Private Club Tackles Member and Staff Challenges with Technology


May 20, 2022

Delivering an exceptional member experience is what every club strives for today. Happy Hollow in Omaha, NE knows that they need to create memories that members can’t get anywhere else. That bar is continuously rising thanks to data-driven experiences outside of the club.

To rise above, Happy Hollow Club pairs technology with something that doesn’t exist outside of the club: hundreds of staff that know and understand the desires of individual members. Gil Russell, Assistant General Manager there gave us some insights into their biggest challenges and how they address them using their people and technology. Following is an excerpt from a recent conversation.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you face?

Gil Russell: It’s just the sheer information that comes with 1,082 members. You take that times two, each husband and wife, and then you’ve got their kids. That’s the greatest challenge – making sure that our information, their wants, their likes, is not just stuck in a server’s head, or the bag room kid, or the golf shop, or counter staff.  There is so much information out there as we get to know them personally and how they use the club. We have to be a full-service country club and members expect a level of service that they don’t get elsewhere.

Q: What about onboarding new employees?

Gil Russell: Every year we go from a core group of about 120 full-time, year-round staff members to about 260 employees in the summer season, when we ramp up with golf, grounds, and all of the other associated activities. So we have to add 140 employees and get them up to speed in two weeks. That’s a big challenge. Typically we start that process in February or March before the college and high school students get to spring break.

That’s been a big benefit of Clubessential. We are mining all of that data from our servers and staff on a daily basis, whether it’s member favorites or looking at old T sheets and the history of when they played for example. All of that information is there for all of the staff to take and make that member feel like we know everything about them without being too overzealous.

Q:  How do you get that member information to your associates?

Gil Russell: We started with Clubessential in April, April one is when we launched. That made us a little uneasy, knowing that is when everything kicks off here for us at the club. That’s a big change right before golf opens. But it was the right time.  With COVID we had some services that weren’t at full capacity. We were able to reposition some assets and make sure that we got a lot of things done, getting to know the system, add buttons, and create the member favorites as we’re ringing things in for members.

The core group of staff already knew these things. We allowed them to start to create those favorites as they rang things in. Now when a new server is hired, they can pull up the reservation they’ve been assigned and look back at the history of what they’ve ordered.

That data is in real-time, it takes very little to get that in a form that you can hand your servers. That way, if they even are new, ‘Hey, you know, somebody asked them, what’s good?’ They could point them in direction of what is our top selling item or what we need to push if something that maybe didn’t sell, but that people have really enjoyed. They just don’t know it’s on the menu.

Q: How do you communicate and connect with members?

Gil Russell: That’s our biggest opportunity for growth. One of the major factors that we identified is that the only way we really communicated with members was through email. The challenge there is if you’re sending an invite out for every event, think of how many events we run a year? That’s a lot of emails that are going to get passed over or weekly specials that are going to be missed. What we’ve tapped into is trying to really segment our emails and who it goes to. For example, we’re identifying people that have used the tennis courts and sending tennis information just to them. Or just strictly golf members and golf dependents. We have started to use some push notifications in the app. That can really help us, like frost delays and sending that push notification to everybody on the T sheet.

Having that data of how many open rates and, and clickthroughs and where they are referencing back to our website is something that our Director of communications did a really nice job of. When those emails went out, we were getting them to the new website. The mobile app and the featured events have been something that the members are starting to pick up on. They’re tapping into the club news as they log into the app.

Better Member Experiences Ahead

With waitlists everywhere, Happy Hollow is dialed in on providing the best experience possible. Utilizing the latest Clubessential technology, they are able to better understand members, know what makes a great experience for them, and put all of their staff on the same page to deliver it.

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