The last time I visited Estonia, I really liked the atmosphere of their golf clubs. We don’t hear much about Estonian golf courses, but just recently Today’s Golfer has ranked Pärnu Bay Golf Links as the #23 modern golf course in Europe.
I asked Peter Nyberg (CEO, Pärnu Bay Golf Links) about, among other things, how they can prevail and succeed in European competition.
Where is Pärnu Bay Golf Links in digital transformation?
I would like to start answering the question with “Corona” because I believe that the “only” good thing that has come from Corona (COVID19) is the fact that all of us adapt to a completely new situation. Pärnu Bay Golf Links is a relatively new, 5 years old, golf development and we had already invested in a modern bookings system for tee time, shop and restaurant.
We use Lightspeed Chronogolf and I must say that we made a great decision when we decided to work with their systems. Pärnu Bay Golf Links is also since 2018 a “no cash” club and this has made our work much easier and our staff have more time to spend with customers.
We have also tried several mobile applications but this has not been a success because most of the new applications have resulted in us spending time on things that don’t work.
This is a danger with digital inventions, there are so many different ideas out there and you don’t know if they work or not, so you have to try and try again. You also need to know what you really need and, in my opinion, it is a system that is:
- User friendly, for staff…
- User friendly for golfers, of all ages…
- Feedback, provide you with reports that is easy to understand…
Everything else is easy to develop but if you don’t get the basics right you will be just another club struggling to find what is good for you.
When it comes to dealing with visitors and people buying green fee vouchers, we also do this in digital form, no paperwork, no printing, easy for staff and customers to handle. The customer gets an e-mail with the voucher and when they visit, they show it on their mobile.
In our Lightspeed system, customers can create their own account for payment of green fees, purchase in the shop, driving range, lessons, restaurant, etc. Again, a system that makes life easier for our customers and staff.
I would say that we are today maybe one (1) year ahead of our plan when it comes to digital transformation. when it comes to digital transformation, we always ask ourselves one simple question:
“Will the system make life easier for us and our customers”
We also try to be active on social media, posting interesting news about various activities, and the main purpose is to provide people with information about what is happening at the club.
We also encourage visitors to post their own pictures and share their experiences with their friends, nothing new of course but my feeling is that the post on social media has developed to something really good. Some pictures our visitors have posted are among the best ones ever taken out here.
The next big step for us is to build a digital platform that can handle larger group bookings in a much easier way than it is today. We all need customers and if we can get them to book in advance, on our own platform, without paying 15% in commission to 3 party agents everyone would be a winner. This is what I feel is one of the success factors in managing a golf course.
Will you exploit mobile commerce in the near future?
Yes, we can see that this is growing because although the average age for our visitors is 45-50 years old, they are used to face-to-face interactions when it comes to for example golf- lessons.
We are also looking into how we can sell more to our customers who we already know by offering them the possibility to purchase from our “digital shop”.
They know us, we know what they like and if we offer them the products, they like competitive prices they will choose buying from us, Same as for all clubs, buy from your Pro-Shop.
Do you want to increase the direct tee time booking?
Yes, this is what we really would like to do because it will make life easier for everyone. We are using the Lightspeed Chronogolf system for all our bookings and we encourage customers to log on to the system and find the best deal. We set the prices according to the booking situation and use “dynamic pricing”.
We have tried DP now for two years and although there are some things, we don’t like we feel that it can be tailor-made for our needs. As I wrote before, we are aiming for direct contact with our customers and the main goal is to get them to purchase directly from us.
Third-party tee time operators are of course selling our green fees but we set the prices so that we don’t “downgrade” our own price structure. It is the same way that the hotels and flight companies are dealing with this. They sell a room to sleep in, a chair sit during a flight and we sell a lovely place “playing golf”.
Have you got an employee experience strategy?
My personal view about this is that someone once stated that “the most important asset in a company is the employees”. But he/she should have stated: “the most important asset in a company is the right type of employees”. I know that this might sound a bit controversial but this is my 30 years of experience dealing with golf club employees in Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Germany, Spain, Portugal, USA.
It is the same in every business you need to find the right person, a person who likes the place, the job, the other employees, the company and the customers. An employee can’t do that every day and that is why managers need to provide them with a structure that can make them grow as persons. Is it that easy?
No, it is not easy because we a dealing with people of all ages, young and old. Getting the “right type of people is hard and it is something that I as a manager constantly think about. In Pärnu Bay Golf Links we have implemented a working environment where you as a manager is responsible for your department, it is up to you to find the best possible way to get the work done.
You can plan your time according to our customers’ needs and at the same time make plans so that your staff feel that they are involved. On top of this, we encourage all our managers to get the job done without sacrificing family and friends. Working hard is not the only right way in life, working smart will make you happier and that is the key.
Happy people work hard and if they also work smart, they will get the job done with a smile. But as I said, this is the toughest part of a manager’s job because if you don’t succeed your business will suffer and you are forced to make changes.
We encourage our managers and staff to visit other clubs, restaurants, etc. to get experience in how our competitors work, what is the difference, are they better, is there anything we can learn.