It’s that time of year! Most golf course operators are adding up 2021’s numbers and turning thoughts to making 2022 even better. Part of that process includes an evaluation of the current point-of-sale (PoS) technology stack. Do I change or stick with what I have?
There are several reasons to change. Maybe your provider failed to deliver the promised enhancements. Perhaps you had service issues, especially during a time when your business demanded expediency. Maybe your relationship with a key person dissolved as they moved on to somewhere else. Maybe your technology did not keep up with changes in your business or won’t satisfy the changes you’re planning for the new year. Most importantly, perhaps you counted up all the tee times you gave away in a barter arrangement and came to the whopping realization of how much that cost you during a period of high demand. Of course, this is a short list – there are many other reasons course operators will roam the aisles of the PGA Show shopping for PoS technology.
A recent call from a friend and NGCOA member highlighted the conundrum many operators face. His current PoS provider, EZLinks, owned by GolfNow, told him that no enhancements are forthcoming. He told me, “We are accustomed to EZ Links not prioritizing our needs. We’ve been asking for a few specific enhancements (that would benefit other EZ Links clients too). Still, their continued intransigence and apathy towards our needs have tempered my expectations with each passing year.”
That made his decision easy – it’s time to change. Now, the hard part. The property, with six courses, is much more complex than the average single-course operation. Nevertheless, his goal is spot-on: elevate the customer experience and improve management functionality.
Critical now is mobile check-in and payment integrated with the tee sheet. Want to guess why? Staffing. This large facility is struggling to fill staff positions. Integrated technology can reduce operational stress while providing guests a function they’re enjoying at other businesses (airlines, hotels, Starbucks, etc.).
Don Rea, PGA Secretary and Owner of Augusta Ranch Golf Club, expressed his desire for an electronic waitlist in a recent Golf Business LIVE episode with Jay Karen. Strong demand has made it difficult for some regulars to get their desired tee times, but cancellations and no-shows still occur. The written paper waitlist should go the way of the paper tee sheet. So it’s another feature to shop for (hint: it is available).
My friend’s facility’s course-customized app is a critical component powered by Gallus Golf. With nearly 20,000 downloads, it’s become integral in increasing customer engagement and enjoyment. For instance, the live scorecard feature saw extensive use when the facility stopped providing paper scorecards. Tee times booked from the app increased over 100%. And the loyalty rewards program saw robust activity. After six years of use, you just cannot take it away from the guests.
Gallus has key integrations with one PoS system, Club Prophet, but has struggled to integrate with others, including GolfNow, which has stonewalled any integration conversations. In a perfect world, golf technology providers have open APIs that enable easy integrations desired by their clients. The priority should be the course client, not what the PoS provider “thinks” is best for its next iteration.
Many course operators devote a full day at the PGA Show, going booth to booth watching PoS demonstrations. When I sold PoS systems, we argued among ourselves whether it was better to be the first visit of the day or the last. Truth was, the last was the best only when it included a walk over to the Peabody, now Hyatt, and attempt to close the deal with some adult lubrication… “sales sauce.” Otherwise, it didn’t matter.
What prospects get wrong is letting the company rep run the demonstration. For years, I’ve advised clients to approach their meetings with a list of the top ten things they absolutely had to have. Maybe it was five or six, or 12. The point is, you must have a prioritized list and demand each is fully addressed before seeing the cool bells and whistles and eye candy the rep hoped to use to rope in another deal. And if one of those priorities is not satisfied, pick up and move on. Do not, under any circumstances, buy because you’re told, “We’re working on that,” or, “We should have that soon.” Those are non-definitive clues to the actual answer: we won’t work for your operation today.
Look, there are a lot of PoS systems out there, more than ever, and probably more than the industry needs. They deal with the fact that if there are 15,000 golf facilities in the country, they’re run 15,000 different ways. Yet, they all have commonalities – electronic tee sheets, online booking engines, customer data collection, and capabilities to count your money. One might look “prettier” than another, but that’s like evaluating art. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
I’m looking for experience if I’m shopping… one who has done it and seen it all. I’m also looking for service. Can I talk to a live person? Or, is service provided by online chat. Price shouldn’t matter. The PoS is the most critical technology you’ll purchase; evaluating based on price is a fool’s errand. Much worse is giving up tee times instead of paying cash.
Most importantly, which system provides you with what you need now – and that’s how I advised my friend. Why delay waiting to achieve a goal when the technology is here now and proven? Sure, golf’s technology continues to evolve and improve (most of the time). But, there is no time like the present and no worse feeling than thinking that something has passed you by.