In the competitive world of golf and country club management, staying ahead of the curve requires a combination of dedication, innovative strategies, and utilizing the right tools.
Today, we bring you insights from an industry leader who’s making headway in optimizing member experiences, Jason Hanna, COO of the Credit Valley Golf and Country Club in Canada. We talk about his vision, 59club’s transformative role in their operations, and the future of golf clubs in the region.
The Visionary Path
Under Jason’s stewardship, Credit Valley aims to grow its member service standards by “creating means to measure our progress year over year and benchmarking with similar clubs in our market.” This ensures they’re either meeting or exceeding industry standards and expectations.
Jason highlights the significance of 59club’s industry benchmarking services, calling them “an invaluable tool, not only for club managers but for committees and Boards to better understand industry standards.”
Striking a Better Club Experience
Credit Valley is focusing on enhancing locker room and outside golf operations. They’ve found an ally in 59club, whose survey software and mystery shopping audits has resonated with the club’s team, mainly due to its granularity. This has facilitated more accurate evaluations, streamlined internal communications, and enriched staff training.
“Benchmarking and surveys have been instrumental in setting targets. We have used the HR survey templates exclusively on staff to date in order have a sense of their comfort heading into a busy season, and a peer assessment method with our management team that folds into their appraisals. We will also be expanding to use surveys for Board and committee effectiveness,” Jason shares. This bespoke approach has been pivotal in understanding Credit Valley’s unique aspects, and driving continuous improvement.
On Course for Continuous Improvement
When asked how they intend to capitalize on data, Jason expressed that the information gathered has already contributed to shaping their operational plans, especially around staff engagement.
He also emphasizes the role of mystery shopping services in evaluating customer experiences, stating, “Receiving a timely, comprehensive report covering all areas of interaction at the club allows management to make real-time adjustments, or seek further inquiry into areas performing below standard.”
Industry Influence and Future Forecasts
As a leader in the golf industry, Jason believes that 59club’s insights will contribute significantly to the growth of golf clubs in Canada, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area, that holds about 20% of the nation’s population and many of the top-tier clubs.
He advises other golf clubs considering a partnership with 59club; “Due to the ability to build services around the specific needs and nuances, 59club will capture data and measure service standards at any club.”
On the horizon for Credit Valley is further integration of these performance management services, especially in terms of member satisfaction surveys on targeted areas of the club’s amenities and additional mystery shopping across other areas of the business such as member onboarding. According to Jason, 59club’s regular training and support will make this a walk in the park.
“Implementing new operations or software can be daunting at times, but working with 59club makes implementing new protocols and services fairly routine,” said Hanna. “59club is with us every step of the way, not only helping us read and interpret mystery shopping data, but also recommending and helping us with our employee education and training plans, as well as providing operations support, they are always focused on identifying opportunities for growth.”
The partnership between Credit Valley Golf and Country Club and 59club paints a picture of progress and promise. With a vision to improve, the right tools in place, and a commitment to service excellence, the future seems bright for Credit Valley and the Canadian golf club industry as a whole.
The world of golf and country club management, as observed through Jason’s lens, is one of relentless innovation, continuous improvement, and unwavering dedication to service excellence. As we navigate the future, these insights serve as a testament to the transformative power of collaboration, and the drive for progress that defines leaders like Jason Hanna and organizations like Credit Valley Golf and Country Club.
In the world of club operations, having the right people, in the right places, behaving in the right way is paramount to success. A customer only has to receive one bad experience to disassociate themself with a brand or organisation, while spreading news of that poor experience far and wide.
To some, the notion of reinvesting surplus back into operations specifically to educate and develop the team may seem groundbreaking, but could it potentially become the standard for future budgeting?
Now, imagine we shift our perspective slightly and ask: what if a ‘specific portion’ of your overall revenue is dedicated to staff training and development in your budgeting process, just like McDonalds, Starbucks and other enormous global companies earmarks a particular amount for advertising each year?
Although training and development have always found a place in your annual expense report, how can you be certain that your investment is enough, and how can you be sure that it’s paying dividends?
Over the past three years, Club Study has conducted multiple surveys via its industry network to understand the investment trends in staff training and development.
Interestingly, the Club Study industry peers report that their investment seems to have slightly dipped since 2021, as seen in the graphic below.
Surprisingly, these numbers seem rather underwhelming for something so crucial to club operations. Observing the expenditure as an absolute dollar value, however, changes the narrative.
