The member experience is top of mind for many clubs and has been from the start. Step outside of the private club industry and you’ll see that attention to member and customer experiences are reaching a coming of age - The Experience Age (more on this later).

This will only serve to raise the bar for defining an exceptional experience. This goes for everyone in every industry, including the club industry that has served as royalty regarding the member experience by relying and almost solely on one to one personal relationships. 

And while a lot of effort has been focused on defining the perfect member experience, let's talk about what an imperfect experience looks like. Like art, or bad art, you know it when you see it and you react when you experience it. Here’s a story I’m sure many of you can relate to, and the costs associated with it.


Hello? I’d Like to Place a Call

It started out well enough. I needed a new company phone. A simple straightforward task, or so I thought. I ordered the phone through the company's self-service system, received notification of shipment, and 2 days later received my new phone. Yeah!

Not so fast. In the package was a card from my service provider with a website address for phone activation. This should be easy. I submitted the data for my phone but received error after error. This was dead-end number one. I went to the customer service web chat feature. It asked for my account information. Because the account was managed by my company, I was limited in what I could provide and therefore, could not access web chat. Dead end number two. I clicked around some more. I finally found passage into webchat where I was redirected to the activation page where I had originated … to dead end number three …


And Then Irritation Begins

I clicked some more. Dead end number four. I made a phone call to customer support and was put through a series of automated commands. Following the automated instructions, I turned off my new phone and then turned it back on. Still nothing. Dead end number five. I returned to that same activation page, again. This time when I submitted my information I was informed that my phone was now activated. The problem was it actually wasn't. I could neither call nor text on my new phone. Dead end number six. I called the automated customer support line, again, and received the same message I had received on the activation landing page. Dead end number seven. Enough already.


Irritation Devolves Into Exasperation

I called another support number and finally spoke with a human. The human looked at my account and said there must be something wrong with my SIM card and that I would have to visit a local store. With hope, I drove 10 minutes to the store, waited 5 minutes to check into their queue, and then waited another 15 minutes. When I finally reached the store representative she looked up my account information and informed me there was nothing wrong with the SIM card. But, (there’s always a but) that because my line was tied to the company's premier account, a business representative would have to activate my line. Apparently, store representatives can't activate business lines. I asked why this wasn't mentioned by the webchat assistant or the support representative I spoke with. The store representative said they work out of different systems. Dead end number eight.


Finally, I’m Just MAD!

8 hours, 47 web clicks, 1 web chat, 3 support calls, a 20-minute drive there and back, an hour-long store visit, and 2 unanswered voice messages and I still have no resolution.  If you want to start attaching dollars on the time involved to not resolve my problem you can see it adds up quickly. Never mind the impact on brand perception in my mind. The series of endless loops of unanswered questions and dead ends is how I measured my customer experience that day and sticks in my mind about that company to this day.


Calling All Clubs

So how does a phone company customer experience apply to private clubs? Directly as it turns out. The phone manufacturer had created a great device full of features that I wanted. But because the carrier dropped the ball on what is a very necessary function – actually connecting to a network – and made the process such a pain, the negative experience is permanently etched in my mind.  With your club, your members are your business. You’ve invested in capital improvements, added family-friendly services, hired new chefs and sommeliers and introduced specialized fitness instructors all of the features you think will make your members' time at the club the best it can be.

But what happens when available court and tee times aren’t visible, online reservations for upcoming events are difficult to navigate, payment options are limited, or members can’t order what they want, when they want it, the experience starts to sour. And when your business is delivering the experience, that is a very, very, bad thing.


What You Can Do: Ask yourself, ‘Is our member experience frictionless?’

Club technology should add convenience for members so that you can personalize the experience. i.e. it should remove barriers between what the members  want and their goal. Clubs should start evaluating their member experience by stepping through the digital experience. Is the navigation on your website or your mobile app intuitive? Do members know where to go for information? 

You might think that members like calling your pro to make their tee-times, but do they really? And what happens when the pro is helping another member? Making mobile reservations is fast and convenient, but it also allows the member to pick a buddy for their tee time or coordinate their doubles match on the tennis court.

You should also consider how many clicks a member must make to book, order, or pay? Have you checked and counted for yourself? Have you watched a member navigate the system? With mobile ordering members can quickly browse, customize, and place orders. Additionally, that customized order can be remembered, which lets members easily place repeat custom orders.

Capturing member preference, like food orders, is important - but having your staff understand member preference at the point of sale is where member experience really begins to take hold.  Does your club staff have access to the information and personal preferences of members – or is it stored in different systems like my favorite (sarcasm) phone company?­

Clubs have ruled at delivering the member experience. However, the Experience Age is going to raise the ante for everyone to stand out. The investment in the member experience must be a priority. Satisfaction and loyalty developed through the member experience is going to be the standard that all companies are measured against. To keep pace with the advancing member experience, clubs must integrate systems and implement technology that can leverage personalized member behavior and preference data.


Where Do You Stand?

Are you ready to develop a frictionless member experience? Check out our on-demand mobile-first webinar to learn about developing a smarter more connected member experience.

Mobile First Webinar



About the Experience Age

The new Experience Age is an evolution of the Information Age, which includes enhanced technology, an abundance of choices, and dispersed communities. The Information Age was meant to be an era of opportunity and access - and it has been. But it’s also left many people feeling disconnected and disenchanted. The Experience Age is righting the wrongs of its predecessor.

Laura McLellan, Research Vice President with Gartner, has written extensively on the future impact of customer experience. She published a fantastic post on "10 Proof Points -- Why Customer Experience Is the Next Big Thing". While most clubs agree member experience is important, many struggle with how to associate metrics with an experience. How do you measure and monetize the member experience? That’s something we’ll continue to look at and explore, but as you can see, the cost of a bad experience is nearly priceless, in a bad way.