Why Great Club Leaders Mystery Shop Their Operations

Sunday June 11, 2023

59club Mantra – “MEASURE, TRAIN, SUPPORT”. But what does that mean? By definition, a Mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated often or that expresses someone’s basic beliefs. So why do we use this as our Mantra?

The company was born out of mystery shopping the club/golf business about 15 years ago, so let’s start there. What is mystery shopping? Mystery shopping is a practice that helps a business to better understand the experience of customers (in our case, members, or guests). It implies field-based research done by independent auditors who pretend to be customers. They are called “mystery shoppers.” They visit a particular club and gather information about the quality-of-service delivery and products. Since mystery shoppers pose as customers, it allows them to get an objective opinion of the club they study. Whenever a mystery shopper dispatches to visit a club or course, they have a list of criteria with them that was compiled by industry experts. And based on these criteria, the mystery shopper evaluates service delivery and the professionalism of the club’s employees. By having these specific criteria, it allows a consistency of reporting from month-to-month and mystery shopper to mystery shopper. It also helps keep the report objective, not subjective.

So why should a club/golf course mystery shop their operations? The purpose of mystery shopping is to evaluate the club’s customer (member or guest) service and highlight any areas of excellence and point out any opportunities that may be present. It is a very easy way to see a business from the eyes of the consumer. This information helps clubs know what is being provided to the customer and how that service is perceived. What it is really good at doing is improving the club’s experience for the everyday customer.

Customer service is what helps clubs gain loyal members & guests and improves the experience for everyone who visits. Employees become the face of a company and exceptional service can cause the company to create a positive reputation in the community. Depending on the type of club, quality customer service could provide a wealth of information that you would not otherwise receive. This is true for almost any type of mystery shop that you can be a part of. For example, private clubs can learn how their membership sales team handles both the all-important inquiry phone call and how they deliver the tour with the prospective member. Are they asking the “right” questions to learn about that potential member? Are they promoting back to that prospect what is important to them in their buying decision? Are they following up with their prospects? How else can you find this out? At the Resort or Daily Fee clubs, how is your staff treating that customer from the time they make their tee time until the time they leave your club? Are they using the customer’s name? Are they engaging them with a high-level of hospitality (eye contact, engaging conversation, etc.)? Or are they just processing them through the operation? How do you really know what is happening when you are not standing there? There is a wealth of information that can be provided to enhance the customer’s experience and make them wiser in their everyday experience. Mystery shopping can reveal the strengths and weaknesses of your business, which can help you develop a strategy to enhance customer experiences and increase sales.

Before deciding on mystery shops, you need to ask yourself, “are you TRAINING to a particular standard?” No one wants a gotcha moment. It’s that moment when someone tries to find that “But you should have known” moment. Unless you TRAIN to exacting standards, your crew may not know what the expectation of guest service is, much less how to deliver it. So, before you judge your crew, make sure you are MEASUREING what you are TRAINING. We have several tools that can assist with TRAINING at any club.  

Once you have the report, be thoughtful in how to present the mystery shop results to your team. When you use a secret shopping company, don’t just print the report, and stick it on the employee bulletin board. Good or bad, it should be reviewed by the leadership team first and then you should set up a private time to review any specific results with a particular staff member. In that conversation, we recommend you ask that staff member how they thought they did? SUPPORT them by letting them be part of setting up the goals they’d like to improve on. Getting buy-in at this point in the process will help you hold them accountable for the next time they get shopped.

One exception to the idea of reviewing these results in private is when someone really nails it. Celebrating that staff member in public, around their fellow team members at a staff meeting or a daily line up for example, can go a long way to getting the team to buy into why you are mystery shopping to begin with. It can help create a culture where you are looking to find the team doing it right. Do you know anyone who doesn’t like to be acknowledged for being exceptional at something?

After those most responsible for the score have been celebrated or coached, where appropriate, you can share the highlights with the entire team. Delete the names, dates, and times so they can’t guess who was responsible for delivering the service.

In summary, the benefits of mystery shops:

  1. Monitored and MEASURE service performance
  2. Improves customer retention
  1. Makes employees aware of what is essential in serving customers
  2. Monitors facility conditions
  3. Ensures product/service delivery quality.
  4. Allows for competitive analyses between locations
  5. Identifies TRAINING needs and sales opportunities
  6. Ensures positive customer relationships on the front line.
  7. Helps increase sales.
  8. Rewards hustle by employees who work hard to SUPPORT customer’s needs. 

Back to the start, our Manager – MEASURE-TRAIN-SUPPORT. It is a Mantra we believe in, and we know that works when implemented correctly as evidenced by our over 650 club clients worldwide.