A club with a $3 million turnover will spend less than $30k on average on training & development. Given the financial constraints that club budgets often have to grapple with, including break-even targets, slim profit margins, and increasing inflation, this amount suddenly seems justifiable, even generous to some. But can we really justify increasing this budget?
In the wake of a recent increase in club activities and longer wait lists, many clubs may not see the immediate need for investing more in staff training. The decision-making process is typically reactive rather than proactive, and clubs often prioritize preventing losses over seeking gains. But wouldn’t you agree that the clubs investing more than 2% in staff training probably enjoy a more robust staff culture, leading to better relationships, longer staff tenures, and an overall happier environment? Ultimately, selling and servicing customers to better degrees.
We are pleased to report that we have seen an increased appetite for staff training in recent times, with many 59club clients who receive ‘mystery shopping’ audits investing heavily in training, probably for the same reason they are challenging the golf industry by delivering some of the finest customer experiences in the world of golf.
59club handles enormous quantities of live data and insights, so much so that we are the only authority in golf who can go out on a limb and make such bold accusations about global CX benchmarks and industry trends.
Just as we support our clients to understand their customers, we know our clients and we know them very well, and we can whole-heartedly confirm that they take education extremely seriously – so much so that we have witnessed a 166% increase in the number of training sessions delivered by the 59club UK team between 2021 & 2022.
Taking it back to the wider industry, the Club Study network reports that the largest proportion of development dollars is spent on middle management. So, where exactly do these training dollars go? The most logical answer seems to be conferences, organised by various associations and governing bodies at national and regional levels. Conferences can provide inspiration, reflection, and innovative ideas, not to mention the fantastic networking opportunities and the fun that they provide.
Yet, it remains hard to precisely calculate the ROI from these events.
The crux of the matter when justifying expenditure lies in quantifying the return on investment (ROI) from training and development, which is no easy task. If we don’t measure it, it’s likely to be overlooked.
To quantify improvement in training and development, we need a benchmark. This is where “mystery shopping” comes in. As an unbiased, ground-level measure of your customer service, it provides the perfect service benchmark. After a period of conducting such audits, you’ll have a robust dataset highlighting your strengths and weaknesses, confirming (or disproving) your suspicions.
So, what’s next? The answer is simple: Train! Use the data, celebrate the successes, and develop strategies to address the weaknesses. Department-specific training, consistent programming, and building an ongoing relationship geared to enhance club culture, audit after audit, will make a world of difference.
Your focus should always be on measuring. Once you start doing that, you’ll start viewing training as an investment that yields a return. This brings us back to the heart of the industry: relationships.
As the world continues to blaze the digital frontier, there are now more ways than ever to book a tee time or make a dinner reservation at your club. At face value, that’s a good thing. Additional ways to sell tee times and restaurant covers mean more ways to make your club more accessible and potentially profitable.
But new digital pathways also create opportunities for digital missteps. Mainly, customers want to know their credit card information is secure and they want to know when you have reserved their spot – whether that be for a tee time booking, a dinner reservation or even a treatment at the health spa. And if you’re not providing a written record of their place on your tee sheet or a table at your restaurant, customers may start to feel uneasy about the entire process.
More importantly, an inquisitive written confirmation – which we’ll discuss below – eliminates common customer service problems and opens additional upsell opportunities at your club and restaurant.
Golf Visitor Experience Mystery ShopperInsights:
The global golf industry failed to request an email address during 40% of all tee time reservations made during 2022.
17% of all email confirmations went astray; either the incorrect email address was recorded, or possibly never sent.
Only 56% of golfers ever received their booking confirmation…
What’s the point?
The initial purpose of a written confirmation is to acknowledge the correct date and time of the reservation. Simple. The bare minimum.
If you ordered a widget from Amazon without a confirmation of the purchase, you would be left wondering if Amazon is, in fact, fulfilling the order. That kind of digital misstep creates enormous uncertainty and is unlikely to be the first impression you want to convey to your customer.
With email fields being mandatory, most online tee-time and restaurant booking engines provide immediate and automated written confirmation, allowing customers sight of their booking details and the opportunity to spot any potential errors. When the reservation is booked over the phone the duty of collecting the email address sits with the reservations agent. According to Matt Roberts, 59club’s Director of Training & Education, the absence of a written confirmation can lead to uncertainty and potentially some level of confrontation, not to mention the potential loss of revenues.
