REDLIBBETS GC: MAXIMISING YOUR TECHNOLOGY
Amongst the many golf clubs that sprang into existence over the past 30 years, Redlibbets Golf Club in Kent is one of the surprisingly small number that’s not only stayed in the hands of the original owners, the Billings family, but is prospering in one of the most competitive regions in the UK for golf courses.
Designed by Jonathan Gaunt and opened in 1997, the past 19 years have seen the parkland club come through the toughest period for golf clubs in living memory. In the last two months Redlibbets now has a new Director of Golf, David Harris, and he’s making it his mission to take the club into the 21st century in terms of its technology and the way the club uses it to increase sales and improve the bottom line.
As he explained it, “Technology is now so important to golf clubs, from modern multi-functional EPoS systems and the latest administrative software applications, to the smartphone-based technologies such as the ones our visitors are using all the time to book their games of golf.”
However, as David’s finding, although the club’s had MHS Group’s software for several years, the club hasn’t exactly been making the most of its capabilities, especially where the latest applications are concerned.
So with barely two months behind him, David’s experience of the club’s technology partner helping him make much fuller use of its software and hardware is a tale well worth telling.
Support and advice: there when you need it, and making your software work for you
David’s been especially impressed with the advice and support he’s been getting from MHS Group’s people, like the new Director Sales Mark Thompson and one of the sales engineers, Stuart Millar. “They’re both really good, and they know their stuff.” says David, “It all started when they found out I’d become the Director of Golf here, and that’s when I met with Mark Thompson.”
In fact the club was thinking about changing its software, but when David saw how much their existing system could actually do, and how much more their newer applications are promising, such as the new Club App, he completely changed his mind. “Prior to seeing what it could really do, it was tempting to change to another company,” he said, “but it soon became clear that we simply hadn’t been exploiting the stuff we had, and Mark really opened my eyes to our existing software’s real capabilities.”
David continues: “He took me through the sort of things that their latest software could do, and it became clear we hadn’t been using the technology to anything like its true capacity. Even now, while we’ve got more apps and training to come, I’d say we’re using perhaps 30 to 40% of our existing software’s capabilities.”
“The great thing is that MHS Group’s people are now working closely with us to show us what we can do, and how much more we can achieve to make things better for ourselves, our members and visitors, and the club’s bottom line.”
Managing the membership
With around 350 members, the back office team has the huge and laborious job of making sure they have everyone’s full details, so that they can ensure every subscription invoice is 100% accurate.
The latest MHS Group Membership & Subscriptions application makes this onerous task that much easier by using e-mail to send out those subscription invoices to the right person, which saves a lot of time and money straightaway.
In case David or any of his colleagues need any help, MHS Group’s sales support team are on tap to take a customer through – by screen sharing or over the ‘phone – whatever it is they want to do with their software. In the case of subscriptions, some customers get MHS Group to do their trial and actual subscription run – that’s how far this company will go to support their customers.
David’s also seeing their version of Flexible membership, called Associate, climb and climb. As he put it, “There’s no question that this is the way things are going, and it’s essential Redlibbets attracts as many of those that want this style of flexible membership as we can.”
So one of the things that David’s particularly pleased to discover is how easy the new Membership & Subscriptions system is when he wants to track and reconcile regular payments that are now such a feature of membership, ie. Standing Orders and Direct Debits. David’s delighted that he can now more easily identify exactly who has paid what and when, automatically and whenever he wants to.
Another very handy benefit of the MHS Group’s EPoS system is that it’s ready to run a points or credits-based Flexible membership system whenever you want this feature to be enabled.
Using technology to pull the pro shop into the club
In turn, that has meant David’s had to get to grips with the MHS Group EPoS and its new Membership & Subscription (also referred to as Cobra) applications and learn everything he can about them. To this end sales engineer Stuart Millar is helping David as much as he can with one-to-one training, onscreen training and ‘phone-based support.
As the Director of Golf, David’s also seen the need to streamline the way the club operates, so that it can become more member and visitor friendly.
So with an eye on making things simpler and better, he’s made the Pro Shop and its team of PGA Professional part of the club’s operating structure.
This could only be made to happen effectively by making sure the whole club – bar, catering and Pro Shop now uses the same technology as part of the same IT network, and as a long term customer of MHS Group (formerly MH Systems) and a fan of their EPoS system, David was pleased to find out that this extension of the network to include the Pro Shop could be done immediately.
Full stock control and bar code reading capability – perfect for the pro shop
The EPoS system, also referred to as CHIPS, is widely regarded as the best available for golf clubs thanks to its comprehensive features, reporting, and especially its reliability and its user-friendliness, especially when it comes to new and temporary staff. What David didn’t know is ]that this remarkable piece of technology had also been upgraded to provide a full stock control capability and has a bar code reading ability as well.
This has meant that one of the new EPoS tills could be installed straightaway in the Pro Shop, and that the team of professionals could then load it up with all their stock. Of course, its screen has also been set up with all the green fee products, and as it also contains the bookings diary as well, the pro shop can handle all the incoming tee] time bookings made online or over the ‘phone.
