A Teaching Moment: At The Course.

Earlier this afternoon I visited a local golf course.  I do not visit this course often as it has seen some rough years as of late.  However, it was purchased not to long ago and the conditions are on the uptick.

Having two children at home and a full time job finding time to fit in 18 holes is difficult and often times spur of the moment, as was the case today.  This is where my story begins.

Being given the green light by my wife to play golf I called around to the local courses to ensure I would be able to get out to play 18.  When contacting this particular course (I don’t plan to name names as that is not the point of this blog) I found that yes I would be able to get out on course #2 (they have 36 total holes) with no issues and that there was leagues going off course #1.  Excellent, I make my way to the course.

On my way to the club house from the parking lot I passed the 1st hole of course #1.  Here I overhear a starter tell a fellow golfer that he just sent a single golfer off with another group.  When I enter the club house there are two customers looking through the selection of clubs and two employees at the counter.  I approach the counter as the woman working behind it is telling a non work related story to her coworker.  This leads to a very uncomfortable 20-30 seconds of me standing feet away from their conversation without her breaking from her story.  I could tell the gentleman being told the story wanted to break the stream but was not afforded an opportunity to do so.  Finally, after contemplating just walking out, the story ends and I was spoken with.  Now I know this sounds extreme but I cannot express the uncomfortable feeling of being completely ignored in that situation.  It felt almost like I was interrupting something clearly more important than my business.

Things did not get better from here.  Once I approached the counter and spoke with the gentlemen.  I told him I would like to play 18 holes, I am arriving by myself (as discussed on the phone) and I would be walking.  He tells me that there was a single golfer on the first hole of course #1 that I would have to join.   I relayed to him what I heard, that this golfer was already sent off with another group.  To this he responds with “No, you will have to join him, singles are not allowed to play on course #1.”  I attempt to tell him again just what I heard to which I received “What I have trying to tell you is that you cannot play on course #1 by yourself” as a very gruff response.  This was completely unnecessary.  To this point our conversation totaled of 20 seconds.  There has not been nearly enough time for this level of miscommunication on whether or not I can play on course #1 (which I was never asking to do) to occur.  If it wasn’t so difficult to find time to do one of the things I love (golf), I would have just walked away.  Instead I just asked if there was a starter at the first tee, paid my greens fee and went outside.  I figured I would just sort this out with someone who understands the situation and will listen to what I am trying to say.

When I get outside I see that the gentleman from the proshop has followed me out.  Not to check in on me but to joke around with another player who must be a regular.  This joking around turns into discussing my very recent conversation with him and is capped off by him clearly telling this player “I kept tying to tell him he can’t play course #1 by himself”.  Now not only was I being reprimanded for requesting something that I never requested in the first place, I am being practically mocked by this gentleman while within earshot.  I fought the urge to engage with this particular person again.  As planned I spoke with the starter at course #1, asked if I could just play course #2 and went on my merry way.

I know this is one instance with a couple of employees but I will not return to this course.  Even with it being cheaper than the alternatives and very close to my home I will not return.  One very poor interaction mixed with my already slightly negative view on the course has completely turned me against returning.

What to be done differently:

First things first, once a customer approaches, the personal conversation ends.  Your priority is your customers.  If the customer overhears the story and engages then that is a good chance to build rapport with the customer.  If not, nix the conversation until you have another free moment.

The second is listen.  Listen to exactly what is being requested and what additional information is being provided.  I never asked to play a certain course and I never argued that I could play said course by myself.  However, without listening to my words this gentleman got defensive of his companies policies which I was not questioning.

Lastly, do not discuss your customers in a negative light anywhere near your workplace.  It is not worth the risk.  Everyone has those days in customer service where you need to vent.  Some customers are completely irrational, I understand that.  Do it on your own time in your own home with someone close to you.  There is a time and place for everything but at work around other customers is not the place to vent your frustrations.

Not all negative interactions with customers are large shouting matches.  The off putting instances such as this can have a large impact on whether or not that customer is lost.


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