“If you’re taking the reservation by phone, it’s imperative to take the customer’s email address and ensure it is correct by repeating it back to your guest to avoid errors. From our experience, you would be amazed at how many people show up at the wrong time or even on the wrong day. This leads to an awkward conversation at the check-in counter trying to figure out how the error may have occurred.”
“Mycustomerhasbooked, mysoftwaregeneratedanimmediatewrittenconfirmation, ormystaffhaveaccesstosend a ‘templated’email. Doneanddone. Right?” Not exactly. For many places around the world, golf and secondary revenue channels like restaurants and bar are seasonal. Operating hours, menu items, club dress code and practice facility access and other large parts of the overall golf experience can change and be different from week to week. How often do you rehash the templated message? – and does it contain everything you’d expect?
Small additions to a written confirmation with updated restaurant hours, dress code or practice facility access, for example, ensure customer expectations match your club’s operations. According to Roberts, clubs who don’t include this information in their written confirmation are leaving themselves open to poor customer experience.
“Everything in the written confirmation has to match the customer expectations,” said Roberts. “The last thing you want to happen is someone arriving at your club expecting to eat breakfast and the restaurant is closed or wishing to hit some balls prior to play and it just happens to be that one day the range is closed for maintenance!
Worse yet, and the one that can cause confrontation, is when a player arrives wearing an outfit outside of the club’s dress code policy. The staff are now faced with an undesirable dilemma: do I make a concession to this one visitor and risk others perceiving this as special treatment, or do I force this customer to purchase attire from the club shop to then adhere to the dress policy? A bad experience either way. Both are avoidable with an informative written confirmation.”
Asking questions or providing additional information within the written confirmation also creates upselling and subsequent marketing opportunities. A common example is the promotion of a golf cart/buggy if one hasn’t been reserved at the call stage. Just by offering a link or a contact to the consumer for them to be able to reserve prior to arrival is imperative for increasing revenue. It also allows the club to prepare this hire item for the arrival of the guest.
Any operator will tell you that the whole check in experience can be busy, but then throw in additional needs of the customer, such as buggy hire, club rental, use of a caddy, or even a personalized gift that the club wasn’t aware of, will lead to more time servicing the guest’s needs and a delay in an already busy operation.
Multiple course operators can also promote the options of an upgrade or highlight other courses within a group. The booking confirmation can also promote elements such as accommodation either on-site, or at other local establishments that offer preferential rates when booked via the club.
And, let’s face it, the opportunities to upsell are endless, when you consider other services and facilities such as high-ropes, custom-fitting, score card marking, leisure & spa usage, private dining etc that can be accessed either on the day, or that may tempt a future return to the club.
Directions or a link to an interactive map, potential transfers and how to book them as well as any information about how to access the club are always useful for any visitors who may be unfamiliar with the area.
Finally, and possibly the most important, are the Terms and Conditions of the club which are there to provide clarity on payment and cancelation, pairing up policy, bad weather and course closures must also be included within the confirmation. You will always be in a more comfortable position, when facing any confrontation, if your T’s and C’s are set in place.
Of course, this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to customer service at your club, and your fellow 59club manager can guide you through industry best practices.
Last year, 59club announced its commitment to become carbon neutral across its global operations by 2030, and is unbelievably excited to have taken a huge step on that journey, with its UK & Ireland business now officially accredited with achieving neutrality in 2022.
To help guide them through the transition to carbon neutral, 59club found solace in the services provided by “Neutral Carbon Zone (NCZ)” – a leading consultancy, management and certification platform.
“Strategically we decided to start with the UK business as it is our most mature business. If we can achieve carbon neutral here, we know we can share best practice and achieve it in our Asia, Australia, Canada, European, MEA, Nordic & USA businesses.” said Simon Wordsworth, Founder and CEO of 59club.
Over the last 16 months, Alan Stenson & Krys Stanton from NCZ supported Will Hewitt, Andy Etherington and the 59club UK team to adopt NCZ’s three scope structure to tackle the key areas of emissions, by creating strategies for every emission line, either at the company’s cost or simply behavioural changes within the business.
“We reviewed emissions directly generated by the company’s activities, emissions that are indirectly generated by energy purchased by the company, and lastly emissions that arise from organizational activities, but from sources owned or controlled by other organizations.
