Following on from the previous article, the Business of Golf discussion series’ panellists comment on what it takes to “Keep the Customer satisfied”.
Robert Jasper (Sandton Sun) and Peter Dros’ (Fancourt) activities fall into a greyer area, within an environment predominantly involving service. Peter Dros promises it through Fancourt’s marketing campaigns and Robert Jasper must deliver on his group’s marketing promises to every guest coming into the Sandton Sun.
Robert Jasper (Sandton Sun): It is amazing how basic the ‘misses’ are, in your examples. Re the bottom line - it is estimated to cost about ten times more to generate a new customer than to retain an existing one.
Above everything, your examples show that a lack of common sense, poor staff training or real understanding is driving what pass for customer service protocols in these businesses.
My real concern is not with the customers who have a complaint or share an issue with us, because we can deal with the problems they may have had. The concern is with those who don’t share a problem and leave unhappy and dissatisfied, where the real danger is now that although they might not speak to us, they will almost certainly share their ‘disappointments’ on social media with their friends.
This means that in the hotel sector, engaging with a guest on-site promptly, listening carefully and not assuming what is actually wanted are key activities in all customer interactions.
Peter Dros (Fancourt): "Ouch – the misses are glaring and the fall-out in brand terms will be even more obvious.
"To continue with Robert Jasper’s theme of sharing bad experiences, I would reference Cordell Hull, who wrote: "A lie will gallop halfway round the world before the truth has time to pull its breeches on" and my point is that ‘bad news’ in a customer sense can travel equally fast, so we need to address any and all issues seriously.
"If a customer has a real issue and takes the time and effort to bring this to any business’ attention, it deserves to be responded to promptly and professionally. This type of intel about our business is extremely valuable and can be used to refine and polish our service levels.
"We are not a 5-star brand by ‘accident’ and customer feedback, at every level, plays an integral role in keeping us on our toes and able to continually refine what we offer and how we offer it."
Damian Wrigley’s role at Pearl Valley covers all of the above areas, as he oversees a retail operation, F&B outlets and in addition has the extra ‘spice’ of managing his club’s members’ expectations.
Damian Wrigley: "It is very encouraging to see such consensus about your examples and it might indicate that we are getting it pretty much right, at least in terms of attitude, re the customer in golf and tourism.
"Customer and member retention are key touchpoints for us at Pearl Valley and for golf as a whole and bad news, as Peter Dros observes, can travel alarmingly fast, especially fuelled by social media platforms.
"It amazes me how businesses can drop the ball so obviously, when all it takes is a sincere and prompt apology, backed by a ‘thank you’ which could be a complimentary bed-night, or round of golf, phrased as a token of our appreciation in your taking the time to talk to us about a problem. In retail terms, our suppliers are very supportive, if we have any issues with product sold through the shop.
"Overall, I am reminded of the one bad apple analogy and in the same vein a disappointed customer or member can quickly sour the whole barrel, if a problem is not dealt with promptly and sincerely."
Alistair Collier could be considered the odd man out, as the John Collier Golf Survey’s toolkit is free to participating golf clubs. In what is in effect a symbiotic relationship, the only ‘quid pro quo’ being that clubs’ share their environmental and governance data. This information is pooled to form the basis of the research results published in the annual survey, while the individual clubs use the data compiled in their own surveys to benchmark their own progress.
Alistair Collier: "The examples are of experiences we have all had at one time or another. The John Collier Golf Survey is free, but within a mutually complementary relationship. We put great credence by our ‘customers’ (golf clubs), comments and feedback and to help improve the range, reach and quality of the survey’s structure and tools, and within this exchange, clubs use the data collated in their John Collier Questionnaire, as a management tool, and the findings in the Annual Survey as a benchmarking exercise.
"Like you, I am also a consultant and very aware of the need to give the very best inputs. On the rare occasions with a client when things go awry, I am quick to offer complimentary remedial inputs to address an issue."
John Cockayne has been a Professional Golfer since 1977 and is a fully qualified founder member and Life Member of the PGA of South Africa. He is a former Head Professional at Royal Oak, State Mines and Benoni Country Clubs and Director of Golf at Southbroom, during which period he was involved in the organisation of golf tours, numerous professional and amateur tournaments and as a consultant on the Sunshine Circuit.