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Answer the DAMN phone!

POSTED ON March 12, 2019 @ 8:07 am

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 you are busy, whereas the person in front of you is more likely to understand your situation and will be more patient about waiting to be served. It also may give them a few minutes to look around your proshop and buy something!

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I’m still surprised that one of the most basic and 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 to be 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 you’re 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 use when speaking? i.e. Good Morning… This is xyz golf course…

While we’re 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 about 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. It’s 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 hadn’t used for almost two years. This added up to several hundreds of dollars. This review will also identify any improper calls by staff to friends or overseas.

Website protocol

Contacting a club via their website has been steadily gaining in importance over the past few years as more people do their inquiries online 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 for our website news. I used the contact form located on their website and the message went through no problem – 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. I retried again and triple checked the email address was correct.

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 who would love to work in golf. You can teach “skills” but you cant teach “outgoing”, “helpful” or “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-metres 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 your guests before they request help.

Now you’re finished reading this story – go answer the DAMN phone! 😉

Or contact me for any service training or marketing assistance you may need.

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