Customer engagement – how warm is your welcome?

    59club CEO Simon Wordsworth is a firm believer that the basis for a happy customer is someone who is made to feel welcome, which is why he suggests staff and visitor community should be a priority for the 2016 golf season and part of the norm thereafter.

    The last thing anybody wants to feel when walking into a golf club is that they’ve just intruded on somebody’s private grief; the right attitude goes a long way to making visitors and members feel welcome. The statistics used in this article are collated from the many mystery shopping visits that 59club have carried out so far this year in the UK, Europe and the Middle-East for its client clubs.

    The variety of clubs who work with the customer service analysts are diverse in every sense, ranging from private members clubs to resort clubs, with world famous courses tested on the same level playing field as small municipal courses. This means that 59club industry statistics are truly reflective of what is going on in the global golf community. The 59club podium is the average score of the three clubs which have, during the period covered, offered the best overall customer experience. The podium is used as a benchmark for the rest of the clubs tested.

    On arrival at check-in to register for play 59club test criteria specifies that the customer must be acknowledged within 20seconds; the podium clubs do this on every occasion, whilst the 59club industry need to instil more urgency since they only managed to do this on 81 percent of occasions. It’s fair to say that amongst podium clubs you are quite literally guaranteed a smile, with a flawless score of 100 percent. The industry falters on a few occasions, scoring 84 per cent. A lesson for us all to note is that a picture tells a thousand words; there is no excuse for the lack of a friendly welcoming smile.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 09.13.47Having dealt with the warmth of a smile, the 59club mystery testers are now set on analysing the staff member’s eye contact; are they fully engaged with the customer or is their focus elsewhere? The podium clubs score highly again at 90 per cent, with the industry only slightly behind at 87 per cent. The staff member’s manner itself comes under scrutiny next and leads us to discover that the podium clubs again polls 100 per cent when it comes to offering a warm and enthusiastic welcome whilst the industry has a little ground to make up with a score of 86 per cent. But so far all impressive statistics across the board!

    As we make moves towards rapport building, 59club testers are listening out for any attempt to engage them in friendly conversation. The methodology here simply calls for questions about a customer’s journey to the club, how far they have travelled, if they enjoyed watching the Masters or whatever else is deemed relevant as a current hot topic of conversation. The podium clubs successfully engage in conversation with their customers without fail on every occasion. However, it’s disappointing to note that just under half of the 59club industry is not focused on engagement as only 55 per cent attempt to build a rapport.

    Let’s move to consider the impact of appreciating an individual’s previous experience with the all-important question; have you been to the club before? The podium clubs are again setting the benchmark for excellence at 100 per cent whilst the industry lags behind at 74 per cent. The art of going the extra mile for a customer is what turns an average experience into great customer service. For example, if you have established that someone hasn’t been to the club before then you will be more detailed when explaining the route they need to take to the locker room, where the practice facilities and buggy park is located and how to find the 1st tee. The industry as a whole only sought to identify if someone had been before on 74 per cent of occasions and failed to provide directions in 30 per cent of the visits.

    Let’s consider the sales approach next, with 59club criteria indicating that staff should approach a browsing customer within one minute of them perusing an item; podium clubs do so on 60 per cent of occasions whilst only 49 per cent of the industry manage to achieve this. A message here needs to go to all: there is a distinct need to approach browsing customers with more urgency than ever before.

    The cliché, “how can I help”? has no place in 59clubs criteria; we expect you to avoid this closed question and test to see if this is achieved. Staff members are expected to ask open and engaging questions relevant to the sale. For example, if you can see someone looking at shoes, wouldn’t it be helpful to ask what size shoe they take and suggest that you pull out a selection to try on? The podium clubs ask open questions 60 per cent of the time, whilst the industry average has significant room for improvement at a mere 28 per cent.

    The podium clubs have a great knowledge of product pricing on 94 per cent of occasions whilst the industry was slightly behind at 81 per cent. However, what makes for an interesting comparison is that when it came to the testers scoring the staff on being friendly and helpful during the sales process there is only one percentage point that divides the podium clubs from the industry, with the podium scoring 78 per cent.

    The message quite simply is to treat every customer with the same level of warmth and enthusiasm as you would on your very best day. There is no room for complacency in the golf industry. You are being scrutinised for the service you provide; if not by 59club testers then more importantly, by your actual customers. Is it time to priorities your sales and service etiquette and build great staff and visitor community?

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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