Members Gone Wild
A member gets in another member’s face on the first tee and starts yelling expletives, irritated over who has priority on the tee. Fellow members and guests witness the incident and report it to the pro shop, but nothing is done to admonish the members outrageous behavior. Meanwhile, gossip ensues and permeates negativity throughout the club for weeks.
Members appear oblivious to the common courtesy of picking up after themselves and their young children after spending all day at the club’s pool area. Towels are left strewn all over the deck and lounge chairs, dirty dishes and wrappers left behind and blowing in the breeze small children having accidents in the pool requiring the staff to close down the entire pool for the afternoon, inconveniencing all members.
A member gets irritated with how another member is parked in the member parking lot and the two get into a heated confrontation. Hours later, when leaving, one of the parties identifies their luxury vehicle has been keyed from front to back along the passenger side.
These are real examples we have come across in the past 12 months. Clubs we visit with and work alongside are frustrated with issues surrounding poor member behavior and lack of civility, and are unsure how to address it. This becomes a grave concern and something we are very sensitive to as it directly affects the member experience in a very negative way. We believe one of the overriding benefits of belonging to a club (for all generations of members) is the expectation that those in your club will treat others with kindness and respect. That a higher level of decorum and civility will be upheld and common practice. So, what are a board and/or management to do to turn the tide on decaying civility at a club?
Reinforce Club Values.
Remind the members what the club’s core principles are and commit to upholding them. If you don't think it’s clear, or if your club hasn't developed core principles, begin to do so with a strategic workshop.
Communicate the issues.
To think that the gossip wheel hasn't gone around the block regarding the nasty incident between two members is unreasonable. Have the Board of Directors communicate what truly happened (no member or staff specifics are necessary) and what is being done to address the unwanted behavior.
New Member Orientation.
Some of your newer members may not understand all of the rules and protocols for using the various facilities. Ensure your club has a thoughtful new member indoctrination program.
Provide Relative Staff Training.
Be sure your front of the house staff receives ongoing service recovery training. We find that role-playing examples works well for this and using positive communication techniques. It is ideal in most environments if the staff or management can be empowered to address infractions in the clubhouse, such as dress code or cell phone use, as opposed to having a member take it upon him/herself to correct the violation. If staff does not feel empowered or supported by the Club’s leadership (paid and volunteer) and are not properly trained, they will look the other way.
We often joke that the quickest way to get members in line is to kick one out for bad behavior each year. While this may not be realistic, establishing a set of principles and clearly outlined disciplinary actions makes it more manageable for management and the Board of Directors to correct bad behavior quickly and consistently. It’s also important that the employees know how to handle feedback from members and why it is important it reaches the appropriate person.
It is unfortunate that we are experiencing a nationwide decay of civility. It is my hope that we can protect our clubs as a haven for conviviality and respect. If you need help getting your club back on track, we are here to help!
Rachel Carter is a consultant with RCS specializing in membership marketing and communications strategies. Recognized as one of the "Most Influential Women in the Club Industry" by Board Room Magazine,Carter is a contributing writer for trade magazines including Golf Business, Club Director and Board Room Magazine and in a selection panelist for Distinguished Clubs.