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Ask most any club GM or COO and they’ll tell you that at the end of the day, most premier private clubs are pretty much the same. This country club has an extra pool, that city club has more wired meeting space, another has a wine room or more fitness instructors or even a second golf course. But all in all, the amenities are comparable.
“What sets us apart is our service,” says one club GM we know. “Our differentiator is how our members are treated once they walk in the door,” says another. “It’s all about the staff,” echoes a third.
Is your club creating an environment that’s conducive to recruiting, fostering and retaining the best service staff around — making it easy for them to provide the level of service your members have come to expect?
In short, what’s behind that door?
We see it frequently in older clubs, where decades of maintenance deferrals are most glaringly apparent behind the scenes. Employee lounge areas — often an afterthought in the first place in early 20th-century planning — are make-shift, uncomfortable and even dangerous (we’ve seen more than one instance where a staff breakroom shares floor space with boilers, cleaning chemicals and stacks of stored furniture and linens).
One premier club, painfully self-conscious about the poor back-of-the-house facilities for its golf staff — and aware of its implications for staff — painted a white line on the pathway out of the building and instructed: “Once you cross that white line, everything must be perfect.” In essence, asking highly trained personnel to look the other way on their own circumstances while still ensuring they provide a flawless member experience.
Frustrated employees don’t make for good service personnel. And inferior staff amenities — the stuff they need to get the job done — may take them elsewhere, where they can find better technology, support and training.
“First, staff needs to be treated with respect by management,” says Bill Minard, general manager and chief operating officer at the Scarsdale Golf Club, on the right environment for fostering exceptional service. “They need to be integrated into the club — aware of what’s going on so they feel part of the greater whole. And they need to be given the best tools to do their job.”
“We can’t compromise their ability to be their best in any way,” says Minard. “If areas are deficient, it crosses over to the floor because they’re either frustrated or not as engaged because they’ve encountered challenges even before they greet our members,” he says.
The greatest tool for ensuring exceptional staff is a facility that meets the same service standard you expect on the floor: comfortable, safe, nurturing.