Wed Jun 20 2012Answer the DAMN phone!
There used to be an old debate I'd have with some staff of mine, "who was more important, the person you are serving in front of you, or the person calling on the phone." Some staff would always argue that it was more important to serve the person in front of you since the person calling would eventually call back and it was rude to put them on hold. My explanation to these sometimes future "former" employees was the person calling should always take priority. The person on the phone does not know that you are busy, where alternatively the person in front of you is more likely to understand your situation and will be more patient in having to wait to be served. It also may give them a few minutes to look around your proshop and buy something!
I'm still surprised that one of the most basic, but possibly the single most important service standard, answering the phone, is not a higher priority at more clubs I visit. The phone is the number one contact point with most of your members, clients, and any new prospective business to your facility. Have a listen right now to see how many rings it takes before they pick up the phone in your pro shop. When I conduct a retail management audit, this is one of the main items that get reviewed.
Understandably, there are a few reasons why a phone doesn't get answered within 3-4 rings; understaffed, lack of staff training, an IT system that can't handle the phone call load, bad lines, staff that don't care etc. All of these reasons are under your control. A great 'service' facility will always answer the phone within a maximum 3-4 rings. Every staff member at these facilities fully understands the importance of every individual call to their establishment.
Why is answering the phone such a priority?
You just never know who is calling, it could be someone looking to join your club, asking directions, an emergency, or maybe wanting to book a $20k wedding. The person your serving at your counter is already at your facility and is most likely already sold on your product.
Do you have phone standards in place for your staff and are they being held accountable for adhering to them? How many rings do you allow before answering? What script do they say when speaking? ie Good Morning… This is xyz golf course…
While were discussing phone standards- when was the last time you did a full audit of your phone lines and usage?
Check with your telephone service provider on getting a report of all phone calls received, missed, and dropped. It sometimes will be included in the big phone bill you receive each month. Its not the most fun document to read, but there can be a lot of money to be saved each month. I had one facility that didn't realise they were still paying for line rental on two lines they didn't use anymore for almost two years. This added up to several hundreds of dollars. This review will also identify any improper calls that may be incurring from staff i.e. international, friends.
Contacting a club via their website has been steadily gaining in importance over the past few years as more people do their inquiries in this fashion instead of by the phone. Do you have any set standards for how this is handled?
I recently sent an email inquiry to an Australian club to try and find out about their change in General Managers for an upcoming announcement in my monthly Inside Golf Industry News section. I used the contact form located on their website and the message went through no problem- well that was until I started receiving "email has not been delivered" and "I will be notified when it arrives". This message was sent to me nine times over a week before it finally expired, without my email ever being received! I wonder how many new member queries received the same fate! So the big lesson here is to check your email addresses, and contact forms every so often to make sure they work, or risk losing future business.
The best way to improve service throughout your entire facility
To start- be rigorous in your hiring process and find some great 'personalities'. There are heaps of people from the hospitality industry that would love to work in golf. You can teach "skills" but you cant teach "outgoing", "helpful", "personable". Keep raising the bar and make sure your best performing staff member trains the new staff members.
Then train them with the following:
Triple AAA service - start training your staff members on the following three key areas and you will see a dramatic improvement across the entire facility.
Acknowledge- every guest that comes within 3-metre with a greeting-
How may I help you? Hello- How are you? How was your round?
Awareness- of what is happening around your work area and facility?
Anticipate- the needs of our guests before they request help?
If you would like to chat about your current operational or marketing challenges- contact Mike Orloff at firstname.lastname@example.org
Now that your finished reading this story- go answer the DAMN phone!;)
Written by Mike Orloff - Golf Operations and Marketing Specialist - © Golf Industry Central
Mike Orloff is a golf marketing and operations specialist with management experience in the golf industry in Australia and United States. He offers marketing and operational advice for golfing facilities in the areas of revenue generation, membership attainment and retention, new player development, staff recruitment, event management and retail management.
Marketing to grow golf businesses is Mike’s main focus these days.
As a current US and Australian PGA Member, Mike has more than 22 years of experience working his way up from pro shop assistant to general manager of two to five-star operations for two of the biggest international golf management companies globally. Now Mike is offering his experience, knowledge and tools to golf clubs and other golf-related businesses in Australia and New Zealand.
Articles by Mike Orloff