Thursday, June 7, 2012

The interview you are (probably) too busy to conduct

By now, it should be clear how important the first thirty days of a new members life is to your club. 

I say “should be” with my tongue firmly pressed in cheek, since many members have a tough time distinguishing between the first thirty days, to the next ninety days, to the next three-hundred and sixty days, as it relates to how you and your staff interacts with them.

Being really friendly doesn’t count.  That is expected.  Remembering their name each time they visit doesn’t count either.  That is also a given. 

The deeper question you should be asking...

The one that should be answered every day, every interaction, and every chance they visit the “HOW SPECIAL DO I MAKE MY MEMBERS FEEL”?

One of the best ways to separate yourself from all of the other business they interact with on a regular basis, is how you handle that critical first thirty days. 

Think about how excited they are!  They just joined your club.  They are probably hoping to meet new people.  Hoping to make memories with their families.  Hoping to have a great place to take clients.  There is never a better time to capitalize on their excitement...and double it...if you are intentional about it.

If you don’t already have a formalized plan in place or want a suggestion or two on how to make your current process better, keep reading:

1.  Within twenty-four hours of joining, call them personally and thank them.  It sounds something like, “...Mr. Smith, I heard through the grapevine you joined our club today!?!?  I just wanted to call and personally thank you, and send my warmest welcome to you and your family...”.  Five minutes tops, bonus if they decide to talk longer.  If you sold them their membership yourself, have the General Manager or Club President make the call.  They will feel like a million bucks!
2.  Within twenty-four hours of joining, send them a hand-written thank you note.  You don’t have to get too wordy.  Something short and sweet will do.  No one does this, but you can, and believe me, they’ll remember the gesture.
3.  Within 72 hours, schedule a time where they can personally meet with the Tennis Pro, Golf Pro, or whomever is responsible for the area they told you most interested them about the club.  This will be a great time for their respective Pro to sign them up for lessons, fun tournaments that you probably hold every few weeks, or to meet with your Social Programs leader to help them meet new people.
4.  Within two weeks, mail them a voucher for lunch or dinner in whatever denomination your club can afford:  Free, buy one entree get one free, spend $25 get $25, 50% off their total bill, etc.  Ask them to use this in the next two weeks because you, “wanted to get their honest opinion about the food quality, portions, and service, as you are always trying to improve the members experience at the club”. 
5.  Within thirty days, schedule a “I need your help in honestly evaluating our club” lunch.  This is the biggie that no one in town does, or for that matter, few in the country do...but it may be one of the most critical lunches you have as it relates to good or bad employees, member expectations vs. reality, and/or suggestions for bettering the club.  You will want to understand the following by the end of lunch:

  •  What specifically brought them to your club?
  •  Where you might need to improve?
  •  What you are doing right? 
  •  If they have ideas for improving things?
  •  If they know of other people that might want to join?
Since no one ever (1) asks their opinion and/or (2) is humble enough to accept whatever answers are given, they will be very uncomfortable giving you this information for the most part.  With that said,  the way you word your questions and the tone you use is very important.  The goal is to make them feel like they are experts, even if they are the furthest thing from it...but if you think about it, there are probably another twenty potential members that think just like them, that could be your next new member, so listen carefully.

You might specifically ask:

“Mr. Smith, I would like to believe we didn’t have any other competition in town, but the fact is there are other nice clubs in town, as well as several good public options (never slam the competition)...if you don’t mind, could you share with me what were some of the most important factors you looked at before deciding to join the club”

“We are always trying to improve the club, but also are mindful of our members budget and the general consensus of their desires...tell me, if you had a magic wand, how would you make the club better”?

“If we held more events for (Tennis, Golf, juniors, couples), do you see you or your family coming out more?  If not, what could we do to get more people out in your view”?

“We would like to think we communicate clearly and often with our membership, but have heard a few say, we could improve.  What has your experience been so far”?

“If you could tell others, in a sentence, your experience with us so far, what would you say”?

You get the idea.  One thing you don’t want to do is get into a “justifying” match with your new member by being overly defensive.  Take their criticism and compliments in equal measure.  The goal is to connect, listen, and hopefully turn them into a walking billboard for you club.