“It’s taken time simply because of the complexity of our business, as it’s not just our office and our people, but all the emissions created by our mystery testers and auditors as they move around the UK & Ireland, the events that we host such as the annual awards ceremony, client golf days, the servers that our software runs on…the list could just go on.” continued Wordsworth.
The business even went further than ‘required’ to help its team members tackle their own carbon emissions through their personal travel and home energy use.
To date, 59club’s UK & Ireland division has completed the first phase of its pledge, having received the results of a recently commissioned carbon footprint assessment, which measures the carbon emissions generated by the organisation’s activities. The assessment is the critical first stage of a comprehensive and commercially focused carbon management plan. The measurement of 59club’s carbon emissions follows the internationally recognised standard ISO-14064-1:2006.
Wordsworth added; “As we progress through this journey, will start to change company buying decisions to ‘fellow green businesses’ who are positively seeking neutrality – where we stay, where we eat, who we buy from etc.”
Achieving Carbon Neutrality by 2030 across 59club’s Global Operations
“For 59club, the pursuit of excellence extends beyond exceptional customer service; it encompasses a responsibility towards our planet. Today, we proudly reaffirm our commitment to achieving carbon neutrality across our global operations by 2030. With this effort, 59club is dedicated to creating a brighter future, where exceptional experiences coexist with a greener world.
“Today’s announcement marks an important milestone in 59club’s journey towards global carbon neutrality. We firmly believe that every long journey begins with a first step, and this commitment to becoming carbon neutral across our entire global operations by 2030 is just the beginning.”
Wordsworth concludes; “Some of our operations that cover huge geographical areas are going to find this really difficult whilst still trying to grow and be profitable, but we believe this is an absolute necessity for the preservation of our planet. Over the coming decades, we will continue to forge ahead, implementing innovative measures and collaborating with partners worldwide to ensure a sustainable future. We have always tried to be amongst the first/early movers, tried to be creative and innovative and this journey allows us to flourish, playing our part to inspire positive change for generations to come.”
In the ever-evolving world of golf club and hospitality management, being a successful manager involves juggling multiple roles. In the whirlwind of these responsibilities, there isn’t enough time to play guessing games about your member or guests’ needs. The best way to learn what your customers want at your club? Ask them !!!
Over the years, we have witnessed a significant shift in customer behaviour within our Survey Software. What started out with aspirations of becoming the most comprehensive pick & mix survey tool in the golf & hospitality industry, has inspired a new-age of club managers who stretch beyond the realms of typical club surveys, to solicit feedback on a whole host of areas to help inform their decision making and the direction the club chooses to take.
Some of those uses border on being radical – a phrase that doesn’t usually appear in the context of Customer Service Management or in Golf in general… but then again, we’ve always been a magnet for those in the industry who like to do things better, and in doing so we like to support them to behave a bit differently…
So, what exactly are these new radicals up to?
They’re putting the club’s destiny in the hands of their members, guests and employees, they’re not just seeking opinion, they’re making instant ‘data-driven’ decisions to help guide the most suitable offering for their customers without prejudice and based on science.
A new age of club managers are delivering surveys for a whole multitude of reasons, some even to establish where their members would prefer grant monies to be spent – on the course, or in the clubhouse?
We’ve seen a club make their entire stock selection based on responses to a simple ‘one question’ survey to establish which brands members would prefer to see in the pro shop – giving different supplier options to both male & female members.
Many clubs are now turning to their members requesting feedback on the club’s competition calendar in an attempt to increase participation, with others collating data to help shape their social events calendar, based on likes and dislikes from previous years, whilst ascertaining interest on potential new themes.
There are so many daily decisions that as managers we face, but the new-age of club managers are involving their members, guests and employees, after all it’s their club and we need them to enjoy it to the absolute maximum, if we want to secure their loyalty.
We’ve witnessed members inspire seasonal menu changes, and on occasion beer and wine suppliers being switched to the delight of those thirsty members. And then there’s a whole bunch of clubs who made member driven changes to their tee-sheets.
There’s so many survey templates to choose from, and so much data to gain and take inspiration from, but there’s one that remains a favorite, always topping the usage charts – and that’s the new member survey. Designed to ensure all newbies are integrated into the club community from day one. Some club managers go one step further using the intelligent software to send their new members a ‘series’ of surveys at specific landmarks during their first three months at the club – monitoring their journey into club life, and addressing any weaknesses along the way.
