Monday, September 28, 2009

You’re Point of View

By Michael Vogt, CGCS

When Patti La Belle sang "I tidied up my point of view--I got a new attitude," she probably wasn't thinking private club golfer "new attitude". But we ought to think about it.

My posts often mentioned the importance of maintaining a line of communication with the membership. The club memberships’ “attitude" of you, your staff and the golf course in general are important topics for the golf course superintendent to keep abreast of. In approaching the subject of golf course conditioning from the perspective of the club’s golfers, emphasizing what they want or need should be common knowledge to any golf course superintendent. It's more than a matter of playing with height-of-cut or planting flowers around the clubhouse or even major projects. In all business it’s paramount to deliver the best of products and services based on clients desires. The membership’s wants and desires are not necessarily what you imagine are correct. It's good business to recognize what the customer wants.

Back to your point of view

It’s easy to think you know what’s best for the club based on your point of view, by putting yourself in the golfer’s place and supplying the kind of conditions that you perceive are appropriate. Even the well connected superintendent may be missing the message on conditioning and projects needed or wanted by the membership. Are these messages communicated to you by the vocal minority, or select members of a club committee, or perhaps by an otherwise well intended manager or golf professional?

Consider a survey; a complete golf survey can add direction and complete or accomplish tasks that you may not even consider.

When conducting a survey don't make your message all about "me" or "us". If you're trying to uncover what your membership wants, emphasize what's in it for them. We must understand we are in the business of satisfaction. Our unique McMahon Group surveys always point out that Very Satisfied Members are more likely to have a loyal and a close connection with their club. These members also use their clubs more often and spend appreciably more and tend to bring guests more often. The management staff’s goal is a Very Satisfied Member.

Death of a career

I recently received a call that shows a marked insensitivity to the "you attitude":

A superintendent worked diligently to accomplish many goals for a club. Renovations, increased quality of turf conditions, a more stable, highly trained maintenance staff, all things seemed to be moving in the right direction.

One thing the superintendent mentioned was that he had communication problems with select members of the committee and several long time members. These problems began to increase and without intervention became a battle of personalities. As time went on members began to think the superintendent was not responsive the needs of the membership as a whole. This superintendent was highly skilled at all things agronomic and had a great grasp of fine tournament golf conditions. Golf course condition had never been better but after several years the superintendent was ask to resign.

If a survey was administered, I feel it would have pointed out what the membership wanted and needed. The survey would have either repositioned the club’s long range plan or confirmed the superintendent was on the right track. Left to rumors and innuendo the membership increasingly began to suppose the superintendent had his own agenda for the club.

Ask yourself, “What can I, the superintendent do for YOU the member?” Without a golf course survey to map out a direction you most likely will never arrive at the final destination. Flowers at the entrance to the ladies locker room may be a concern you have overlooked.

Furthermore, a survey reinforces your commitment to membership satisfaction. A membership that feels they contribute to the successes of the club is more engaged and more satisfied. Remember, Very Satisfied Members are your ultimate goal.

The knee jerk

How many times have you been asked to remedy a situation or problem that all of the sudden became number one on your list of priorities? With the tendency to solve these problems quickly an inordinate amount of resources need to be allocated to this emergency issue at hand. These knee jerk problems neither may nor seem important to you but perhaps someone thinks they are. Would a comprehensive membership survey point to these number one issues before they become immediate must respond situations?

The big project sell

As a former golf course superintendent I can look back on my career and site several different opportunities that should have begun with a club survey to either strengthen my position or plans for the golf course’s future. One example was a new irrigation system; it took four years to sell a new irrigation system to the club membership. After most club members realized the old quick couplers could never deliver the quality of turf that nearby country clubs offered a new system was slated for the following year. A well drafted survey could have shorted the curve on approval, I am certain of it!

Sand bunkers, cart paths, golf course restrooms, irrigation systems, drainage and turf care centers are all big ticket items that are difficult to “sell” to memberships. These aforementioned items are the most sited when a golf survey is completed. If golf superintendents need a resource to help acquire needed capital to keep the golf course in excellent condition and accomplish Very Satisfied Members a survey is just the tool to expose a need and solution exists.

The club’s participation in a golf course survey might just surprise you. Most clubs that conduct a golf course survey are so amazed at the participation rate the club elects to conduct surveys at regular intervals to engage members on their most important asset, the golf course.

The process

• Find the issues, (focus groups)
• Ask the right questions
• Be Specific
• Be statically accurate
• Keep it simple
• Ask several “Open Ended Questions”
• Use a combination of Paper and Online formats for highest returns
• Share the results as soon as possible
• Make changes based on results

Remember, the entire staff’s goal is a "You Attitude" or a Very Satisfied Member.

If you need more information on the survey process email me at .

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