I think most club managers would agree that most, if not all members of their clubs, are people: human beings. This may seem like a pretty obvious observation, yet it appears that the more society, the service industry and clubs are enamoured with the benefits of technology, the more distracted we are from the real focus of serving members; living, breathing human beings.
At the club managers' conference in Kelowna, I was speaking to a manager whose club had installed a security system to control the entrance of their building. When the member swiped their card the reception staff would see a picture of the member and instantly be able to call the person by name. They would also be armed with information that would enable them to overwhelm even the member who infrequently visits the club with recognition and awareness of personal preferences. What an opportunity! I asked the manager how it was working. He said the members hated it. The staff had stopped greeting people.
The cell phone is a tool that can keep us "in touch" or "connected," but for those who are not careful it can send the message to the person with you that whoever is calling is more important that they are. Some voicemail systems have the ability to make the caller wish that they never started the process to call whoever it was they were calling.
E-mail can be a very efficient way to communicate with people. I recently started my day by clearing out my e-mail inbox and had 60 new messages by day's end, many requiring responses. Am I connected or disconnected?
These are technologies that are designed to enhance communication, yet if not used properly can do the very opposite. Then there are those that are not designed with serving people in mind. Good luck! In his 1982 book Megatrends, John Naisbitt looked into the future and in the section entitled "High Tech - High Touch" forecasted that as the amount of technology in our lives increased, the need for human contact or "Touch" increased as well. What was once an interesting idea in 1982 has now become an obvious reality in 2001. In Kelowna, Robin Sharma made a comment that was directed at the dehumanizing effect of technology-driven society.
"We can send a missile to a target halfway around the world with pinpoint accuracy, but we find it hard to cross the street to meet our neighbour."
Do you think I am suggesting that clubs should steer away from or ignore technology? Absolutely not! In fact, I am very excited about the possibilities made available by using new technologies. But I believe that the general manager has to be vigilant to ensure that new technologies do not undermine the club's mission or purpose.
"The most exciting breakthrough of the twenty-first century will occur not because of technology, but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human."
I believe that clubs are in an incredible position to deliver a human touch at a level that their members cannot receive anywhere else.
The challenge to the general manager is to have the vision to design what can be and the ability to create the culture that can deliver the goods. Living in Vancouver, I have been able to get to know and watch some outstanding managers that really "get it" when it comes to creating a culture that cares. It starts with a high level of commitment to outstanding service, but goes beyond that. It goes beyond the impeccable service of a cocktail, or a warm welcoming greeting at the bag drop. I have walked around a club with a manager and seen him greet Mr. Smith and seen Mr. Smith's eyes light up when asked how his wife was doing in the hospital. It is possible that the manager just happened to know Mr. Smith and his wife, but knowing the manager it is my assumption that people in the organization know that the manager cares about the members as people, and because he does, they do too. It is not by accident that information about the members and their concerns reach the general manager, it is by design.
One manager told me that his staff contributed to a recipe book and gave a copy to each member as a Christmas present. What kind of message is that sending to the members? What kind of message is that sending to the staff?
We have a club in our area that is renowned for a level of service that is truly "Above and Beyond." I can honestly say that some of the most memorable service moments of my life have happened at this club. The managers have done an unbelievable job of instilling a culture that focuses on people and delivering service that is beyond their expectations. It is an organization that uses lots of technology, but uses it in a way that serves the club's purpose.
·What purpose is technology serving for you? ·Does your club have the opportunity to be "High Touch"? ·Is it important to you? ·What "High Touch" standards would you set for your club? ·What "High Touch" standards would you set for yourself? ·How would you create the culture so everyone in the organization delivers? ·Can your club stand out in the twenty-first century?
Remember club members are human!
Kevin MacDonald is a principal of Clarity Success Coaching, a practice based in the Vancouver area. He does one-to-one coaching as well as programs with Management Teams and Employee Groups. He has served as a Club Manager at Quilchena Golf and Country Club and Northview Golf and Country Club, both in the Vancouver area.