Do you really know what golfers think about your course? You might read online reviews or have conversations with customers, but these are very unreliable ways to figure out the attitudes that the local population has about your facility.
If you're basing decisions solely on what you hear around the clubhouse and on your Facebook page, you're taking a shot in the dark. Making changes that aren't backed up by data means that you might waste time and money changing something that customers liked instead of changing what's keeping them away.
Hiring a marketing firm to conduct a survey is expensive, but conducting that survey yourself is much more cost effective and (if done properly) it can still give you amazing results. If you’re looking to properly collect data on your customer base, here’s 11 best practices that you need to follow when making a golf course survey.
Your opening message is the first thing that your customers will read, so it's crucial that you craft it well enough to convince them to fill out the survey. Tell the respondents that their answers will be completely anonymous so that they feel more comfortable honestly answering your questions. You also need to let them know how long the survey will take to complete (a well-designed customer survey should only take about 5 minutes). People will be much more willing to commit to doing something if they know how long it will take them to do it. End your opening statement by letting respondents know that you appreciate their cooperation.
Begin with some warm-up questions to make your respondents feel more comfortable to increase the likelihood that people will complete your survey. Even though these opening questions are short, they should still collect meaningful information. Keep in mind that every question you ask needs to have a specific purpose, especially since you need to maintain a short completion time. An example of a good opening question is to ask if the respondents would recommend your golf course to a friend. This question doesn't require much reflection to answer, but it can give you an idea of the attitude golfers have towards your operation.
Generally, people don't like answering very personal demographic questions. Besides, if you’re using an advanced golf management system, you should already have a lot of demographic information such as gender, age, product preferences, and addresses. For golf management purposes, any other demographic information like income, race and sexual preference are not needed. Keep in mind that you need to keep people engaged if you want a high completion rate and better data.
Double-barrelled questions ask a respondent to answer 2 questions with one response. In the example below, you can see that the first question asks the respondent if the service was quick and friendly and only gives them the option to answer with a “yes” or a “no.” The issue here is that the service may have been exceedingly friendly, but it took over an hour for the customer to be served. In this case, the respondent can’t answer truthfully. There are 2 ways to solve this problem: ask 2 separate questions, or ask one question with the option to select multiple responses (see infographic below).
When giving out surveys to customers, make it as easy and straightforward as possible for people to fill out. Mathematically, 1-100 scales are more valid, but these scales can be intimidating and people aren’t usually able to accurately rate something on a scale that large. The best scale questions have either 5 or 7 options. For most questions, you should have an option like “neutral” or “neither agree nor disagree” for people that may not know the answer or who don't have a strong enough opinion. Many people believe that not having a neutral response is best because it forces respondents to really think about how they feel, but a strategy that forces people to answer questions in a certain way can often lead to dishonest responses.
Bias can be introduced in the wording of the questions themselves, so make sure you’re not using any language that can skew the results. A good trick is to stay as objective as possible and pretend that you’re writing the questions for another business instead of your own. In the example below, you can see that the wording of the question will lead people to answer the question more positively.
You can also introduce bias during the distribution of the survey. When handing out physical copies or writing an email, never use words such as "we want to see how well we're doing" because that can lead people to give more positive responses. Instead, use words such as "we would like to make improvements at our operation to make your customer experience better." That way people will understand that the goal of the questionnaire is to outline what areas need to be improved and what areas are already satisfactory.
7. Don't make the survey too long
People are busy, so making a survey that looks like it’s going to take an hour to fill out will turn people away. Keep in mind that you’d much rather have someone take their time to complete a 3 minute survey rather than rush through a 15 minute survey. The time budget that you face when creating a survey means that you’ll need to make the most of each question that you're asking. Instead of asking questions that you're curious about, you need to think about questions that can lead to actionable insights. Every question needs to have a purpose or end goal. The best way to do this is to start by figuring out what the end goal of the survey is first and then designing the questions based solely on achieving that goal.
People are much more likely to discuss problems truthfully if the survey is anonymous. Keeping a drop-off box in the pro shop for printed questionnaires will ensure that customers won’t feel like they’re giving the survey to an employee who’s just going to read through it after they leave. Be sure to thank the respondents for their time but don’t reach out to them afterwards to discuss their answers. If you’re distributing an online survey, its best to not ask them to fill out their email address.
In order for the information to be more accurate, you’ll want people to complete your survey right after they visit your golf course. To do this, you could have a printed version that you offer to visitors after their round. It's very difficult to accurately remember the details of an experience weeks after it happened, if you want precise data you'll want your responses to come in while the golfers' memories are fresh. If you’ve got an advanced golf CRM, you could set up an automated email that sends customers an email a couple of hours after they finish their round. People will be much more likely to fill out your survey if they're still thinking about their round.
Make sure enough people take your survey before you begin analyzing, or the results won't be accurate. A higher number of responses means that any calculations that you do will paint a much more precise picture of your customer’s attitudes. Obviously, there are limitations to the amount of questionnaires you can distribute. To get a rough estimate of how many people need to answer your survey based on how many people visit your course, consult the table below.
The population size represents how many people visit your course annually and the numbers in the corresponding rows represent how many responses you need based on the error level. Keep in mind that you're conducting a survey for your golf course and not doing medical research, so a 10% error level will be enough. However, if you are able to get more answers than the minimum amount needed, your data will be more accurate.
At the end of your golf course survey, you should give your customers an open section that gives them the opportunity to talk about anything that wasn't covered in the other questions or explain an answer that they gave. Open-ended questions aren’t the best for any kind of mathematical analysis, but reading through them can give you some qualitative insights on why your customers feel the way they do.
Here's a quick recap of 11 things to keep in mind when creating your golf course survey questions:
Passionate about writing, Lacrosse, travelling, and golf (of course)! I love researching the golf industry and providing insights on it. Want to share an idea? Feel free to email me.
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