Wed Feb 6 2013The customer is always right.... well, almost always...
No matter how hard we try, we are bound to receive complaints about our facility, service, products or management style. The human factor plays a major part in this occurring, since we all make mistakes and we all have staff that make mistakes. What makes a good manager is how this complaint, big or small, is dealt with through the proper use of Service Recovery techniques.
A complaint is a great opportunity to create a loyal client, instead of someone you just regard as a pain in the butt.
Complaints define what customers want and they also tell you who your most loyal customers are. However, you will occasionally get some odd issue that is out of your control, such as "it took too long to play today" (when the group finished in 3 hours 15 minutes), or "the course didn't look like the courses on TV".
Use the 98% rule and manage to the needs of the 98% in the middle of your market-base. The 2% located on the outside fringes are worth listening to the first few times, but you soon realise you will never make them happy, no matter what you do. So be cordial, but don't get bogged down in servicing them too much.
Based on a negative service experience, a recent US study found 80% of people said they would not return, 74% complained and told others, 47% swore and/or shouted at the service staff and 13% fought back by posting negative online reviews, Facebook posts, or Tweets.
I would rather have someone complain to me about their experience than have them leave the property without saying a word as the latter issues happen more often than you realise. If they complain to you, then you will at least have a chance to win them over as a long-term, loyal client or member. If you are wondering where all your players went, have a hard look at your Service Recovery procedures for all areas of the club and discuss them during your next committee or staff meeting.
By treating complaints as opportunities and putting the right service recovery program in place, you not only reduce negative word of mouth, but you also have a chance to build closer relationships with customers who care enough about you in the first place to complain. How you recover is critical to how you uncover the secret to long-lasting, profitable relationships.
5 Service Recovery techniques:
1) If they had an incredibly slow round, offer a free round of golf during an offpeak period. Usually people don't play alone and they may bring a paying guest along next time. Use this opportunity as a marketing tool.
2) Put a Service Recovery diary in all locations that are highly trafficked areas, such as your pro shop. Have staff list all the issues they hear about, as well as the merchandise people request that you don't have, and check the list regularly to make sure all complaints are followed up immediately.
3) If they had a terrible meal, offer a discount or free bottle of wine, or a main meal on their next visit (same idea as #1 above). A small offer goes a long way.
4) Negotiate - ask them what they think is fair compensation for whatever happened. If you agree it is fair, do it immediately. The customer cannot then change their mind. If you don't agree it’s fair, offer an alternative solution.
5) Make a follow-up telephone call after the solution has been implemented. This simple step demonstrates you care and shows how important the customer's business is to you and to your company.
It is sometimes difficult to look a whining customer or member in the face and say, "Thank you for your complaint. Have a free round on us!"
Every opportunity will have to be assessed on its own merit as to what is feasible to offer. Sometimes complaining customers just want to be heard, other times they insist to talk to the highest ranking person (just to be heard), and in the infrequent times, a simple offer or small discount will suffice. Just the fact you offered a solution goes a long way.
You can empower your staff to address complaints quickly by giving them authority to make decisions and to take appropriate actions without first seeking approval from others. This in itself will improve customer satisfaction and boost staff morale.
So the customer is always right - well almost always right. Manage your business to the 98% of your market base that are truly legitimate customers and not to the 2% on the fringes of your market base who are just looking for a "freebie" or a chance to have a general whinge which you cannot resolve.
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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