Driving the Skill & Will to Focus
Great leaders across all sectors and organization types have embraced the powerful benefits of being data-driven. First and foremost, they understand empirical data can be relied upon to be unbiased and reality based and not influenced by emotions or personal agendas. But what is it and how can you wrap your arms around it in a way that it becomes an indispensable tool for managing and leading your club?
From something as simple as performance trending analysis of various departments to the complexities of identifying market factors effecting future products and services, data has been institutional to nearly every major company and industry in our nation. This has been especially true during times of crisis where the use of data has evolved to provide compeitive differientation, and a tool to drive customer retention and brand loyalty. More and more, successful private clubs are embracing these best practices and leap-frogging their competition.
As we think about the road ahead no doubt there are many uncertainties both in our personal lives and our professional ones. It is safe to assume the majority of private clubs are headed for a tumultuous period; members will return to clubs with all levels of hesitancy. Some can’t wait to resume to the new normal and the day the club fully opens will be there as if nothing happened, while others will be extremely cautious and may not return to the club for months.
The questions facing all clubs today are: What will members engagement level be? What new concerns will they have? What are their expectations of management, staff and the facilities they may want to resume utilizing? Will there be areas that members will avoid because of lingering fears? On top of that, the looming storm cloud of member attrition is forming due to the financial impact COVID 19 has imparted on our economy, the club’s P&L, and individual personal finances and discretionary income. While that paints a cloudy and rather dismal picture, organizations and businesses have faced similar crises in the recent past with the recession in 2008 (housing market collapse), 2001 (9/11) and the 1998 (tech bubble). Historically, the clubs, companies and organizations that emerged the fastest and the strongest from those events where the ones that strengthened their resolve to their Customer/Member’s Experience.
Gary Eversole, ClubInsights Vice-President, and integral to our experienced research team, spent over 35 years in Customer Experience design and development spanning multiple sectors including automotive, hospitality, technology, finance and retail. Additionally, he has served on the Board of two private clubs and has witnessed the power of a positive Experience culture and the havoc a weak Experience culture can have impacting retention, loyalty and member satisfaction. I asked Gary to comment on his past experiences and how research has evolved during times of crisis to enhance and create a positive experience culture.
“Think of companies like Ritz Carleton, Nordstroms, Lexus, AMEX, Zappos, Southwest Airlines to name a few. These are the companies I worked with that consistently embraced experience and collaborated with their customers to improve products and services. Through deployment of proactive listening approaches and implementing robust systems to resolve individual issues quickly and effectively, they used what customers were saying to build a better experience and in the process drove engagement . Why did they invest so heavily in customer experience? The answer is resoundingly simple, Customer Retention, Loyalty and The Power of Positive Word of Mouth. For clubs, nothing could be more important than keeping your current members happy and enhancing your overall brand perception.
The power of a positive experience, engaging members in the solutions, and the even greater power of resolving a negative experience quickly and effectively creates an army of ambassadors. Most organizations “assume” they have a proven process for listening to their customers/members when in fact the “system” is generally an opportunity for the vocal minority to take charge and drive their personal agendas. Successful organizations establish a robust consistent methodology for knowing their customer/member wants and needs, delivering on them and creating a rapid response process for issue resolution.
The Member Experience (MX) Evolution – Several important developments in the MX space have occurred as a result of crisis and the need to stabilize cash flow and retention. Crisis amplifies the need to protect your most valuable asset – your customers/members. As a result, there have been several customer/member experience (MX) best practices that have emerged during difficult times:
- Relational Customer Experience – The ability to understand satisfaction levels across all areas of interaction with a product and/or service. The primary goal being to identify areas of lower performance and higher importance to drive continuous improvement. This serves to not only focus your precious resources but it drives improved satisfaction levels and creates a feeling of “shared ownership” and sense of pride.
- Standards-Based Research – The concept is very basic — reduce and eliminate customer diss-satisfiers thru defining objective standards that have a direct relationship with satisfaction/dissatisfaction (i.e., new car delivery – gas tank full, Hotel check-in – were you greeted promptly, was the room clean, Golf Course – were the bunkers raked, were the greens mowed). Followed by periodically measuring standards and identifying low performing standards for improvement. Again, the principle is to leverage data to improve satisfaction and corresponding loyalty.
