Golfers today have the power to choose among many options with respect to equipment, apparel, accessories, or whatever they think will enhance their game or suit their tastes. They also have numerous options in terms of where to play, including where they play most frequently. If a golfer chooses to play at your course and they have an enjoyable experience, you have the unique opportunity to build a loyal, long-time customer.
Golfers base their ‘where to play’ decisions on many factors. In a recent survey, NGF confirmed that more than 71% of core golfers chose to play a course because of value – their perception of whether the overall golf experience was worth, or even exceeded, the price that they paid for the round of golf. Creating value can be approached from two angles: (1) A golf course operator can lower rates or provide special offers; (2) The operator can enhance the product and overall experience. Rather than focusing on the strategy of competing based on price, let’s look at how you can enhance your product to exceed customer expectations and draw repeat play.
Enhancing the product does not necessarily mean making capital improvements or including ‘free stuff’ with a greens fee (range balls, beverage, etc.). A better, enhanced product can be achieved through determining what drives customer satisfaction and meeting (or exceeding!) those expectations to provide golfers with a great experience at your golf course. The goal is to motivate them so your course is always their first choice. According to NGF’s GolfSAT benchmarking data, a golfer plays at their primary course 56% of the time on average, which translates to about 10 rounds (per golfer) per year. If you can convert 20% of your customer base to become loyal customers, how many more rounds per year does that equal?
Transforming satisfied customers to loyal customers, means understanding the root causes of customer satisfaction, focusing on customer experience, and giving golfers a reason (tangible or intangible) to come back to play often. Here are 8 action steps for creating loyal customers:
1. Review operations to determine strengths and weaknesses.
Take an objective look at your entire operation and make the changes that need to be made. What does your operation do well? What areas can be improved? What should you do more of? What should you do less of? Get feedback from employees. They can be your best internal resource for identifying areas that need improvement.
2. Get feedback from customers.
Understanding customers’ opinions of your facility is essential to identifying their expectations. Use a formal survey (such as NGF’s GolfSAT) or an informal survey to ask customers what they perceive to be your golf course’s strengths and weaknesses. Find out what their expectations are and what motivates them to play your course or another. Also, use a survey instrument that helps you identify your chief competitors for your customers’ wallet share – the results may surprise you.
3. Review the data.
Review and apply all data to better understand your market. Use what you gathered from your customer feedback survey to understand your customer base. Also use available industry data to get a broad picture of trends in the golf industry. Utilizing the data will help you better serve golfers and provide solutions to meet whatever their needs may be.
As in any solid relationship, good communication is key. Communicate with golfers to get to know them better. What’s going on with their game? What do they want to improve? What new equipment might they purchase soon? Tell them about what’s happening at the course (upcoming events, new products coming to the pro shop, etc.). Also keep them in the loop on any potential issues that may interfere with the enjoyment of their round (bad weather, slow play, etc.). No one likes negative surprises, but they will certainly appreciate being told up front.
5. Increase number of touchpoints.
Building loyalty means being where your customers are, and being available to them when they need you. Reach golfers in as many places as possible – at the shop, online (your website), on social media (with a course Facebook page and/or Twitter account), on their cell phones (text messages or mobile app), and in their email inboxes. Be accessible to them and always try to be top of mind.
6. Provide unmatched customer service.
Customer service is not only about solving customer problems. It also means making golfers feel comfortable on your course, and making them feel special. NGF research shows a very strong correlation between a golfer’s commitment to the game and their level of comfort at the course. Provide golfers with a friendly, welcoming environment, and they are more likely to return more often. Why not identify first-time players to your course and greet them at the 18th green after their round, cold beverage in hand?
7. Be creative.
Loyal customers are engaged customers. What are you doing to keep golfers engaged? Get creative about motivating customers to return to your facility. Tournaments, leagues, special events, night golf, putting contests, and demo days are all ways to attract golfers to your course outside of a traditional round of golf. Get creative and have fun. Fun is a primary driver of golfer commitment.
8. Get continual feedback.
Survey customers regularly. Golfers opinions and needs change over time. You want to stay ahead of the curve so you continually strengthen relationships with customers. Plus, if you’re making improvements, you’ll want to measure how effective they are.
Customer loyalty is powerful. When you have loyal customers, not only do you get more wallet share, but they are more likely to recommend to your course to other golfers. By understanding your customers better and exceeding their expectations, you can build a loyal customer base that will pay dividends to your bottom line.