Could do better…

    In the first of a regular series, Simon Wordsworth, the chief executive of 59Club – Europe’s leading golf-specific mystery shopper service highlights some areas where golf retail operations across the UK may be failing. In future editions we will look at how various regions fare when it comes to overall golf club performance.

    One man’s meat is another man’s poison – it is an idiom that is appropriate in many scenarios and it is certainly applicable to visits to a golf club.

    So many factors can influence one’s view, not least, one’s own performance on the golf course. Good secret shopper visits, however, do away with such subjective variables and concentrate on a set of detailed criteria upon which the overall rating is based. This ensures that the subsequent reporting is as objective as is humanly possible.

    Retailing is an area where this is particularly valid, for much of it is black or white, yes or no. And the results can be quite staggering. Who among us can say they would not be concerned to know that retail staff had let slip through their fingers nearly £2,500?

    That’s not a figure to be sniffed at and it is calculated, conservatively, from data collected by 59Club,

    To get to that damning figure we must look at results gathered in 2013 by 59Club – and it would be advantageous to know exactly how they were obtained. There are three separate figures to take into account:

    Golf industry: This score is based on clubs tested by 59Club but which are not members of 59Club.

    59Club venue: This score is calculated from clubs which are part of the 59Club benchmarking system and, therefore, trying to improve their customer experience.

    Podium: This score is based on how the three best-performing venues deal with a particular question or scenario.

    The critical retail question, which leads to the figure we’ve already highlighted, was: ‘Did the staff member attempt to up-sell any product during their time in the shop?’

    Now, this does not mean necessarily hardware or apparel – though, obviously, if it’s raining cats and dogs it’s not a bad idea to ascertain whether the golfer has sufficient wet-weather gear. It can be as simple as offering a course guide, a sleeve of balls, a bottle of water or even a chocolate bar.

    What was clear, though, from the visits undertaken by 59Club’s experienced secret shoppers, was that in the majority of cases the opportunity was missed. 59Club members – who have benefited from the guidance and tuition afforded them by their membership – recorded an 18 per cent success rate.

    However, the standard golf industry figure drops to just 15 per cent of occasion when an up-sell was attempted. The podium score for this particular criterion was only 22 per cent, though figures obtained for 2014, thus far, show a marked improvement here of 50 per cent. Somebody is, clearly, listening to the advice they’re given.

    So, if we take the 18 per cent as a rough average, we can make a simple, conservative calculation, based upon an annual footfall of 30,000 visitors through the shop and a basic £1 item. That 18 per cent figure accounts for just 5,400 visitors, meaning 24,600 customers were missed – and, if just 10 per cent of those visitors would have purchased, if asked, that’s £2,460 of turnover lost … not far off three per cent uplift in turnover on just a £1 item.

    Scary isn’t it? And, looked at another way, that 18 per cent success rate equals a failure rate of 82 per cent – or worse than once in every five occasions a golfer sets foot in the store. It’s not, as people are prone to say, rocket science!

    Other areas covered by the secret shopper visits are also worth noting. Let’s start at the beginning: the first touch-point, for example, is clearly a high priority for all clubs.

    In answer to the question, ‘Were you acknowledged in any way – gesture, smile or verbally – within 30 seconds of being inside the store?’, 59Club members – cognisant with all that is required of them – achieved an 81 per cent positive rating. Yet this dropped to 75 per cent for the golf industry as a whole. Put simply, one out of every four golfers who walk through your pro shop door is not acknowledged within 30 seconds. Ask yourself, would you remain therein if you were ignored for 30 seconds?

    Again, available figures for 2014 show a marked improvement across the board, especially on the podium score, where the three best-performing venues are now achieving this at a 99 per cent level. Nearly there guys!

    The next stage of the pro-shop visitor ‘journey’ is established thus: ‘Did the staff member instigate a conversation based around a sale or ask what product you were looking at?’ Not surprisingly, the best rating here was achieved by the podium scorers, who achieved 75 per cent, which, while topping the rankings, is still some way short of what one would hope for … around 25 percentage points short, to be frank.

    Shockingly, this drops significantly to a mere 41 per cent in the golf industry, while even 59Club members are failing to grasp the proverbial nettle, with a rating of only 55 per cent. Figures for 2014 show an increase at the podium level; but, alarmingly, a further drop in the scores recorded by the other two. Face-to-face interaction is clearly an area where pro-shop staff may struggle, and further training and guidance may be in order. They’re only golfers guys; they’re like you and me, so don’t be afraid to chat to them.

    We’ve already highlighted the missed up-sell opportunity, which means we can leap, with the grace of Pablo Larrazabal avoiding hornets at the Malaysia Open, to the final two questions: Was the sale processed with speed, accuracy and including a confirmation of the price? And, did they try to close the sale or did they leave you to decide?

    At first glance, the scores recorded in response to the former are quite impressive: podium and 59Club ratings came in at 99 and 95 per cent respectively. Not bad. The same cannot be said of the industry as a whole, however, as a 53 per cent success rate should be cause for concern for those clubs not in the two previous categories. Nearly one in two golfers is, effectively, dissatisfied with the service received at check-out.

    The ‘closing out’ of the sale is also an area which needs addressing, with even the best figures (podium) coming in at a mere 67 per cent, while 59Club members achieved an equally disappointing 55. Trailing behind – and clearly failing to maximise turnover potential – is the golf industry which recorded a paltry 31 per cent. There is no hard and fast rule for closing the sale, but one should at least attempt it.

    Nobody is perfect 100 per cent of the time, we realise that. We’re all human with the inherent failings that may bring. But, as you can clearly see, there is room for improvement almost universally – and the opportunity to make more money is there.

    Another popular phrase springs to mind: He who hesitates is lost.

    For more information
    or call Matt Roberts on 07557 561501

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    Miles is the Owner and Managing Director of Robel Media, and the award winning GOLF RETAILING Magazine. With over 25 years in the media business, Miles has a wealth of experience in magazine publishing, digital media and live events. HANDICAP - 7.2