‘Accelerate innovation’ this is an interesting expression that I’ve recently read.
We find ourselves in the middle of difficulty from time to time, yet rarely do we find ourselves with a chance to somewhat pause ‘business as usual’ thinking, hence this is an opportunity for us to reshape our industry and embed a long-term strategy that makes a real impact.
Moreover, this would also offer an opportunity to develop ourselves at a personal and professional level.
I would like to start acknowledging those areas of the personal development that will stay after this pandemic will be over.
A pandemic (coronavirus) that has forced all of us to push our mindset boundaries and be even more creative, a pandemic that has pushed all of us to “smart work” when our daily routine was to engage with people and practical duties, a pandemic that has also improved the trust we have in each other as colleagues, making us an even better team.
Reopening the Club after a three week period of lockdown has not been simple and came with new challenges for everyone in the team, but always in mind the clear goal to guarantee a safe environment for both the staff and the Members.
By the time we reopened, we all knew the guidelines about social distancing, the limitations for closed environments and the best practices for golfers while on the course, but the new normal came with many more blind spots and precautions to be taken.
From an operational perspective, this has requested the issuance of specific standard operating procedures in each department and reconsidering all the H&S measures in accordance to the governmental guidelines, but also with a lot of back-of-house work aimed to implement online booking platforms, forecast the daily use of the golf carts, create rosters where the teams were never overlapping and so on.
All measures aimed to offer both confidence and seamless experience to our Members.
Employee experience & team work
Here is where the team effort has made the difference!
Everyone has taken the responsibility to be an active part in this adaptation journey, sharing thoughts and ideas and thinking how things could be done better, and no one has ever ‘switched off’ just because the club was closed.
I like to personally embrace a thought shared by Robert A. Sereci (GM/COO at Medinah Country Club), who believes that the more you empower employees with trust and freedom of exploring new ideas, the better they will become for themselves and the organization.
Based on our experience, I reckon that effective communication has also been one of the success factors throughout the entire process.
Operating with 30% of the workforce due to government restrictions forced us in a situation where the team had to be deployed in different departments, making it more important than ever to have clear and simple procedures to follow.
In this sense, basic group chats have been very helpful to keep everyone well informed and with all details at hand.
Likewise, communication has been incredibly important when it comes to managing members’ expectations as well.
Customer experience development during COVID-19
Here at The Els Club Dubai Sports City we highly value the relationship we have built through the years with our Members and we have opted for a proactive communication approach in regards to all latest news, but we have also used this ‘off-time’ to survey our services and the expectations on the future of their membership experience.
Navigating through difficult times shows a lot about who we are, and this unprecedented situation offers a great opportunity to reinforce the bond between all the parties involved while setting the foundations for a better and stronger future.
Technology & Innovations
When looking at innovations, golf has never been at the forefront, nor always able to take advantage of the latest technologies like other sectors in the wide hospitality industry do.
However, the braver amongst us will now have the opportunity to reduce this gap and take advantage of this time to explore what will be the new trends, or needs, in the years to come.
Among the ‘new’ strategies that we have launched during the temporary closure, the online tuition and the food delivery have proven to be successful, hence they are definitely here to stay and potentially grow further.
We do operate in a region, the Middle East, that is very advanced in terms of technology and we are lucky to work with Troon partners, like EZLinks and Back9Solutions, that help us push towards new boundaries, nonetheless, there is still a lot more that can be done.
I see artificial intelligence being a key driver for both the on and off course experience, leading to radical enhancements of the overall experience.
The software can become smarter, suggesting you to book on your ‘preferred’ day, automatically checking you in when reaching the club or selecting your favorite drinks and getting it delivered without even thinking of it.
Lastly, if the above is the kind of implementation that will change the golfer’s experience, on our side we have plenty of opportunities to implement further the back of house processes to become even more efficient, with tangible benefits for the organization and, in some cases, the ownership.
With a world that is constantly challenging us to do more and become better, what innovation have you been thinking of and never had time to fully explore? It may be the right time now…
About the author:
Andrea Faldella is the operations manager at The Els Club, Dubai. The club is managed by Troon.