Do you encourage the intimacy factor?

Do you encourage the intimacy factor?

Talent spotting is one of my pastimes. When visiting golf clubs, I am looking for that sparkle that immediately engages me. When I find examples of it, I have a tendency to examine each and every one of this new breed of talent, just to find out how much product knowledge they have about their organisation.

How old is the club? How many members are there? How long have they been with the club? Do they take control - do they naturally transmit the ‘warm welcome’ factor and make me want to be with them? Do they take ownership and feel responsible for my stay at their club; do they engage me and make me feel that, even as a guest, I belong?

Successful clubs ensure that a welcoming atmosphere is integrated into all activities of their business, so that focusing on their members and guests becomes part of the club’s way of life.

Alas, this experience is all too infrequent. Instead, at some clubs, you can receive a lacklustre welcome from the front of house, but is it their fault? Are they really to blame?

Moreover, has anybody invested time to make them excited and energised about their workplace? If not, then it’s no surprise that apathy is what members and guests receive. It surprises me when I discover how many clubs don’t deliver a thorough induction into their businesses. Clubs that do so recognise how critical such a process is.

And that doesn’t mean a ‘quick tour around the facilities, here’s your uniform, now go to work’ attitude.

Can you imagine Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich signing a player, welcoming them, then directing them to the dressing room and suggesting they interact with other members of the team on the way to see how they do things without sharing the vision and values of the organisation?!

Key messages create the internal drive to deliver the expectations to the customer, no matter what business you are involved with.

Knowledge is not only key, but also it is critical for each and every one of the club’s employees. Yes, EVERYONE needs to know about the business to understand what the business represents. They need to be business partners and elevate their presence.

If the goal is efficiency, consistent message and common practice, it is vital to share. For example: the team wants to know how the club is marketed, how it generates income, what the expenditures are, who the board members are, what their responsibilities are, etc.? If there is no sharing of information about the business then it is easily interpreted as “they don’t want to share it with you, so why or how can you care?”

Becoming a great organisation requires the sharing of information, enabling staff to become partners in the business.

Progressive global clubs share their passion, their knowledge and embrace a learning culture within their operations. They ensure that relevant business knowledge is shared so everyone will know where the club is going.

There are many clubs that are exemplary in motivating their employees to focus on membership results.

There is no more valuable advertising than word of mouth advertising and with social media the field has obviously expanded. People believe what their family, friends and neighbours say about a business or facility, and they remember it for a long time. It is also true that very few people will complain - directly. They simply take their business elsewhere.

A business operation generates word of mouth advertising, whether the management is aware of it or not. Satisfied customers tell four to five people of their positive experience whereas dissatisfied customers tell 9 to 12. So the question is, what are customers saying after they have experienced your club’s services?

The basis of all positive word of mouth advertising is providing excellent products and services. This is also the basis for success of most marketing and advertising. Loyal customers will notice the quality and sincerity of how welcoming and consistent their experience is.

The devil is most definitely in the detail and it is more often than not the tiny touches that end up counting the most.

Most golf facilities fulfill their customers’ expectations but people will talk about you if you surpass their expectations. For example, I recently had an experience at a course where I was playing, and not unusually for me I was searching for a ball in the rough.

A greenkeeper on a rough mower drove up, and my first thought was to feel pressured that I was holding him up. But on this occasion he stopped the mower, got off and helped me find my ball, giving the impression he genuinely wanted me to enjoy my round – a fantastic example of a small detail making a difference.

It won’t surprise you that I’ve told everyone this little tale! Do the little few extra things, and you will have loyal members and guests that recommend you to their friends, neighbours and family.

You want the underlying philosophy of your culture to be that any visit that does not provide “ The Intimacy Factor” - the desire to tell it to someone - is a missed opportunity.

Every customer is not profitable or even desirable; some people have unrealistic expectations, and will not be happy no matter what. This is true in every business.

On the other hand, regular customers that become unhappy actually have the potential to be your best advocates. Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business, and there is often nothing a golfer wishes to complain about more than the course itself.

When you resolve problems to the satisfaction of these customers, they will become your loyal supporters, and will spread positive word of mouth advertising for you. It’s human nature. We respect people that admit mistakes and correct the situation.

We give them the benefit of the doubt in the future, and we tell others that they fix their mistakes and keep their promises. It leads to great customer loyalty. If you really want to stand out, go in search of the unhappy golfer that never complained.

If you want people to say great things about you, find and fix the problems that he or she didn’t identify. Ask for feedback from your golfers, and follow up. You will win advocates and friends; and they will actively influence other people with their positive recommendations about your course.

Many golf clubs need to remove their barriers to service and hospitality, and focus their objectives on delivering customer results. This would enhance the whole experience by developing the right people for the club service environment. The prerequisite of progressive employees in any business is honesty from their employers, and the opportunity to learn new skills that will set them up for their future. The new generation is thirsty to edge ahead and develop their CV by adding new competencies they didn’t previously have.

When a new employee is hired within an organisation, whatever its size, they should enter as if it’s a university of learning. Their initiation must include: coaching them to have a service mindset and guiding them to exceed expectations where possible.

Asking them how can they constantly look for opportunities to provide more than people anticipate - going above and beyond the call of duty.

That initial approach should also include the five important tenets that are non negotiable, particularly for all direct customer contact:

Five important tenets

1) Smile

2) Make Eye Contact

3) Use Names

4) Spend TIME to connect

5) Always say Thank You

This process is unlikely to be successful unless the organisation recognises the value of talent identification and development, and makes it part and parcel of every manager’s responsibility.

Organisation leaders at all levels have to be constantly communicating the message, similar to my old schoolteacher Miss Carruthers, who had to constantly and forcefully repeat her message!