It’s service Jim, but not as we know it…

Service levels at many clubs have vastly improved over the last decade, but there are some that still don’t seem to get it. Mark Reed, director at the 59club, spoke to some of the company’s testers to relive some of the worst customer service they had come across.

Imagine arriving at a pro shop to check-in for your tee-time only for the assistant pro to be so engrossed in Sky Sports’ coverage of the European Tour that he didn’t even acknowledge your presence? While, of course, it’s great that they love the game of golf so much it isn’t exactly professional is it? Yet this is one of the scenarios experienced by a 59club tester recently – and, without the external benchmarking audits and mystery shopper visits provided by 59club, there is a danger that the golf club concerned would be none the wiser.

Such situations are thankfully not prevalent across the industry, but we have pulled together a number of genuine 59club tester experiences to highlight what can happen if managers don’t keep tabs on their various departments. Our testers have walked into an unlocked, empty pro shop, only for the pro to casually follow them in, coffee in hand. One arrived to find the pro shop locked, with a panting pro arriving having hotfooted it from the putting green, carrying his putter and ball.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 17.14.54Sometimes issues have become apparent even before they’ve arrived at the course. Once it required seven phone calls merely to speak to somebody in order to book a tee-time, as the phone kept ringing out on each occasion. We have also experienced confirmations of tee-time bookings for the wrong day and, the cardinal sin, no record of the booking upon arrival. Good communication at check-in is essential, and the onus is on the members of staff who welcome visitors to the club. However, this is not always forthcoming.

Our testers have collectively experienced a number of scenarios where uncommunicative staff have caused issues: for example, no info given at check-in as to the location of the first tee – “I had to ask a member,” added our tester; no locker room access code given, necessitating a return trip to the pro shop – this was exacerbated by discovering, upon entry, that lockers needed a pound coin, which required a further revisit to the shop. Frustrating is an understatement.

Having checked in, one group went to the bar only to discover it did not open until 11am, leaving them only with a coffee machine. At the other end of the day, at the cessation of their round, another group arrived to find that food was not available beyond 5pm. All of this could, and should, have been made clear at the available touchpoints. This is in addition to the more common oversights, such as a lack of pricing on display goods, no upselling and a lack of engagement. One tester reported she spent ten minutes browsing putters during which time she was not acknowledged by shop staff and so left. Another walked in on staff planning a night out, a conversation which was clearly more important than acknowledging a customer. Again, the tester left.

This lack of communication also has a knock-on effect out on the course. Testers have reported no explanation as to the yardage markers, so they were unaware whether the distances were to the front, middle or back of the green; no directions given to the buggy park and a closed halfway house, at the furthest point from the clubhouse on a hot day. Had they known about this they could have stocked up with drinks from the shop before heading out, so not only did it inconvenience them but the shop lost out on some sales.

What’s more, testers have discovered for themselves that two greens were not in use owing to maintenance; were not aware who to turn to after an infuriating two and a half hours spent on the front nine with no course marshal; had not been told when booking that the greens had just been hollow-tined; and one tester had to remove the previous user’s litter from his buggy and use his own towel to wipe down the dirty seat.

All of the foregoing could be avoided quite simply. The personnel checking-in golfers are responsible not only for offering a great welcome and advising key club and course information, but can also make a significant difference to turnover. This is why clubs use 59club’s management tools, to design, measure, improve and then maintain high standards of customer service and front-line sales. Without 59club audits these, admittedly, worst-case scenarios, would soon become more commonplace and unacceptable levels of service and upselling would become the norm.