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What Makes Members Happy

“Establish an atmosphere which fosters a sense of community and belonging – that is fundamental to member satisfaction.” – GGA Senior Associate Martin Tzankov

In a recent interview, GGA Senior Associate Martin Tzankov revealed the results of member survey findings from a sample of private clubs that are subscribed to GGA’s Strategic Intelligence platform, all based in and around the Greater Ontario region in Canada.

The Key Findings of the sample study were these:

  • Social Atmosphere and Food & Beverage ratings were most directly related to overall club satisfaction
  • Golf Course and Practice Facility ratings did not strongly relate to overall member satisfaction
  • The Clubhouse Experience bears a moderate correlation to overall satisfaction

Martin went on to discuss the findings and why some aspects of club life are more closely linked to satisfaction than others in today’s market:

Did it surprise you that the golf course and practice facilities were not more directly linked to member satisfaction?

In some ways, yes. It’s something I imagine most club managers would think is number one when it comes to satisfaction. But in the context of members and membership, the course is something they know and that they (most likely) got to know before they joined. It may change or evolve over time, but this study suggests there are other aspects of their membership that are more directly related to their satisfaction at any one time.

Social atmosphere was found to be most directly related to club satisfaction. Is this an emerging trend that you have witnessed from other club data in recent years?

It’s definitely something we’ve seen over the years on a case-by-case basis through our engagements and this data reinforces our first-hand observations. A sense of community and belonging is so important to club members. This has actually not really changed over time, however the definition of what a sense of community and belonging is has certainly evolved. Increasingly, members are looking to be part of a club that is friendly and welcoming to families, and one that creates social opportunities for its members to interact and spend time with one another.

The notion of shared experiences, added to the distinct feeling of being part of something, does feel like the sweet spot all clubs should be striving to create for their members. This is backed up by the data and, I suspect, would be backed up by more far reaching extensive research too.

Why do you think Food & Beverage ranked so highly in relation to member satisfaction?

It’s almost the opposite to the golf course, in the sense that the food and beverage offering is something they are unlikely to have experienced many times, if at all, before they became members. So, by the time they become a member, if it does not meet their expectations, a survey tends to be where this is reflected.

Despite the questions relating to food quality, menu selection and the like, there’s a broader social context too. The club is somewhere a member wants to be proud of, perhaps even invite others along to experience – so when certain aspects are not up to the standard they expect, this can be a source of discontent.

With the findings of the study in mind, what one or two takeaways can you recommend to club managers with a view to improving the experience and satisfaction for their members?

I’d focus on bringing your members together – create opportunities for members to spend time and socialize together at the club on and off the golf course. A sense of community and belonging plays a pivotal role in member satisfaction.

The club should be viewed as the vessel which enables members to live out social experiences with other members, their families, friends and guests, so by opening up these opportunities, members can expand their network within the club and become more rooted in the social fabric.

When you observe your members using the club and its amenities through this lens, it can help empathize with what they care most about, or what voids may exist in the member experience.

Any final conclusions to draw from the findings?

The findings have reinforced our observations into which areas specifically impact member satisfaction most. But for the moment, this is really only an indication. We’ll soon be embarking on more extensive analysis, taking account of clubs further afield, looking more closely at individual responses and mapping these to member satisfaction. This will provide an even more robust basis to examine where clubs really need to focus their attention in order to enhance the experience for members.

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