Improving Customer Satisfaction at Public Golf Courses ⛳

At a Brief

I created a course using Articulate Storyline for new employees at three golf courses operated by a regional management company.

  • Responsibilities: eLearning Development and business consulting
  • Client: Regional golf course management company
  • Tools Used: Storyline 360, Google Workplace, Storyboarder, Adobe Creative Suite, OBS, Moodle
  • LMS: Through WordPress
  • Year: 2021

Background:

The Situation: I was referred this client from an independent business consultant who I regularly work with.

A golf course management company oversees three public courses in the Greater Boston area. Public courses allow anyone to play for a fee, thereby creating competition between other public courses based on price, course quality, customer service, amenities, etc. versus a private course which requires a membership.

Most golfers fit into three main demographics: regulars, who play at the course often, occasional players, and members of a group, such as charity tournaments or business outings. The latter two groups bring in the majority of the revenue for a course. These groups are morose focused on overall experience and less so on course quality.

Analysis

Area of Focus:

All three golf courses were plagued by poor reviews. On Google, there were 260 total reviews, with a rating of 3/5 (62% positive), with only 10 (50%) of the most recent 20 reviews being positive. Similar results were found on golfnow.com, yelp, and golfpass.com. Other nearby golf courses had significantly more positive reviews, most around 75%.

This was an area of immediate assistance as the business consultant and subject matter expert (SME) agreed that almost every golfer (>95%) spends at least some amount of time researching a course online prior to playing it. Examples of research include: Reserving a tee time, finding a course and comparing local courses (Think, reading reviews).

I did not have time to read every review (1,000+) of each course on every website, but after going through a selection from each website, I found users’ Google reviews best represented those left on the other websites.

Of the 99 negative reviews on Google:

  • 84 focused on concerns with staff or general customer service.
  • 15 were for other reasons, such as course conditions.

Of the 84 reviews:

  • 33 were frustrated with the check-in process, many finding it unorganized.
  • 30 used the words “rude”, “strict”, “arrogant”, “attitude”, and/or “aggressive” to describe the clubhouse staff.
  • 15 had issues with the pace of play, some feeling they were pressured to go too quickly, others perceiving play was too slow without adequate direction from the course marshal.
  • 10 alluded to being “upcharged” in some way.
  • 4 mentioned feeling pressured to leave a tip.
  • 30 said they would not return.

Another compounding issue was the response from the business owner (in the case the course manager), sometimes arguing with those who left one-star reviews. These responses sometimes elicited more negative reviews. This latter issue would be addressed by the business consultant.

Design & Development

I met with SME, in this case the Vice President of Operations, to discuss his goals and to mutually confirm that an e-learning course was the best path forward. The basic goal, as described above, was to improve sales. To get there, a better customer rating was needed. To help achieve this, I would implement a company-wide basic customer service training course specifically focused on customer-facing employees but short enough that all staff would take it.

Following our meeting, I conducted a focus group session with three employees of one of the golf courses.

The employees echoed the Vice President’s concerns, but noted that when they started their employment they did not receive any formal instruction and were told to, “Learn on the fly.” Another sentiment was also they were given little responsibility, with frequent demerits and rare praise.

The course touched on many customer service points, some general and some specifically having to do with one of the three golf clubs. I started with defining five main points, which would ultimately become the main chunks of the course:

  1. Structure of the organization
  2. The basics of customer service
  3. Working in the clubhouse
  4. Working on the course
  5. Misc. situations & job aid

Important to note, four of the chunks were directly related to employee-customer interactions.

A script, followed by a storyboard, was created for each chunk. To save time, as one script and storyboard was approved by the principal SME I started on the next one.

Example storyboard:

Golf Storyboard Chunk 1 Pyvt.com

I used principle’s of Gagne’s 9 events and action mapping to make the 5 part course most efficient and user-friendly.

The course opens with a brief animation to gain the user’s attention. This was created using Adobe Animate. Then, a main menu allows the user to enter the course.

Each chunk starts with the stated learning objectives. For the four later chunks, to stimulate recall a sample question related to the chunk is asked of the user.

Following that, a video explains the necessary information related to each chunk in shown. Each video gives the users specific guiding skills and principles to use on the job to keep things simple. Still shots and stock footage are supplemented as b-roll to keep the content engaging.

After each chunk, a brief multiple-choice un-scored quiz is shared. Explanations are provided for both right and wrong answers.

Finally, to enhance transfer and retention, the job aid is presented and a slide encourages each user to bring any questions to their supervisor. A completion certificate is also emailed to the provider of the course.

Below you can preview the first few sections of the course. Please note slide numbers are not accurate.

A number of new concepts and guiding principles were defined and created by both the business consultant and myself. All new systems were showcased in the course:

  • Self-Confidence – Golf course staffs are often stretched thin, especially during busy times. Since a supervisor may not always be around, each staff member is encouraged to make relatively small executive decisions on their own. One new system created by the business consultant and explained in the course was simply waiving all disputes under $10. In other words, if a customer complains about something worth less than $10, the customer will always be right.
  • Adequate Support – Even without nearby leadership, employees should be available to call on each other for assistance. One example created by the business consultant was the purchase of radios for all employees to use while working. Also, I created a job aid, in this case a simple laminated checklist, with go-to responses for common guest complaints.
  • Mutual Respect – A mentoring system was created to match experienced employees with newer ones.

Implementation

The five-part course was administered to each staff member during slow times over the following month. In return for completing the course, the staff members were provided with a coupon for free lunch to a nearby restaurant.

The course was kept locally on various staff computers in the clubhouse. Additional backups were kept by the manager and myself.

Laminated copies of the job aid were taped to all computers/service desks.

As new staff members were hired, the course was included in their initial training.

Evaluation

The course was tested with three employees and minor changes were made. Although the course was ADA compliant, a supervisor could take the course with any user or assist with any part for any employee who requested it.

After the following season (April-November) I evaluated the effectiveness of the course.

On Google, there were now 390 reviews, and the overall rating of the course was now 3.5/5 (71% positive). Of the 130 reviews since I implemented the new system, 102 (78%) were positive. Of the 28 negative reviews, 23 mentioned issues with staff. Although not a perfect science, if no intervention were to have taken place and the same amount of reviews were left, I would have expected about 50 negative reviews, with 43 focused on issues with the staff. These numbers could have been higher too as it is well-documented that customers who had a negative experience were more likely to leave a review.

The course is now part of standard training at each of the management company’s three golf courses.


Description of Tools Used

Google Workspace

  • Drive – To share files
  • Docs – To create various word based files, and take notes when interviewing SMEs
  • Sheets – To organize data used to measure the evaluation of the results

Wonder Unit

  • Storyboarder – To create the storyboard

Adobe Creative Suite:

  • Animate – To create the intro animation for the course
  • Photoshop – To edit photos
  • Illustrator – To edit logos and other raster-based images
  • XD – To test the course on mobile phones

OBS Studio

  • OBS – To edit the video portions of each chunk

Articulate

  • Articulate Storyline 360 – To create and finalize the course

Moodle

  • Used as the LMS through the company’s site that runs on WordPress.