Golf clubs with attitude

    59Club CEO Simon Wordsworth is a firm believer in the old adage, ‘Smile and the whole world smiles with you’. In this analysis of staff attitude to visitors he sets much stall by the warmth of a greeting, as he explains here.

    The last thing anybody wants to feel when walking into a golf club is that they’ve just intruded on somebody’s private grief. That’s why the right attitude goes a long way to making visitors and members feel welcome – whether it’s in the pro shop, the bar or the starter’s hut.

    Remember, people may hear your words, but they feel your attitude. That’s why a smile is the first thing, quite literally, that should be on your lips when a customer walks through the door. A warm smile is the universal language of kindness and it helps to put somebody at ease almost immediately. When you realise how important that simple gesture of welcome can be it’s not surprising that just that one element, a smile, counts for quite a lot when 59Club’s mystery shoppers pop in.

    This month’s statistics look at staff attitude across the three categories of club: resort; pay and play (PaP) and members. And we also have the same figures for the ‘traditional’ three 59Club categories: podium, a score based on the three best-performing venues when dealing with a particular criterion; 59Club venues, clubs which are part of the 59Club benchmarking system; and the golf industry – based on clubs tested by 59Club, but which are not part of the benchmarking system.

    And the good news is, on the whole, we’re doing a pretty good job. Indeed, the word ‘surly’ was not mentioned once!

    Mystery-Shopper-Graphs-AprilLet’s start, as we always should in this industry, with a smile. Surprisingly, when asked ‘were you met with a smile’, the worst performing sector was the member club, which scored 79 percent – and, while it’s not a bad return, one would expect it to be higher given that the staff would, by and large, be familiar with the members. Or maybe familiarity really does breed contempt.

    Resort clubs returned a score of 85 percent, while PaPs were three percentage points behind. Gratifyingly, across the industry the score was 91 percent, which suggests that the message is getting home.

    So, did the same apply when the mystery shopper visited the pro shop? It was at PaP venues where the lowest score was recorded here, 75 percent, but taking that figure positively, that still means just one in four weren’t received warmly by those staffing the shop. Member clubs showed a better performance – by five percentage points – while resort courses scored 83.

    The resort score was topped by the podium return, which came in at a smile-inducing 89 percent. Again, industry-wide, the score was pleasing, with a relatively decent 79 percent – just under one in five.

    And finally, at least as far as smiling goes, we look at the reception in the food and beverage areas, which encompasses bar, restaurant and so on. Here, industry-wide, happy smiley faces were – like those of the Barmy Army during England’s recent Cricket World Cup sojourn – at a premium. A score of 65 percent may not look too bad on the face of it, but it remains disappointing. What should be on the face is a smile – and it doesn’t take much.

    Resort courses performed the best, with 83 percent – almost a full smile – while PaP venues recorded 75, still more of a grin than a grimace. Member clubs performed one percentage point better at 76.

    Having dealt with the warmth of the initial reception in the various areas of the club, we now look back at the arrival touchpoint to determine if staff were ‘helpful and friendly’. The ratings were pretty tightly packed here – all three covered by nine percentage points, ranging from member clubs’ 77 percent to resorts’ 86. The podium score rose to 94 percent suggesting the ‘best of the best’ have succeeded in continuing the warmth of the initial greeting into the service ethos.

    Again, in the shop generally, staff did prove ‘helpful and friendly’; and again the marks covered only a small spread, this time of 11 percentage points, suggesting that the level of service received does not vary much from course to course. Resort courses came out on top with 82 percent while their PaP contemporaries were 11 percentage points adrift.

    One area where golf clubs can seemingly learn from the hospitality sector is in food and beverage, however. The criterion here is to record whether or not a member of staff asks if the patron is enjoying the meal.

    Anybody who’s enjoyed the myriad benefits of the salad bar at a Harvester will know that almost as soon as one tucks into the crunchy onions and blue-cheese dressing, a chirpy young waitress – or waiter – magically appears, like Mr Benn’s shopkeeper, to ascertain whether the meal is to one’s satisfaction. The reserved English will almost always respond positively, even if something has just crawled from their plate carrying a French fry – but it is essential to ask the question.

    In short, it is common practice in almost all restaurants and should be so at golf clubs. That the results herein vary significantly should at least send a warning signal out to the industry. PaP venues clearly struggle here – maybe they simply don’t have the staff to fulfil the role – with just 34 percent.

    Member clubs don’t excel either (45) while resort venues top the table with 55 percent – yet it’s hardly worth putting out the bunting. Industry-wide this drops significantly further to a paltry 18 percent, while the podium score comes in at a more respectable – but less than inspirational – 72 percent.

    But let’s not dwell on the one disappointing aspect of these figures. Overall, the warmth of the greeting and obliging nature of staff in the golf industry is good. As with everything we look at with 59Club there is room for improvement, but there’s little here to have managers reaching for the bottle. Well done you!