The customer is always right, right?

So is the customer always right? And when is the price negotiable?

These questions seem to be asked a little more in the golf world than perhaps they should be. And many operators will have their own approach to price-based marketing. But we want to know if the market has raised a generation of bargain-hunters intent on doing a deal, with no loyalty to the facility at all.

The happy complainant

A course we work closely with received some feedback this week, and we heard a familiar ring: a group booking of 14 arrived with only 6 players. Ok, this is a common problem, and we expected the feedback to be either positive (“The course handled it well, didn’t charge us, and we had a great day") or negative (“They charged us for the whole group! How unreasonable!”). But no, the issue was different, and the group simply assumed it was fine to book for 14 then turn up with 6. No payment was required for the no-shows, but no positive feedback followed this generous (but common) allowance. Oh, and they loved the course.

So far they seem happy - so what was the complaint?

Well, the 6 players who did show had a “4 for 3” voucher entitling them to pay 3 green fees and receive the 4th free. When the course declined to extend the benefit to the last 2 players (who did not have a voucher, and were not bringing another foursome to play) they complained that they had been hard done by. They backed this up with a written complaint after the game, in response to a feedback survey.

So, book for 14, hold up 4 tee times, but arrive with 6 paying customers. Then be unhappy when the course didn’t give them a further discount, despite having no entitlement to one. And the sting in the tail? “We love your course, but we won’t bring our group back after that”. Ouch. Sound familiar?

What drives loyalty anyway?

Many municipal facilities will not tolerate any deviation from standard offers, and can argue successfully that it would be unfair to others in the community to offer any discounts beyond accepted deals. However, many other facilities would be familiar with the negotiator: the customer who always wants a deal. Golf marketing is awash with vouchers and price-based offers, have we trained the customer to expect a deal? Is price always the most important thing? If we want to move beyond price, what drives loyalty anyway?

This is an important question, and the Golf Business Forum is undertaking some research to explore just what drives golfer loyalty in the public market. Stay tuned for more, for now share your stories below, we’d love to hear how you handle the negotiator, the deal-maker, the pushy and the just plain aggressive. After all, they’re always right, right?