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The Definitive Guide To Customer Satisfaction Surveys At The Golf Course

Posted by Alex Lavoie on November 13, 2018

Do you know how happy your customers are?

Sometimes you have to ask some tough questions. With the season wrapping up on most golf courses, it's time to ask customers how happy they were with their experiences this year.

Perhaps membership rates are dropping, millennials aren't sticking with the sport, or maybe they're just not happy with the culture in your clubhouse. There's a reasonably good chance that some of your customers are unhappy with something in your operation, and you don't know about it yet.

If you're ready to take an honest look at how your customers are feeling about your business, a customer satisfaction survey is the best way to do that.

Typically a successful customer satisfaction survey measures customer satisfaction score, or CSAT, through a range of questions. This basic measure of happiness will tell you how well your golf course experience, restaurant, or pro-shop are performing with customers.


Why Do You Need A Customer Satisfaction Survey?

We get it, no manager wakes up saying I can't wait to do a customer satisfaction survey! It can be a tedious and lengthy process, wrapping your head around all the stale lingo, and building a good quality survey is boring and time-consuming. Filtering out bad results and separating constructive comments from useless ones can, at times, feel like an arduous task.

So, here's a wake-up call.

If you don't give your customers a forum to complain, they'll complain to their friends. With word of mouth remaining the most critical referral channel in any industry, your business is at risk if you let your customers spread negative word of mouth to their friends.

You probably know this yourself. If you've ever had a bad experience at a restaurant you probably told some friends and family about it.

The idea that you may not know about even one single customer's unhappiness should be disconcerting. The good news is that this discomfort is why millions of dollars of research and development have gone into developing effective methods of measuring customer satisfaction.

What Kinds of Golf Club Survey Questions Work Best?

The effectiveness of your survey depends on its design. What kind of questions will you ask to capture maximum data without annoying respondents or introducing bias?

It's not unlike writing a club newsletter or designing a new website, you need to create an engaging survey that is easy for a customer to understand and respond to. A good design quite simply means good data.

Years of research and advanced statistical analysis has gone into developing best practices for engaging customers in surveys, so much so that it can get confusing and overwhelming very quickly.

To help you understand the basics, which is probably all you need for your customers, we'll go through a couple of the most popular forms of survey questions.

1. Binary Scale Questions

The classic yes or no. Get straightforward answers about specific things with these kinds of questions.

  • Are you satisfied with today's experience?
  • Was the instructor on time?
  • Did you find a space in the parking lot?
  • Was the locker room clean?

These binary yes or no questions benefit from their simplicity. On some topics, your survey won't need to split hairs. With binary questions, you keep answers short and sweet, and you avoid causing survey fatigue. If you need to extend the scale to get a better resolution on your responses, you are probably making a mistake.

The problem is that with binary questions, you can't get as nuanced of a response as a scaled question. As well, asking too many binary questions can cause respondents to lean towards positive answers, a phenomenon known as survey fatigue.

Limit the number of binary questions, and you'll get more exacting results. Ideally, your survey should take no longer than 5 minutes, that equals out to about 10 questions.

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2. Multiple Choice Questions

This kind of question is perfect for categorizing demographic information. Typically three to five mutually exclusive variables are given, with a clear bucket that any respondent would fit in.

Multiple choice questions are valuable because they give you variables with which you can segment your customers.

For example, you could ask a multiple choice question to determine a player's playing ability, education level, income status, or profession. With these categories, you could segment players and analyze differences between each group.

Make sure you know precisely why you'll benefit from understanding these variables. Too many multiple choice questions will, again, induce survey fatigue. So be careful to use variables that are relevant to determining customer satisfaction only.


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3. Likert Scale Questions

These questions are where the magic will (or won't) happen in your survey. Scale questions are the most common form of question we see in customer satisfaction surveys.

A common question you'll see is "how satisfied were you with your experience today," and you see a scale from 1-5. This one 1-5 scale is known as the Likert Scale.

Typically we see this 1-5 scale represented by "strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree."

Scale questions are widely used because they are incredibly successful. Here's why:

  • It's used across all industries so your customers will have seen them before and they'll know how to use it
  • The scale makes segmentation very easy, you be able to analyze trends and similarities between those who entered the same response
  • You can track changes in response over time to see whether your business is improving or not

The only real disadvantage is that scale questions don't provide any qualitative analysis. That is to say, it won't tell you why your customers responded in a certain manner.

To fight the lack of qualitative analysis, it's a best practice to include open-ended questions. This allows anyone, especially those with strong feelings, to leave their thoughts and provide their own insight as to why chose their answers.


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4. Semantic Differential

This style of question expands upon the Likert Scale style of question. It can give a better idea of the degree to which a respondent aligns with a binary (yes or no) type of question.

In this case, you don't have to pick one answer, you just place your self on a spectrum between two binary responses.

Semantic differential is typically used for the same reasons as Likert Scale questions. However, because of their binary nature, answers usually mirror the answers given by binary questions.

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5. Open-Ended Questions

Last, but certainly not least, let's look the open style of question.

Your scaled and binary survey questions will tell you what customers are feeling, open-ended questions will tell you why. Qualitative feedback is essential because it helps you understand on an individual level what creates value for them, and where the experience can be improved.

Be careful not to skew the data with your own bias. Don't cherry pick answers, or weigh answers based on responses you liked or didn't like. Most importantly, make sure the open-ended questions you ask are clear and won't initiate in biases within a respondent.

