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September 2019

Words Matter

Six Tips for Increasing and Improving Your Course’s Online Reviews

By Roger Sholanki 

Consumers often look to online reviews to guide decisions ranging from buying a product, to selecting a hotel, to playing a golf course. According to research by BrightLocal, 86 percent of consumers read reviews for businesses, and 57 percent prefer businesses with least a four-star rating.

The implications of these findings mean that golf course operators, like all businesses, need to focus on increasing and improving online reviews on sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp and Golf Advisor in order to protect and enhance their bottom lines. The six tips below can help you implement effective strategies for online reputation management:

1. Provide a great experience – It seems like the most obvious step, but golf course operators first need to make sure to pay attention to things like off-course amenities, course conditions and staff friendliness to provide the best possible experience for golfers. Delivering outstanding golf facilities and services will generate the kind of feedback that will attract new customers and keep existing customers coming back.

2. Encourage loyal patrons to leave a review – You likely have many golfers who are regulars and would be willing to write a positive review based on their honest, quality experience at your course. It just takes getting into the habit of asking for feedback, educating your customers on how they can leave comments and encouraging them to share their positive experiences. Train your staff to remind customers at check-in to leave a review on sites like Google, Facebook or Yelp. There is no better strategy for generating five-star ratings than asking happy customers. You can automate and streamline the process of requesting feedback by using technology to easily send surveys to your golfers via email as soon as they finish their round.

3. Respond to reviews – Make your reviews two-way conversations by setting aside time each week to respond to comments. Being responsive and engaged demonstrates that you care and are listening, which often encourages more feedback.

A recent study from Harvard Business Review found that simply responding to reviews increases the number of reviews by 12 percent and ratings increase by an average of 0.12 stars. When some sites devoted to ratings round to the nearest half star, even small gains can make the difference between a four-star course and a 4.5-star course. So, whether you’re addressing a negative review or thanking someone for a glowing endorsement, course managers should respond to every review.

When you get negative feedback, like “the course was overbooked and super slow pace of play” or “the course was overpriced for the conditions. Needs a lot of TLC,” apologize for the bad experience and work to solve the identified problems. You can also offer an incentive, such as a free round of golf, to try to get the customer back on the course and provide a better experience.

On the other hand, when customers leave positive comments, such as “the course was challenging around the exceptionally maintained green complexes and very fair off the tee” or “the staff is very customer service oriented and the course is in amazing condition,” always be sure to thank them.
You should highlight your positive reviews. Google, Yelp and many other review sites allow business owners and site visitors to mark reviews as helpful, which moves reviews further up on the site, so more people can read them. You can also share positive reviews on your course’s social media channels. For example, re-share positive Facebook reviews in a post on your page, or format positive reviews as quotes on Instagram posts for your followers.

4. Use technology for booking – Online booking technology makes it easy for players to see what tee times are available and to select a convenient time without picking up the phone to call the pro shop. Using technology helps provide a seamless customer experience and frees up your staff to focus on helping your golfers with other needs. This translates into improved service, which can lead to better ratings.

5. Configure your review pages – It is important to remember to configure your review pages on sites like Google My Business and Yelp. Consumers will undoubtedly search online for your business before visiting. BrightLocal’s research found that 27 percent of consumers looked online daily for a local business and 69 percent look online for local businesses monthly. You should make sure consumers can find you when they search for you and that your review pages positively reflect your course. While you can’t control consumer comments on review sites, you can control how your page looks. Make your pages stand out with photos and engaging descriptions of your course, clubhouse and other amenities.

6. Manage and track feedback – Technology solutions can also be used to help you monitor feedback, so you can take appropriate action. These solutions can simplify the tracking of your golf course’s digital reputation and centrally manage reviews across sites such as Facebook and Yelp.
Consumers consider online reviews credible sources of information, and this feedback has significant impact on how they make decisions on booking everything from hotels to restaurants to golf courses. It is more important than ever for your golf course to implement strategies to improve and increase online reviews and use data from customer feedback to gain insights that can help you elevate and enhance golfer experience. Taking control of your online reputation management will pay off by ultimately improving your bottom line.

Roger Sholanki is the founder and CEO of Book4Time, a cloud-based booking business management platform used by businesses in more than 70 countries.

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