But let’s not forget the most important people within your business – your employees!!! Forward thinking managers are gathering critical data from the HR survey template bundle, to analyse new and existing employee’s satisfaction levels, along with finding out why some chose to leave.
We’ve noticed a huge shift from being reactive to pro-active, and that in itself is pure 100 percent karat gold, gone are the days of making assumptions of what will sell in the shop, or what events members may enjoy attending, or why suddenly a loyal group of members went AWOL.
Big shout out to all our radical customers – you know who you are!
And if you’re just starting out on your journey with us – let us guide you to get the best out of your customers, and to give the best back.
The game of golf has seen significant changes over the past few decades and so have the people who play it. Once stuck with the stigma of being stuffy and elitist, golf is now showing signs of getting younger, more inclusive and available to players of all abilities.
As a result, what was expected of a golf course in the past – in the way of customer service and player experience – is changing at the same rapid rate. In phrase: the days of focusing only on turf conditions are coming to an end.
In this 59club Spotlight on Service, we head to Mallorca, Spain to catch up with Bernat Llobera, Area Golf Director at Arabella Golf who echoes the importance of providing exceptional customer service across the board, and uses 59club’s industry leading services to objectively evaluate their customer experience, drive continuous improvement, and establish a club-wide culture of service across their three golf properties on Spain’s largest island.
“We see nowadays that it is not only about having a course in great shape. It is about a journey, a full experience.” – Bernat Llobera.
For Llobera, identifying growth opportunities – for revenue and service operations – begins with understanding the experience from the player’s perspective. Working with 59club has made that objective infinitely easier through regular mystery shopping services at Arabella Golf.
“59club’s evaluations are incredibly valuable assets as they provide a client’s perspective which resembles a real guest experience,” said Llobera. “The objective insights provided by 59club are far more valuable than internal assessments. The ‘extra bonus’ is being able to compare ourselves, our three courses, and the ability to compare this to the wider industry benchmarks. And once we have identified areas for growth, 59club’s training and education services allow us to make improvements to our systems and protocols extremely quickly.”
Llobera went on to say identifying and fixing problems as they arise is only half the battle. A commitment to continuous improvement must be the driving force behind changes to customer service protocols.
“Once we receive our evaluation results, we immediately sit down to discuss them as a group,” said Llobera. “We look at everything from comments and images to objective ratings and begin to identify trends and long-term solutions, something that wouldn’t be possible if every team member wasn’t completely committed.”
That commitment to improvement at Arabella Golf, and regular training through 59club has created a culture of customer service at the club. Employee training sessions are completed every year in many aspects of hospitality service, including phone skills, upselling options and retail protocols.
“Our team members love the training sessions,” said Llobera. “It’s clear to see that everyone takes them seriously and strives to improve. The common feedback from the team is that 59club knows and understands the intricacies of the business, and from what I know, there is nothing that can be compared to what 59club offers. Most recently 59club training sessions have been instrumental in improving our reservations department – often the first impression with your customer.”
Another goal for Llobera this year? Pick up a few awards.
“We were extremely proud of all three of our properties’ recognition at the most recent Service Excellence Awards, with Son Muntaner leading the way with a gold flag,” said Llobera. “It encourages you to keep working hard. Ultimately, our team members are the ones who create an incredible golf journey for our guests, so it’s especially gratifying to see the entire team recognized for their commitment and hard work.”
The age old saying goes, ‘that great managers lead by example’; and 59club are quick to point out that Llobera was recently invited into 59club’s Eminent Collection, joining only twenty-two managers spanning 59clubs global territory – and the very first in Europe – having achieved this international benchmark of excellence, which recognises the finest individuals who are leading the industry in the customer experience realms.
Eligibility into the Eminent Collection is based solely on achievements across the 59club Service Excellence Awards, with individual and team accolades, along with property flag designations, all contributing towards the Eminent Benchmark of Excellence; measuring performances over a minimum of 5 years.
Golf experience in Spain is being elevated by managers such as Llobera who seek analysis and feedback to support their team to strengthen their proposition in the marketplace. The advice that he would give to other club managers in Europe and across the wider golfing landscape is that “59club’s wide range of services and solutions improve the business, and therefore, the bottom line. Through personal experience they understand the golf operation and the hospitality industry better than anyone we have met before; they are a great support specialising in customer service; I highly recommend them and their services.”