A unique question was posed of PGA TOUR star Marc Leishman during his 2018 BMW Championship appearance – do you know what you don’t know? The philosophical, almost Zen-like inquiry left the Aussie star perplexed and confused, but he eventually answered the riddle with charming befuddlement, stating with a chuckle “No. I don’t know what I don’t know.” Lucky him.
When it comes to their on-course game, Leishman and the rest of the PGA TOUR’s best might have the luxury of blocking out the riffraff, choosing instead to focus only on winning – the one component of their career that matters. But for the remaining 99.9 percent of golf industry professionals like course operators, hospitality managers, F&B personnel, outside service members and others who use the game of golf to make a living, knowing what you don’t know is the difference between providing a valuable golf experience or receiving an angry Yelp review.
Golf course operators and managers cannot be everywhere at once to ensure every single element of the golf experience at their club matches the price point. But with many clubs operating at high price points, excellent customer service is not the exception. Excellence is expected, and the reason why high-profile daily fee clubs and private clubs alike rely on third-party customer-service expert consultants to figure out what they don’t know and fix it.
“An independent mystery shopper audit allows managers to view their club through the eyes of their customers,” said Mike Kelly, Managing Partner of 59club USA. “Feedback will pinpoint strengths and weaknesses, while the ability to make service comparisons to not only chosen competitors, but also the 59club industry and best performing clubs, gives operators actionable data, goals and opportunities to evaluate their tactics.”
Mystery shopping audits measure all service offerings at the club and are not solely limited to turf conditioning or bunker presentation – although that is a large component of the program. Staff attitude, sales and upselling prowess, facility management and general operating procedures also are factored into the mystery test – which gives club managers a real-time snapshot of their entire customer-service presentation.
59club USA has helped more than 80 high-profile clubs collect customer-service data and elevate their golf experience all over the country including the TPC Network which operates 32 golf properties was one of the first to adopt 59club USA customer service benchmarking techniques, using the collected data to increase customer loyalty and provide employee feedback. But Kelly suggests the tools provided by his firm are not reserved for only high-end or private properties.
“Investment in bricks and mortar do not sustain and grow reputations,” said Kelly. “It is people who build reputations. You may or may not be the ‘biggest’ club in the area but you can definitely achieve, deliver and then maintain outstanding customer service.”
As we slowly come out of the pandemic and get back to what serves as a new normal – whatever that might mean – we have a little breathing room to reflect on silver linings. The golf industry enjoyed a mini boom over the last 15 months, drawing a large number of first-time players and overall participation not seen since the early 90s. And with that newfound reinvigoration, the game itself is in a unique position to renew its focus on elevating the game from standardized commodity to an elite-level golf experience. And it seems as though 59club might be the best way to know what you don’t know.