The Importance of Online Golf Course Reviews
Online golf club and facility reviews are an established and important part of the golfing landscape. Each year, thousands of golfers rely on reviews to assess courses and resorts and to pick which ones they are going to visit and which they are going to avoid. The 2018 Golfshake Survey found that online reviews have a huge impact on whether golfers decide to play a course or not. Put simply, if your club has bad online reviews then less golfers are going to visit and, with them, your club will lose money. But what’s the best way to respond to a bad online review? Keep reading to find out.
The Importance of Online Golf Reviews
It used to be that if you wanted to draw more players to your golf club you would advertise in your local paper or hand-out flyers. While these advertising strategies still work, however, golfers are becoming increasingly reliant on less material ways of consuming information. The main way golfers get information about courses is now digital. A big reason for this is the rise of technology and, in particular, smart phones, which have become a key tool to help golfers research and thus select where they want to play. In the 2018 Golfshake Survey, we found that 94% of golfers now own a smartphone – increased from 81% in 2014 – and there has been an even bigger rise in smartphone ownership in golfers over 60, up to 89% from 62% in 2014.
One of the great benefits of the internet is that everyone can have a voice and online independent golf reviews, such as the ones here on Golfshake, have become the go-to source for golfers to decide where to play their next round. This was corroborated by our survey, in which 80% of respondents stated that online reviews helped them decide whether to play a new course. The numbers were even higher among younger golfers. 87% of golfers under 60 read reviews online and 83% of the same golfers rely on them when deciding which courses to visit. Additionally, 43% of golfers regularly read online reviews and use them in decision making. As more and more golfers turn to online course reviews to decide where to play their next round, clubs simply cannot afford to ignore the importance of independent feedback.
The Problems of Reviews and their Upsides
As we will see, the rise of independent online reviews can be a help, not a threat to golf clubs. For many club owners, though, the growing prominence of independent reviews and the influence that they have may be scary. If a club gets a series of bad reviews then its reputation will suffer and golfers will be less likely to visit it, damaging revenue. The way to master these anxieties is to embrace them. Reviews can be annoying but they’re still important – golfers can be sceptical of official club literature (every club thinks their home course is the best!) – and want the reassurance of independent reviews to maintain quality.
While clubs may find this difficult to accept, especially if they feel as though they’ve been unjustly targeted for a bad review, or under appreciated by reviewers, in the long run, the integrity of the independent review process works out better for everyone. After all, if every club was in charge of their own reviews they would all just give themselves five stars, making it impossible to distinguish between them. Getting visitors would be a lottery, divorced from any meaningful metric for measuring quality.
What’s more, reviews are a free way of trouble-sourcing about areas where clubs can improve. Other ways of soliciting this information, such as employee response boxes and anonymous feedback, may cost clubs money to obtain, while the guarantee of an audience which is provided by an online review means that more people are likely to respond than in a suggestions book. Indeed, while good reviews can provide a welcome boost to a club’s morale – it’s always nice to hear that you’re doing well – it could be argued that bad reviews are actually more useful.
So how should clubs react to a bad review to get the best possible result for their business?
Well, the first thing to do to counteract a bad review is to respond. This really can’t be emphasised enough. According to Trustpilot, who surveyed 1,000 consumers globally to find out the effects of online reviews on businesses, roughly 1 in 3 consumers will expect businesses to respond to bad reviews personally, either in the form of a company comment or a private message in response to their complaints. And in many of these cases, the consequences for not responding may be severe. Businesses may be tempted to ignore a bad review, hoping it will just go away. This, however, is a mistake. In fact, more than half of consumers who are dissatisfied with a business’s response to their review will probably take their gripes even further. 2 in 3 of them are likely to boycott the business, while half will tell others to avoid visting there as well. This may not seem like a lot, but on the internet, where everything is amplified, bad reputations can quickly snowball. Even a handful of vocally dissatisfied consumers could have considerable negative effects on a business.
Fix the Problem or Offer a Refund
Responding to bad reviewers, then, is a must. But an understanding comment is not always, on its own, enough. Although they considered it a good first step, only 61% of Trustpilot’s respondents said that they’d be satisfied by just a company comment or a message about their review. Instead, they stressed the importance of retribution and physical action making amends. The ideal response is to fix the problem. However, in the case of a golf course or a golfing experience this can be difficult. A faulty car can be fixed by a mechanic, but a bad experience is more ephemeral. A more appropriate response, therefore, may be to offer a refund (which was supported by 84% of Trustpilot’s respondents). For example, if a golfer reports that they were dissatisfied with the state of the course’s greens as they’d just been hollow-tined, clubs could reimburse some of their green fee for the round. After all, they played your course in less than normally good conditions, so it would be unfair to charge them a normal green fee.
Invest in the Course and Club
Often golfer’s comments may be more cutting. Perhaps the course was in normal condition, but still disappointed the player, they thought prices were too high, or they said they were mistreated by a member of staff? In these instances, a refund may still be a good call. However, because the problems are not temporary, more considerable action is sometimes called for. First things first though, it’s important to get some perspective on the review. Is this a rogue bad experience, or part of a larger pattern? If just one golfer complains about the speed of their greens, but all the rest of the reviews are very positive, then, while clubs still need to reply to the complainant, there’s probably little to be gained from doing much more. If reviewers are all panning their greens, however, then clubs may need to respond more substantially and, ideally, to solve the problem. In the above example, this might include reseeding the greens or investing in a new green roller.
The Payoff to an Appropriate Response
Responding quickly and appropriately to bad reviews gives clubs the best chance to nullify their negative impact. In many cases, a good response to an unsatisfied golfer can even turn a bad review into a good one! It can sometimes be a challenge, but when consumers feel that a business has really engaged with their reviews, listened to their feedback and responded appropriately, more than half admitted that they would return to the business again. Even more significantly, from the Trustpilot survey, more than 2 in 5 consumers are likely to reverse their overall rating of the business and rewrite their original review to make it more positive. If a business responds well to criticism, 25% of consumers will even go as far as to promote it, completely reversing their earlier negativity.
Online golf reviews can be daunting for golf clubs, especially when they have such a huge effect on revenue and there’s little that they can do to directly control them. However, as this article has hopefully shown, independent reviews are not something to be feared. Used positively, even less than ideal reviews can be a great source of information to help clubs improve their services and drive further custom, a valuable force to be harnessed in growing their businesses and providing golfers with better experiences.
Have any thoughts on this article? As always, we’d love to hear from you. Comment below to have your say.
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)