How to develop loyal members


A well-maintained Closed Loop Process will keep collecting data and generating insights as you go along. However, you will need to use your data to take action in order to improve the overall player experience and develop loyal members.

The actions you choose to take need to be based on data and insights or you are just shooting in the dark. Your gut feeling will not always be on target and it is easy to be influenced by the loudest opinion in the room, so taking action based on concrete evidence from player feedback, as well as solid knowledge of segments, player needs and priorities, is always the way to go.

The price of loyalty

The primary objective of your reactions, and of CxM in general, is to increase the number of golfers who are loyal to your club, a.k.a. Promoters, as well as reduce the number of golfers who are dissatisfied or indifferent, a.k.a. Detractors and Passives respectively.

Loyalty does not just evolve on its own but will take time and proper action. Loyalty is instilled when you let your members know that they matter and that their voice is heard, and their opinions taken seriously. While retention is not free, loyal members cannot simply be bought. Rather than economic incentives they value the experience, club atmosphere, participation, and involvement. The social aspect is a big part of the experience of belonging to a club and a strong driver of loyalty. Socially integrating players in your club community is key, and it is important to make them feel welcome and at home. Eventually, your long-time members will work as loyal ambassadors who will organically attract new members as well as add to club community.

While long-time members require some special attention to ensure their retention, we know that this attention will be worth it in the long run as their lifetime value will far exceed the costs of retention. New members are vulnerable and prone to abandon ship within their first two years, so these two first years may require you to spend a few extra resources. However, from an economic perspective retaining members over a lifetime is much more cost-effective than continually throwing money at marketing schemes and advertisements to attract new members that will abandon your club within a year or two anyway – and probably due to a lack of socially inclusive club community.

Our studies show that two out of three members who leave their club leave from preventable causes. In other words, their club has failed to take care of them when in fact they could have acted to do so. In general, golfers are a loyal bunch, and in a healthy club members will usually only leave from unpreventable causes, such as moving to a new home, severe illness or passing away. Sadly, two out of three of the members who leave their club from preventable causes will not relocate to another club, instead they tend to stop playing golf altogether.

Reacting to your members and guests

In order to cultivate loyalty, you will first of all need to retain your golfers and improve their experience. Reacting appropriately to data and feedback from your members and guests, whether it is positive or negative, will increase player satisfaction and the likelihood of retaining new and existing members and keep guests coming back.

You will need two different processes for carrying out your reactions: One for guests and one for members; one process that can kick in at a moments notice to support your guests, and another process that continually develops long-term strategic plans of action to support your members.

Guests require swift reactions from your team to fix issues right away, because you only have a brief window of opportunity to ensure that they have a positive experience. Of course you won’t need to change your bunkers if a single guest is dissatisfied, however, if this is a general trend among your guests then you will definitely have to take it into account.

Members require long-term reactions that strategically aim to improve the player experience. While guest reactions are generally aimed at individuals, members are part of segments that require you to consider the priorities, needs and circumstances of specific groups of players, such as youth players, senior players, new members, new players and so on. Different member groups require a different strategy for improvement, and you will need to pay close attention, communicate and stay in touch with the various segments. Given time, your arsenal of member insights will enable you to build up extraordinary member experiences, both in terms of the specific segments and the overall experience.

Turn your dissatisfied golfers into Promoters

Reacting to player grievances is not simply about providing good customer service or improving customer relations. Rather, this is an opportunity to acquire a deeper understanding of your members and guests and use it to guide your actions.

Negative feedback may be tough love, but without it you would not truly know how to deliver an exceptional player experience that keeps players coming back. Be grateful and always thank the players for their feedback, even if it is negative. We know that a dissatisfied player with an issue that has been properly handled will effectively be happier than the average player.

Inevitably, situations will arise where your team’s efforts to deliver an outstanding player experience will fall short. What separates leading courses from the rest of the pack is their ability to turn the situation around and turn their Detractors into Promoters.

Communication is key. Make sure to set up clear lines of communication to close the gap between you and the players, and make sure that contact information and comment forms are readily available.

When you receive feedback from a dissatisfied guest you need to act quickly. The faster you respond, the higher the likelihood of turning a negative situation around. A fast response lets the player know that his/her input has been heard and taken seriously and creates a positive starting point for a dialog to resolve the issue.

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Morten Bisgaard