PGA Level 1 Seminar: Day 2

Erik Nielsen (PGA) goes over the relationship of interpersonal skills to interaction strategies.

I don’t know if fatigue was a factor or not, but Tuesday got off to a much better start than Monday. I think it had a lot to do with Bill Cioffoletti (PGA). When we walked into the PGA Education Center a little after 8:00a, an excited and energetic Bill was there to meet us, greet us with enthusiasm, and then review yesterday’s Seminar on Business Planning.

Here’s the thing: Bill wasn’t even at yesterday’s Seminar (I wish he was), but you wouldn’t know it! That’s how excited he was to talk about Mission Statements, Objectives, and Strategies. I learned a valuable lesson this morning: it’s not just the subject matter, it’s your attitude and how you present it. Bill’s attitude was infectious, and his encouragement and clarification this morning was greatly appreciated. Yesterday was rough.

Bill told us that while he probably wouldn’t be able to go over the financials in our Work Experience Portfolios before week’s end, he said he would be more than happy to verify our Objectives, which is a real advantage especially since Bill is one of the graders for the PGA. He also reiterated that the faculty was here to help us… even when we leave Port St. Lucie. I walked out of there thinking, “This is going to be a tedious process, but it’s not an impossible task.” Attitude is everything. Bill Cioffoletti is a walking example of that, and this was a great 25 minute review session. Even though it was optional, I would highly recommend attending!

Day 2 is all about Customer Relations, something with which all of us in the golf industry are very familiar. But you don’t have to be in the golf industry to know what it’s like to have a good or a bad customer service experience. We spent several minutes in groups sharing those experiences. It’s something we can all relate to in our everyday lives, regardless of industry. As Erik Nielsen (PGA) remarked, “The emotions and observations we have as customers we’ve been having our whole lives.” He and Doug Vilven (PGA) took turns leading today’s session.

The PGA Customer Relations Model consists of eight different elements: the customer perspective, the moment of truth, resources, staffing, and systems, interaction strategies, interpersonal skills, and positive engagement routines. The element we really honed in on was the moment of truth. A moment of truth occurs anytime a customer has the opportunity to evaluate a facility’s products and services. Customers begin recording their experience within five seconds of arriving on property. There’s a business value to customer relations.

You have interactive and non-interactive moments of truth. Interactive moments occur when the customer interacts with an employee. If the initial impression involves a staff member welcoming and engaging them, the customers’ perception will be at or above their original expectation levels. Non-interactive moments occur independent of employees. Because of the nature of the industry, there are way more non-interactive moments that occur at a golf course than there are interactive. But those interactive moments built up over time: at the bag drop, in the pro shop, with the starter and the ranger, and whenever the beverage cart rolls up.

Moments of truth
In the PGA Customer Relations Model, there are interactive and non-interactive moments of truth.

In the afternoon session, we discussed tools we could use at our own facilities to deal with bad or negative customers. We watched a series of videos and talked about the four interaction strategies: directing, convincing, involving, and supporting. In a directing strategy, you tell others explicitly what to do. In a convincing strategy you help others see the value of adopting your solution. In an involving solution, you invite others to join your solution. And in a supporting strategy, you help others to find their own solution.

These four interaction strategies are tied to seven interpersonal skills or specific communication tools that can be used during each interaction. These strategies are different for each interaction and depend on the situation: stating your purpose clearly (directing), providing a compelling rationale (convincing), encouraging open expression (involving), showing understanding (supporting), giving and inviting specific feedback, reframing difficult situations, and acting with integrity. The last three are kind of like extra tools you can use to help get you out of a sticky situation, but any interpersonal skill can be used as part of any interaction strategy.

We closed with Positive Engagement Routines. These help to ensure a positive first impression and reflect a set of behaviors applied to every interaction. The essential elements of positive engagement routines are greet, listen, assess, offer, follow-through, and make an extra effort. The PGA of America used to use the acronym GEODE in its Customer Relations Seminar: Greet. Enquire. Offer. Deliver. Evaluate. Now, that’s out the window. And as I wrote back in November, that’s probably a good thing. Inquire is spelled with an “I” not an “E.”

We left today’s seminar very happy customers. That’s because we were out of there by 4:15p. A bunch of us used the extra time to knock out most of Activity 4 in our Work Experience Portfolios: Developing a Financial Forecast and 12-Month Budget. Doing the linear trend analysis wasn’t complicated, but the math needed to calculate the average percentage change and the Revised Forecast that followed was very time-consuming.

Preview of Day 3: Tournament Operations Seminar (8:30a-4:30p)
Doug fashions himself as a bit of a Tournament Operations expert, something he says he “actually knows a little something about.” He’s back again tomorrow for a 3rd straight day alongside Debbie Foley (PGA). At the end of the second day, they had everyone move back two rows. Those of us sitting in the front are now more towards the middle, and those who have been hiding in the back are now front and center.

I didn’t bring my clubs, but you can, and a few people did. The best days to play are Tuesday and Wednesday, weather permitting. Your brain will be pretty fried by the end of the day Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, you’re out of class by 4:15p or 4:30p, but if you didn’t pass your Playing Ability Test (PAT), you have to take a PAT class immediately following Tuesday’s Seminar. That would mean Wednesday is your best chance to play. On Thursday and Friday, you’re not done until 6:00p, so those days are out. Just know that it rains almost every summer afternoon in the state of Florida, so it might not be worth the extra baggage fees.

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