How to Offer Self-Service to Your Members and Staff

David Higgins
By David Higgins

Self-service is an added benefit for your members. But have you thought about how this same self-service can benefit your staff? Easy reporting, access to information, a friendly user interface - all of these benefits can lead to happier and more productive employees.

If you haven’t been hearing about self-service, then get ready: this is undoubtedly a growing trend across all industries. Before we go too far, let’s define self-service, since not all readers might be familiar with it.

Self-service is commonly understood to mean a system by which consumers can buy items or make transactions without needing to rely on a staff member to facilitate the purchase or transaction. If you have flown in the last few years, chances are you’ve used self check-in at an airport. Similarly, if you’ve ever used a mobile app to make a purchase, then you’ve made a purchase via self-service.

This process, so commonplace in other industries, is now being embraced by private clubs. Whether it’s member self check-in at kiosks, or members making their own reservations via a mobile app, self-service is slowly but surely establishing itself in the club industry. In fact, we’ve recently covered other types of member self-service here and here on our blog.

Many clubs are realizing that member and staff self-service go hand in hand. How can your club implement self-service among your employees? And what benefits might you experience by doing so? Here are some examples we have seen our clients implement with great results.

  1. Don’t Eliminate Job Functions, Automate Them
    It seems every club has a series of reports they depend upon. Maybe it's a weekly F&B sales reports, or a quarterly report for the board to review. No matter the audience, these reports can provide vital insights into any club's finances and operations.

    Depending on the club’s operating software, though, these reports can be a challenge to assemble. Some club software requires users to export data into Excel in order to make any sense of it. The inefficiencies caused by these software programs have ripple effects which touch all aspects of the club. Department heads can’t get the information they need in a timely manner; therefore, making data-driven decisions is a challenge because data is mired somewhere in a spreadsheet.

    At least, this is the way it is for some people in the private club industry who still use systems that do not offer access to real-time data. For those who can see their club’s data in real-time, they have increasingly begun to automate reports that, in other systems, might take hours or days to assemble each time they are needed.

    For example, we heard from a Controller (note: go to 30:20 in the video) who automated a daily gross margins report for her golf staff. The report is sent each day to her golf pro, with no manual intervention on her part. Not only is this a time saver, it can also be used by pro shops to gain business intelligence - and for an operation that is often dependent on discretionary income of members, such insights can be crucial.

    As you listen to this webinar, think of the reports that you’d like to automate, and which staff at your club would benefit from getting club reports on a consistent basis.
  2. Capture Reservations (and Revenue) in Real-Time
    Along with software that does not allow for fast or automated reporting, we also hear of another time sink that many club staff fall into: having to manually enter reservations across multiple databases.

    Let’s expand on this problem a little more. Say a member makes a dining reservation via the club’s mobile app. Several club staff members might have to then take account for that reservation - maybe someone on the F&B team, along with someone in accounting, and perhaps even the receptionist. That reservation will also be entered in multiple systems which then have to be reconciled; and that’s to say nothing of the fact that, when inputting the reservation, information can be entered incorrectly.

    So how can you get beyond these complicated, repetitive processes and move towards self-service for your employees? For one, it helps to have a system in place that allows you to capture reservations in your point of sale (note: go to 11:00 in this video). Armed with reservation information, your staff can now go about assigning servers and tables, ensuring that when your members arrive on-site, they will have a first-class experience. What’s more, the reservation was a seamless experience for both member and staff.
  3. Break Down Barriers and Centralize Your Club’s Communications
    I once heard a private club adviser describe the software stack at many clubs as “the Frankenstein approach”. That is to say, clubs likely use one vendor for website, another for member management, another for reservations, and yet another for mobile app.

    Although it is tempting to take a “best of breed” approach to your club’s software - meaning you implement multiple software programs for different functions - what this ultimately means is that you create data silos that each require separate upkeep. We’ve already touched on some pitfalls of data silos as they relate to reporting and reservations elsewhere in this post, but let’s now turn our attention to another critical part of club operations: member communications.

    As many clubs adopt mobile apps in order to open up another channel for member communications, one problem presents itself: how to ensure information on your club’s website and mobile app stay in-sync. This is the case for clubs that utilize one vendor for their website and another for their mobile app - in short, the problem for these clubs is that new content published on the club’s website does not appear on the mobile app. The reason? The club, by using a third-party for their mobile app, thus cannot publish content on their website and mobile app simultaneously. Instead, the club staff must update the website and the mobile app separately. 

    For while mobile apps open many opportunities for member engagement, having a separate website and mobile app which both need continual updates can create numerous inefficiencies. Not only that, but in many cases, content on either the app or the website might become stale, thus reducing the efficacy of both as a means of member communication. Given that you are competing for the time, attention, and discretionary income of your members, why wouldn’t you want to optimize your approach to member communications?

    In a recent blog post, I covered how clubs have used mobile apps to bolster the F&B experience of their members. Interestingly, many of the arguments as to why mobile apps are good for the member experience can be applied to staff. Indeed, from opening up another channel to communicate with your members while simultaneously streamlining your F&B operations, mobile apps present an exciting advancement in member engagement and staff operations. 

If there’s a common theme among all these initiatives that we’ve seen clubs undertake, it’s this: as clubs introduce self-service to members, they need to do the same for club staff. If clubs do not introduce similar levels of self-service to their staff, they risk undercutting the gains they might have otherwise achieved by streamlining their back-office and communications processes.