Everyone working together achieves more. It’s a simple concept, but one that I’ve tried to instill in the talented golf team we have here at The Belfry. When you work at a resort that demands the very best in service, the importance of that line grows every day, every week, every month, every year.
Staff collaboration and engagement is vital for a premium golf resort. For us, it’s crucial our team understand and buy into the DNA of our operation, of our brand. Quite often at operations meetings, I’ll ask my team – which includes personnel within golf operations, sales, greenkeeping and the Pro Shop – what exactly does a world-class service look like, and I’ll leave the room for about 15 minutes or so to let them discuss.
When you charge £160 for a green fee to play The Brabazon, customers demand a level of service that can’t be beaten, so if there are any hiccups with our delivery it’s going to have a bigger impact than what some may expect. When I return to the meeting room, it’s amazing to hear the level of feedback – good and back – that our team comes back with.
There’s a lot more discussion topics and debate than if I had stayed in the room, that’s for sure. It could be something as innocuous as an issue with the bag drop, but whatever it is, we always come out with a solution and a better service as a result. The staff are engaged, they feel empowered and ultimately, they help shape not just our operations but our overall strategy for the resort moving forward.
Customer experience development and teamwork
What’s also crucial for an operation the size of ours is to have one team. Often at other resorts, I see separate teams for operations, sales, the Pro Shop and corporate – and they work under different managers and remits. Yes, we have people that specialize in those areas and who lead those areas, but we all work off the same overall plan, sit in the same meetings and operate through the same protocols.
We tend to train our staff internally and don’t rely on external trainers who are less emotionally connected to our brand. People are important and, as I mentioned earlier, everyone working together achieves more.
When it comes to actually delivering top customer service, we’ve faced several challenges. For instance, if you’re charging £160 for a green fee on The Brabazon, but less than £50 on The Derby, does that mean your level of customer service should differ? Do you load everything in favour of your premium product? The answer is no.
When people come to your destination or resort, it doesn’t matter whether they’re nipping in for lunch or staying three nights and spending a lot of money, the experience must be as good as it can possibly be. In our case, there isn’t a Brabazon experience or a PGA National experience or a Derby experience, it is very much a ‘Belfry experience’ and we’re proud of the attention to detail we pay in every single visitor to the resort.
Corporate golf is a major focus
The experience or service you aim to deliver at your resort is arguably no better tested than during a major event or corporate day. Corporate golf is a major focus for us at The Belfry as it is for many resorts across the world. When you play in a corporate day, you have absolutely no idea of the level of management and planning that goes into it. It starts right from the booking process – from that moment on, you’re being judged.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a group of 16 or a group of 86, there are so many considerations you need to make…is the golf course set up the right way? Have you got the right function room? Is there anything happening at the resort that could cause a clash? Have you got the right staffing? Have you got a backup plan for the weather? The questions could go on and on! We’ve got to the stage where the staff here have got ‘The Belfry way’ ingrained in themselves, so a lot of the time I can leave the big days to the team to manage on the ground, which allows me to look more strategically at things and most importantly, look at how we can improve and bring in more business in the future.
One area where we’ve certainly improved in recent times and where I think we continue to set standards is the use of technology. Business has changed a hell of a lot since I first started in the golf industry over 25 years ago and technology really has transformed the way we work. Take our advanced system that manages all our bookings and enquiries for example – that allows us to deal with an incredibly large volume of people, but also allows everyone to have access to the same information and therefore be singing off the same hymn sheet.
Our Golf Academy is another side of the business that has benefitted from advancements in technology and has been crucial to us in delivering a world-class golf service, in addition to our three courses. Custom-fitting suites with the latest Trackman and GC2 monitors have helped establish our Pros as real experts within their fields, not to mention the revenue it has generated for us.
And golf brands will support you with the extra investment if they see you’re committed. Take PING for example – they’ve recently installed a new Trackman 4 launch monitor because they’ve seen how committed we are to custom-fitting. Technology is really important in winning new business, and that transcends right across our business to conferences and large-scale events at the resort.
We will always need to improve and enhance customer experience
Of course, we’re always looking to improve and no one can stand still in this type of industry. There are too many good quality and good value options out there for consumers when it comes to a golf destination. That’s why our team here will look at competitors, they’ll go to industry events, they’ll test new products or services and they’ll invest in HR to bring the best possible people in. We will always need to improve and enhance that customer experience.
Repeat business is so important to any company but equally important is new business. Our sales and marketing team do a fantastic job in generating new business and reaching millions of people with innovative campaigns across a host of different platforms, including social media. They’ve also been instrumental in bringing in ambassadors like England cricketer Stuart Broad, which helps expose us to new audiences. It all helps to improve performance and enhance The Belfry image.
There are of course different ways of judging the performance of a golf resort. Ultimately as a business it comes down to the bottom line, of course, it does, and we’re proud of the growth we’ve seen right across the resort. We are a luxury resort and that’s great when you can say that, but in reality, you need to deliver a service that represents that image. It’s always tempting to look at your competitors for instance and say: ‘well if they’re pricing X at Y, then we should do Z’. But we believe in our product and in the level of service, we can deliver 365 days every year.
And sometimes that service isn’t quite right. It’s fair to say I’m learning every day, but the experience I’m gaining is fantastic. Whatever line of business you’re in, you need good people around you to maximise performance. Ultimately, as I mentioned earlier, if you have everyone working together, you can achieve a lot more!
What do you do in your golf club to enhance customer experience?