- Transactional Experience – Measure satisfaction with each specific area when a customer/member has an experience. This provides the ability to not only collect performance data to identify continuous improvement opportunities, but it also provides a one-to-one member recovery effort in the event of a service failure. In business
estoday it has become an accepted fact that quickly and appropriately addressing an issue with a customer dramatically increases satisfaction and engagement levels…..to a higher level than customers/members that did not experience an issue. “Closing the loop” processes and systems are implemented to ensure a systematic approach to resolving all issues. As a side benefit, cataloging individual issues can provide insight into broader foundational challenges….. leading again to continuous improvement.
Most clubs assume they have a two-way communication process with members having experiences (transactions) at the club. In fact, most clubs fall victim to the vocal minority syndrome while those members avoiding confrontation silently catalog the negative experience. Successful clubs diminish the reactionary effects of the vocal minority and accelerate “real time” interaction with all members to isolate problem areas, act on the information and continually improve the member experience.
Times of crisis create transformational opportunities. The private clubs’ transformational opportunity is to restore safe havens or sanctuaries if you will, where bonds with members are strengthened through a shared mindset. Seize this opportunity to strengthen your commitment to the member experience. Leverage cross-sector best practices in managing the member experience in creating club ambassadors. Deploy tools that proactively listen to your members, capturing their issues, identifying unmet needs/wants, circumventing the grapevine, and driving raving fans. Raving fans use their club more, they tell others how great it is and they become a community of goodwill ambassadors.” Gary Eversole, Vice-President, ClubInsights.
Following up on Gary’s comments and recommendations, in a recent ClubInsights’ COVID -19 survey of several club’s memberships, scores for confidence in leadership to get their club through the crisis ranged from a low of 67% to a high of 99%. The highest scoring clubs were clearly those that had identified and facilitated strong member service solutions, are actively listening to their members and are delivering on the items most important to members. Gary’s advice on developing and facilitating systems that allow informational exchange opportunities with the members are a foundational step in building a successful MX program.
So, as we reexamine The Tyranny of the Urgent, it is quite simply the interruption of actions most important to success by things we deem more timely. Crisis can easily sidetrack even the most successful organizations. Crisis also provides opportunities to do more of what is important. It is up to each leader to ascertain what is important in their unique circumstance. If proactive listening to your members, providing what they need or knowing if they have an issue is not high on the priority list, it may be time to revisit your priorities.
Finally, here are a few key thoughts as clubs are getting closer to opening their doors again.
Key Principles of the Member Experience MX
The greatest cash flow challenges facing most clubs will be in retaining existing members, being prepared to welcome them back to the club and using it often, and a plan to replenish lost members as quickly as possible. The most effective means to success will likely include all of the following:
- Data-driven performance improvement vs. “management knows best”. The good ole days of you can have any color you want as long as it’s black are over. Members today want and expect more. Clubs that are sensitive to this reality will continually improve loyalty.
- Proactive listening – identifying individual member wants and needs will be at the heart of providing positive experiences and increasing participation.
- Showing you care and provide opportunities for member feedback builds confidence, trust and a “shared” community mindset.
- Alignment of Governance – providing a unified, thorough and well thought out and safe emergence plan will create confidence, loyalty, referrals and participation in events
- Staff will play an enormous role in driving confidence. First, staff must be made to feel confident.
Remember not only the urgency that COVID-19 has created for the world, think of what is most important in regaining member trust and loyalty so critical to a rapid cash flow boost and a return to normal as quickly as possible.
Stay safe, look forward…..
Our team has developed a short, simple, but strategic set of questions that will provide your leadership team with an understanding of member’s fears, needs, wants and attitudes as clubs emerge from this lockdown. As a service to the industry, we are offering this free of charge for a limited time. If you would like to learn more about this excellent “listening opportunity”, please contact Peter McCarty at [email protected].