In turn, the members’ existing bar cards which they’ve been using for years to buy food and drink, will now work for a member’s pro shop account as well. That makes another of David’s innovations easier, because winners of competitions now get their winnings placed straight onto their pro shop accounts, where they can of course enjoy their winnings within the club’s financial environment.
Streamlining the pro shop for the customers
One of the aspects David’s keenest on is the way that by duplicating the EPoS technology in the Pro Shop, their members and visitors can walk in and buy a range of different products, and do so in the one same transaction.
So when someone comes in and enters a competition, buys some balls or some clothing, and a chocolate bar and a can of energy drink, the whole transaction is simply a matter of keying in each one onto the same EPoS till screens. This has speed up the whole Pro Shop experience for both the customer and the person behind the counter, and in turn is helping enhance impulse expenditure at times when the shop team’s often very busy.
Likewise, the pro shop team’s finding the MHS Group’s EPoS system really easy when it comes to stock control and putting in all those latest prices with the changes of season. So with the pro shop now part of the same club team, it’s wins all round for that one, David!
Hey big spender!
When it comes to the traditional usage of the bar card, Redlibbets used to require its new members to place £50 on the card, but it’s now decided to make this simpler, and instead like the normal members they’ll place whatever amount of value on their cards whenever they need.
Members get 5% discount on food orders and around 12% on drinks, although with margins all on the move post-Brexit, this has meant that a lot more revised prices are having to be put on the EPoS application. Fortunately the bar staff find this is quite easy to do with their latest MHS Group software.
However, as David’s learning more and more about the things he can get out of the EPoS system, he’s very keen to find out which members are the club’s biggest spenders. He’ll soon find out not only who and how many he has at what levels of expenditure, but he also knows that he’ll then be able to reward those big spenders with a reward that’s just for them.
This is in fact quite an old feature within the MHS Group EPoS system, but it’s another that their rivals can’t offer and which customers are only too pleased to start using, as part of their membership retention strategy. When you’ve spent a few bob, there’s nothing like a free drink or even more to let you know that your club thinks you’re special.
Putting technology to work to build green fee sales
In common with perhaps every other golf club, Redlibbets has had to work out what to do to ensure that it’s attracting healthier number of green fee players coming along to play, drink and eat. Invariably some of those will also think about membership, and so the greater the numbers of feet on the first tee, the higher the likelihood that passing trade turns into solid membership-based participation.
To this end, David’s a great fan of Teeofftimes.co.uk, one of the original companies that developed and opened up the market for green fees.
Thoroughly used now to playing the yield management game, as David knows, it’s all about the numbers.
“While it usually means we don’t get the highest rate for our green fees,” says David, “we don’t mind at all because Teeofftimes.co.uk is helpingus pull in much higher numbers of players now, and they all need something to drink and eat afterwards. The increased numbers are helping improve our bottom line as well, and that’s the whole point if we’re to succeed as a business as well as a club.”
He continues, “What is also clear is that so many of them are using their smartphones to book, and Teeofftimes.co.uk is 100% geared to facilitate that crucial change in lifestyle habits and behaviour over the past handful of years. Practically speaking, everyone who plays golf has a smartphone, or according to research at least 95% do now.”
“What’s really fascinating,” he says, “is to learn about buyer behaviour. 90% of our tee time bookings are within 72 hours of being made on a smartphone. They’re mainly made out of working hours, and if we weren’t ‘open 24/7’ we’d lose a lot of green fee business.”
Again, because the EPoS system now being used is so much more capable and flexible, it’s also simple to handle a wide range of timerelated green fee prices, and yet keep things simple as well for the retail staff who have to make sure they’re charging the right rate for the tee time eg. after 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon, or on a Sunday morning, or whatever.
Summing up: getting it right with MHS Group’s software, much more to come…
David’s very happy he decided to stay with MHS Group. He now sees the benefits that have been hidden deep within the software, and is excited by the plans they have to acquire more of the package that MHS Group can now offer.
This includes full and seamless integration with Redlibbets’ ClubVIEW website, the new Club App that will further advance the services the club can provide its smartphone wielding members, and Player Score Input or PSI, for which the club is getting more monitors to put around the club.
As David sums it all up, “We now have the technology we need to do the things I’ve wanted to do for some time. As we learn and familiarise] ourselves with it, so we see all sorts of new opportunities. Our members will be able to check their bar and pro shop accounts on their smartphones, enter competitions online and pay for them. They’ll be able to see their winnings arrive in their accounts as well.”
“For our visitors, things will become even more user-friendly. We’re going to be able to remind them with messages about their tee bookings, and push gentle sales messages about the new beer we’ve got, or the new winter menu. And when they’ve played and left happy, we’ll be able to message them to say that we hope they enjoyed their Redlibbets’ experience, and that this code will entitle them to a discount the next time they want to play. We may even try a gentle push to do a review, and mimic the success of TripAdvisor as a golf destination of choice.”
“It’s that sort of thing that really excites me as a Director of Golf. The world’s changing so fast now, and that’s why it’s so important to have the right technology now, so that Redlibbets has the right tools to compete, prosper and ensure it’s still setting standards five years from now.”