conversation, the Friendliness of the tone, the Clarity of what is being said and the staff’s assurance of offering to Help. It’s the High street who came out on top with a score of 87 per cent for offering a good welcome during their enquiry calls, whilst the driving ranges scored 77 per cent and the golf clubs 70 per cent.

In a bid to manage the callers’ expectations during the call we need to understand their motives for enquiring. The criteria calls for us to identify if the caller had been fitted before and establish their previous experience in doing so. It’s the driving ranges who came out on top with 33 per cent, followed by the high street with 17 per cent whilst the golf clubs failed to glean this information at all, with zero per cent. There is work to be done to advance our understanding of the customer’s history.

Next we need to make moves to understand their current equipment. The brand used, are they off the shelf or fitted and by who, are they left or right handed, what’s their usual ball flight pattern and what their bad shot looks like. It’s disconcerting to report that golf clubs, driving ranges and high street scores, when marked against this criteria, all received a dismal 7 per cent.

Part of a good custom fitting process is to ensure the customer feels at ease

Proactive sales staff will continue to use the enquiry call to glean the customers’ expectations and their requirements for Irons, Woods, Wedges, Putters or indeed a full set. The High streets are leading the way here as they score 50 per cent, the driving range 33 per cent, whilst the golf clubs struggle at just 5 per cent.

With such availability for fitting services, we need to appreciate that customers will shop around when debating where they should go to get the ‘best’ custom fit. The merits for providing information on the manufacturers available on site for fitting and promoting the expertise and technology used during the fit should be obvious. This information may well sway the client’s decision to book with you, but the results are in and once again it’s not pretty; our trio scored 13 per cent each.

We are all clued up about data capture these days; wherever you go and whatever you do there are constant nags to gain your vital details, and the fitting enquiry call is no exception. The high street scored 87 per cent for data collection which would include a name, telephone number and email or a home address, the driving range faltered slightly with 73 per cent and it’s clear that the golf clubs need to take steps to develop their process as they scored just 60 per cent.

If we need our customers to bring their current clubs, wear their golf shoes and arrive 15mins before their fitting appointment, then we need to communicate this whilst booking their appointment. The test results will shock you; the high street earnt the best score of 20 per cent whilst the driving range and golf clubs each scored a mere 13 per cent.

Pre-Fitting Experience

Let’s move into the appointment itself and begin our research with the ‘pre-fitting’ experience when the customer arrives. When met by the fitter our panel were asked to measure the staffs ability to engage with them whilst evaluating their eye contact, use of the customer’s name, their introduction, handshake and ability to help the customer feel at ease – after all any mere mortal who steps up to have their swing critiqued by a PGA professional is likely to feel some levels of anxiety. The overall score saw the golf clubs score 90 per cent, the high street came in second place with a score of 80 per cent and the driving range received 70 per cent for their welcome, ability to build a rapport, gain trust and relax their clients from the outset.

The following series of pre-fitting criteria calls for staff to establish if the customer has any injuries, is taking lessons, determines their expectations and previous fitting experience, understands their best/worst shot scenarios, their favoured club, current shot shape along with the good, bad and ugly of the their overall game. It’s a good list…but who amongst our trio are best when we couple all of these measurements? The high street came out on top, as they score 57 per cent showing signs for improvement, but they are on the right path! The golf clubs in second place score 34 per cent and the driving range just 24 per cent. Considering all pre-fitting criteria, the high street came out on top scoring 70 per cent, followed by the golf clubs at 66 per cent and driving ranges at 58 per cent.

Custom Fitting Experience

Now the really juicy bits, the fitting itself… when it comes to the custom fit process, the specialist is expected to take static measurements and explain to the customer why these are needed. It’s disappointing to report that not one single fitting specialist within the sample at either the driving ranges, golf clubs or the high street stores took any kind of static measurements!

The process expects the custom fitting specialist to encourage the customer to hit balls towards an intended target having also specified which club they wish them to use. This will act as a warm up to encourage their natural technique to present itself and begins the journey that will see the specialist work with the customer to recommend the best equipment. The golf clubs scored 83 per cent, the high street 67 per cent and disappointingly the driving ranges failed to observe their customers warm up on every occasion, opting to go straight into fitting.

When it comes to educating the customer, we would expect the fitting specialist to assess their current equipment, plus highlight how the technology in the room would be used to determine the correct club specifications to meet their needs. The golf clubs are the front runners again with a respectable 87 per cent, followed by the driving range with 63 per cent and then the high street with just 50 per cent.

A structured fitting process walks the customer through each new club selection with explanations as to why the next club has been introduced as each tweak attempts to hone in on the best specification. The driving ranges have this method perfected to a tee with a solid 95 per cent, whilst the golf clubs lose their winning track and score 85 per cent, the same score as the high street.

Throughout the process, the fitter should talk the customer through their current ball flight and parameters for the club being fitted, making direct comments regarding ideal launch, spin and flight. The audit indicated that the high street came out on top here with a respectable 95 per cent, followed by the golf clubs with 62 per cent whilst the driving ranges only achieved 28 per cent.

At the point the fitter is in a position to make their recommendation for the best equipment based on their findings, the audit criteria calls for them to also make suitable relations for additional equipment needed to enhance their overall performance. When taking both points into consideration the high street have it covered again and scored 90 per cent, whilst the golf clubs scored 57 per cent and the driving ranges just 40 per cent, which highlights their lack of commitment to gaining the sale with additional add-ons.

Requesting the Sale

This leads into the last questions in this section which calls for the fitting expert to compare the prices of the equipment trialled, whilst providing clear and strong reasons for change as they move to ‘request the sale’. It’s the moment that the whole process comes together as we summarise our understanding of the customer’s statistics, their game shape and their expectations for their new equipment. If the protocol has been followed, the customer will be convinced of the merits of your recommended selection. However, it’s actually only the high street that drive the ‘sales request’ having scored of 90 per cent, the golf clubs struggle here with 43 per cent and the driving ranges lag behind achieving just 20 per cent for having justified and requested the sale.

When it comes to the staff’s overall ‘fitting technique & sales approach’, the high street continue their success as they achieve 75 per cent overall in this section, followed by the golf clubs at 67 per cent. Sadly it’s the driving ranges who are behind yet again, having scored just 41 per cent.

Chasing the Sale

The test panel were instructed to advise the fitter that they wanted time to think about their decision to purchase and as a result, no sales were made on the day. This allows for the ‘aftercare service’ to be tested, measuring the staffs’ ability to ‘chase the sale’… how proactive are our staff and systems? I think after reading this next statistic that our driving range and golf club operators might be on the phone desperate to benchmark their business, having both scored zero. They both failed to follow up with any of our ghost golfers and, as a result, no sales were made. The winners, the high street, contacted just a third of their customers post fit. When delivering your follow up calls, there is a simple rule of thumb, ‘Generic does not sell’, conversations need to relate to the customer, demonstrate our recollection of them personally, their needs and the equipment we selected for them. The quality and content of the chase calls received from high street stores was 100%.

The 59club can reveal that the best fitters in the industry are found on the High Street having received an overall score of 51%, followed closely by the Golf Clubs who achieved 45% whilst the Driving Ranges scored 41%.