Qualitative questions should instead be used to combat bias and will help with diagnosing and treating a problem within your business. When you only have quantitative (scaled and binary) questions to glean insights from, you won't be able to respond to a negative response with a helpful answer. Instead you'll stoke more frustration by trying to guess why the problem occurred, or you'll come off as aggressive when asking what went wrong.

Qualitative questions give the operator a chance to self-reflect and determine what the course of action could be before answering a respondent's concerns.


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What Kinds of Golf Surveys Should Your Operation be Using?

There are many reasons to send surveys your clientele, especially when you consider the variety of groups that come through your clubhouse over the course of the season. Using a variety of surveys can help with understanding different aspects about your business and how different customers are enjoying their experience at your facility.

Some types of golf club surveys to consider using might be:

  1. Post tournament satisfaction surveys
  2. Golf club member surveys
  3. Clubhouse restaurant satisfaction surveys
  4. Generic golf club surveys

Let's a take a deeper dive into each kind of golf survey.

1. Golf tournament satisfaction surveys

Tournaments are important experiences for many of your members and whoever is in attendance. As with any event, there are always ways to improve organization and overall quality. Administering a post tournament survey is an excellent way to gather feedback about what went well and what needed improvement.

After the tournament send each attendee a survey asking how they felt about the organization of the event, pace of play, quality of the course, and overall impression of the tournament. You may also want to ask about food and restaurant quality, if food or cocktails were served. 

2. Golf club member surveys

Your members are a critical demographic at your operation, you need to make sure they are happy or you risk losing a lot of revenue. Member specific golf course surveys are an excellent way to learn why members are coming back year after year, what they like about being a member at your operation, and why a member might choose not to renew.

Consider asking questions about each aspect of the member experience: club house culture, events, tournaments, course and facility quality, as well as any other benefits or perks your members enjoy. You may also want to ask how likely they are to refer their friend (the NPS question) and how likely they are to renew their memberships next year. Open ended questions that request feedback are also very useful for this specific group.

3. Restaurant satisfaction surveys

Your restaurant is an important revenue driver for your golf course. However, to generate repeat visits you need to make sure guests are leaving satisfied, or you'll end up losing business to the Applebees down the street. One way to gauge satisfaction is by administering a customer satisfaction survey, either with an iPad based survey publicly placed somewhere inside the restaurant, or with an email. The main issue with using an email is that you are required to capture this customer data, which can be very difficult and at times invasive.

4. Generic golf club surveys

While its very important to survey your most loyal customers: members, tournament attendees, event attendees and diners, it's also equally important to try your best to survey your walk-in customers. These customers may visit your operation less frequently and sometimes won't be interested in sharing personal information. However, for the golfers that are willing to fill out a survey, they can supply very useful insights about the experience of an unknown, first time customer.

Collecting the customer data required to send a post golf survey is not as difficult as you may think. Modern online booking and cloud based tee sheet technology automatically captures data and makes it very simple for staff to input information at the point of sales. Plus, automated email campaigns make sending a post round survey to a first time player very simple.

When Is The Best Time To Send A Customer Satisfaction Survey?

  1. Right after a customer visited your golf course
  2. After a measurable period of time, the end of a membership period for example

Timing is critical when conducting a customer satisfaction survey. Responses will be affected by how fresh the memory a particular experience was, or by how broad the scope of your survey is.

A survey that attempts to determine how a player's experience in the restaurant was should be served as soon as possible after the dining experience to get the best answer. Whereas, a survey that evaluates a member's satisfaction with his or her membership experience should be administered at specific points throughout the membership.

Consider what touch point you are trying to measure, and don't wait to diagnose events after they happen. If you keep putting out fires, you won't know what the sources are. Instead, conduct surveys as often as you can, and you'll get answers while their feedback is still fresh, not after.

Don't make the common mistake of asking too late and put a lot of consideration into how these surveys will be accessed. A survey about the pro shop or restaurant experience could be filled out from an iPad kiosk in-house.

Membership experience surveys work best in a well-crafted email, or on a paper copy included as part of a membership appreciation package.

There are lots of creative ways to deliver a survey, so don't be afraid to experiment and iterate on your strategy.

Turning Feedback Into Action

You've put all the hard work into collecting your survey responses. How can you turn all this feedback into action?

Close the loop and follow up to customer feedback in a meaningful way. Don't let the data from your survey responses lie dormant. Be proactive and start showing the customer that you value their feedback and are taking steps to address their concerns.

Of course, you can't constantly pivot your business to make every single customer happy. Not all the feedback you get will be useful. However, there's no excuse for not addressing every piece of feedback you get in some way. Giving an answer, even if it doesn't provide a solution, is better than not giving one at all.

How you react to customer feedback will vary based on how your golf course is performing, what your struggles are, and who you customers consist of. No matter what, try to have a plan of action before you receive feedback. Go as far as having a playbook that answers hypothetical situations, something like "If the respondent says X, this is what I'll do in response."

The key is quite simply getting started and executing a survey campaign. So start now by taking action and downloading our completely free package of golf course customer survey templates!

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We’ve recommended Chronogolf by Lighspeed to a number of different operators. I feel very good about making that recommendation, you guys have done a great job of following through with everything that I told people you were going to do.

Aaron Gleason,
Walters Golf

Based on more than 100 reviews from operator wordwide.
Read them here.

Get a call.