When I was CEO of Select Registry, a portfolio of more than 300 upscale inns, we administered a secret-shopper, 200-point inspection of the guest stay. We knew a thing or two about the customer experience and what guests liked, loved, tolerated and hated. One thing I learned was the power of “dissatisfaction triggers,” which are arguably more impactful to the experience than those things people loved and wanted to experience. Examples might be finding a hair in the bathtub or being treated rudely by staff.
We had a lot of first-timers stay at inns and B&Bs, which meant thousands of customers going through our doors looking both for reasons they should love this and reasons why this might have been a bad choice. I believe first-timers in golf do the same thing. They’re already nervous, they fear embarrassment and wonder if they’ll fit in. They know how passionate people are about the game, so there must be “something” really great. At the same time, they’re hypersensitive to their surroundings and how people are treating them—both other golfers and the course staff.
Many of golf’s leaders are asking more and more these days what we can do about the experience that will help retain more customers. We’ve focused so much on player development programs, grip-and-stance, expecting proper etiquette toward the game from people who might not get why that’s important and so on. I wonder what will happen if we turn our attention—collectively as an industry—to etiquette toward the customer and eliminating the dissatisfaction triggers. And this is tricky, because as small business owners, you know what the customer wants or desires varies depending on who walks through the door. But we often shape our businesses around the experienced customer and what they want, rather than the interested, new customer and what they may need.
In golf, we should challenge ourselves to identify the triggers at the course that cause people to have a visceral reaction about golf. So much of this comes down to simple hospitality. We must remember all businesses should be hospitable, but we in golf are in the hospitality business. Do you have meaningful training with all of your staff about the do’s and don’ts of good hospitality? Did you genuinely express an appreciation for your customer’s business today?
It’s no coincidence the NGCOA is focusing more time and attention on delivering hospitality and customer service content to our members through webinars and conference workshops. Did you miss the webinars we hosted this summer on hospitality? Tell me, what do you believe are the strongest triggers of dissatisfaction, which leads to attrition? And what can we do about it? Let’s close the back door and embrace the people who chose to come through the front.