Global Edition

GBN Interview: Simon Wordsworth CEO, 59club

3.23pm 13th March 2019 - Interviews - This story was updated on Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Simon Wordsworth

This evening (Weds 13th March), 59club will celebrate outstanding performance among individuals, teams and venues with the hosting of its 9th annual Service Excellence Awards. Candidates from across the golfing globe will be rewarded with a golf industry ‘Oscar’ during a glamorous ceremony at The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews. These are determined by scores collected as a result of multiple visits from an independent visitor panel, who evaluate the experience presented to both visiting golfers and prospective members, all in accordance with 59club’s detailed and non-subjective benchmarking criteria. The evening’s winners will come from the fields of sales, service, operations, retail, golf course, food & beverage and management, and represent some of the top performers in those disciplines throughout the global golf industry.

We speak to 59club CEO, Simon Wordsworth, about the awards ceremony and the importance of recognising service excellence, as well as 59club’s mission of assisting clubs and venues in improving the visitor and members experience to benefit of the game at large.

Introduce us to the 59club Awards and what they seek to recognise.

Our goal was a simple one: to recognise excellence. 59club is all about detail, and as such it gives us a real insight into what goes on regularly within a club. This is what we wanted the awards to represent, occasions of individual brilliance, as well as highlighting the teams who collectively deliver the best experience they can – irrespective of their course and club surroundings.

Can you give us an overview of the history of the awards and how they have been received?

Our first ever awards were held at Marriott Worsley in Manchester in 2011. At that stage we only had around 30 clubs using our services, in the main managed by really proactive people. At that time, there was lots of resistance to the information we were trying to present; people saw it as a threat not an opportunity. We wanted to highlight those “pioneers” and show the trade who they were. In addition, we wanted to celebrate our clients and bring them together in one room to reward our successes after a year of hard work from both our clients and within our own team. We try to make it fun and we try to make it different. I often get out-voted with some of the unusual things I have wanted to do over the years. As an example, last year, I desperately wanted to set up a buggy track to meander through the room at our then host; The Grove, with the intention of driving a CLUB CAR buggy through the room, stopping at different tables to speak with our guests. “Buggy Banter” could have been born then, but health and safety won the day (rightly so).

Why is this such an important occasion for the golf industry?

It’s a great chance to network. Right from the start, it was clear that what we had was something very special. Every event has always seen key industry people attend, along with owners or GM’s plus their star employees. Pure and simple, it’s just good fun. Everyone gets into the spirit and the event always runs many hours passed its 11pm “official finish”. Everyone there has paid for their seat, and as you look around the room, it is filled with people from areas of the club business who are “at the top of their tree”. The awards from those on the inside, and from those who have made their way to St. Andrews this year, will tell you, that they signify the greatest platform to tell our story, as we come shoulder to shoulder and celebrate what ‘great’ people in golf are doing to accelerate satisfaction in the game we all love.

There has been a slight change to the awards’ format for 2019. Can you please talk us through this?

This year we have introduced an Overseas Category to 7 of our awards titles – Golf Membership Sales Team of the Year, Leading Individual Golf Membership Performance, Golf Operation Team of the Year, Golf Retail Manager of the Year, Food and Beverage Manager of the Year, Greenkeeper of the Year and Golf Manager of the Year – to reflect our growing international appeal. It’s been a busy year. We saw 59club Asia launch in November and have just returned from the CMAA World Conference in Texas following 59club’s USA launch. Our message is simple: to measure, improve and maintain elevated standards of customer service, and then reap the associated rewards. The world over this message remains and will always remain the same – we are excited to continue to expand our footprint overseas.

Another new introduction will see managers receive accolades for having demonstrated their commitment to engage, analyse and enrich their member and guest experience using the my59 software platform. There are some great case studies and examples of how managers are using my59 in every day scenarios from redesigning the social calendar, stocking the shop, right through to clubs who are analysing their new member journey at key landmarks during their first few months at the club. It will be an honour to present 19 awards in this category to those proactive managers who set out to manage change.

Aside from new awards, we have always typically chosen host venues that are centrally located and a few miles from an international airport for all of our overseas clients who attend. To make it really informative we set the day up as “learning” using golf and non-golf figures to talk around team building and strategies for staff and clients. We operate a bid process and invited all of our GOLD & SILVER FLAG venues to propose how they could host the awards. The Old Course Hotel won and therefore this year we had the chance to visit St Andrews. Although it’s not as conveniently located as some other venues, the place is just inspirational. How could we not play golf? Imagine sat in classroom learning and missing the opportunity to battle 30mph gentle breeze at the Home of Golf, miss the Road Hole bunker, avoid the Swilken Burn and, most importantly, drive the 18th!

How are the awards decided and how does 59club ensure a fair system is in place?

We use the results from our mystery shopping throughout the calendar year. No voting juries, no favouritism, no awards because they spend more with us than other clubs do. Real simple unbiased rewarding of success.  We have 5 key words in our business that we use in all situations, ‘Integrity’ and ‘Trust’ are two of those and they shine through in everything we do and that our awards stand for. I’ll take the opportunity to share technically what happens. All test months are set at the start of the year in a contract and can’t be changed. Venues will have between 4-12 tests with 4 of those counting for awards.

All of our results are shown on our platform throughout the year, so venues know exactly where they are positioned within the industry. They also have access to comparison statistics against their three chosen competitors (competitor set average) and the top three performing venues (podium score) on all results, not necessarily on the test months chosen. Around the end of November, we hide the league tables so the last two test months can’t be seen – I suppose like in Golf Genius system where you will see 14 holes of results, with four hidden but without knowing whether those four were good, bad or indifferent – thus not having a clue who has won overall.

 Does 59club work with clubs in any other ways in order to help them improve service standards?  

I think the first thing I want to get across is what we are NOT. We do not do consultancy. We do not advise. There are many people out there who do that for a living, we are not one of them. We are a very niche business and we plan on staying niche and being the best at it. Our role is simply to measure the customer journey, where those customer touch points are and what happens. We split them all into “sales”, “service”, “process” or “facility” questions. With our golf visitor product, we have found a way of analysing a 6-8 hour subjective experience into a set of non-subjective results. Any of my golfing colleagues could get a pad out now and write their customer journey down and I bet in an hour you would have it complete. As a guide we will spend virtually all of November and December reviewing every question: looking at all the feedback from testers, venues, owners and revising our criteria. We do not advise, we simply provide information on what is happening to a club for them to deal with as they see fit. As the business evolves it will continue to develop product software, on the My59 platform, to add to understanding the experience and improving the service delivered by the staff.

How can clubs look to get involved with 59club and why should they do so?

I’ll address the why first. Golf is a competitive business. It can move slowly sometimes but if you snooze, you will lose. Take a different view and come at it from the angle that golf is not your main competitor but simply one small thing trying to compete for a reducing leisure time. It has to be an experience. You have to make me want to come to the club, want to interact with it in my life. Your staff have to deliver, but they are human, they will be inconsistent, they won’t always succeed at everything. 59club gives you an independent 3rd party view of their performance, allowing the manager and the staff members to sit, review and improve. We have developed training programmes to help the manager train front line staff, how to engage and inspire, and how to get the best out of people are our key messages. It is easy to work with us. We have regional managers waiting to drive clubs to achieve great things, maybe even award winning experiences. Whatever that path leads to, customer satisfaction is critical to golf’s longevity – and you have to fight for survival.

Visit 59club.com and contact your regional 59club Manager for more information.

       

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