As good as the game: Topgolf talks top hospitality

When it comes to hospitality, the sport of golf is often included as almost an afterthought within a larger organizational framework at a resort or a sports club. The traditional driving range was something of a come-and-go facility for golfers to hone their skills, but there wasn’t much opportunity for either entertainment or guest service. In fact, golf once had a reputation as being a stodgy sport played mostly by doctors and high powered retirees, with something of a problem when it came to attracting a younger generation of players.

Topgolf promises a different golf experience. It’s entertaining, and “hip”, but one of the key hallmarks of the Topholf experience is a focus on hospitality in addition to entertainment. Examiner.com spoke about about hospitality at Topgolf with Director of Talent Management Deslyn Douglas Norris. With an undergraduate degree in Organizational Psychology and an MBA under her belt in addition to years of experience managing talent for a diverse group of entertainment and retail organizations, Deslyn certainly speaks with pride and enthusiasm when discussing the hospitality provided by Topgolf associates.

She’s certainly been busy lately. In 2014 Topgolf opened new locations in Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and Florida. Additional Topgolf locations are planned for Virginia Beach, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Naperville, Centennial, Kansas City, and Roseville.

Great Hospitality begins with great people. When you’re looking to hire frontline employees, what particular traits do you look for that tell you they’ll provide your guests with great hospitality?

We look for traits that tell us that the Associate is not only knowledgeable about and connected to the Topgolf brand, but that they demonstrate our Core Values and live The Topgolf Way. Our Core Values are Fun, One Team, Excellence, Edgy Spirit and Caring. We want our Associates to create the best times of our guests’ lives, so we look for candidates with dazzling personalities who take pride in their hospitality. Hospitality comes from the behavior of our people, their personal touch based on the situation, and their willingness to meet our guests’ needs.

Topgolf puts a special flair on the hiring process. Candidates are invited to spend a few hours with us, and they’ll participate in team-building challenges, one-on-one interviews, panel interviews where they get to speak or perform for two minutes about a topic of their choice, and an idea factory where they plan a special event for Topgolf. This method of recruitment allows us to get to know our candidates in a way that a traditional job interview wouldn’t allow.

If you could sum up your hospitality training programs in a single sentence, what’s the primary takeaway?

Our hospitality training program is less about teaching technical delivery as it is teaching our Associates how to treat our Guests and their fellow co-workers in a warm, friendly and generous way.One of our popular sayings is, “Find the yes.” It means we should figure out how to make our guests happy, even if their requests are out of the ordinary. We also say, “Connect the dots.” It means to have a meaningful conversation with others and try to find common ground. People feel special when they know you are really paying attention to them. At the end of the day, Topgolf exists to entertain our guests. If we can’t do that, then we are not successful. Our training offers plenty of “show and tell” examples of how we can make our guests feel welcome and appreciated, no matter what an Associate’s job role is. Hospitality could mean preparing your meal with perfect presentation. It could mean carrying a guest’s golf clubs to their bay for them. Or it could mean driving them to their car in a golf cart. There are countless examples of how we can make our guests’ visits fun and memorable.

What’s an example of a core service standard that every guest should expect? 

Many people associate Topgolf with traditional golf, but we are not traditional golf. And we are not just golf. Guests should expect that no matter their age or skill level, they will have some of the best times of their life at Topgolf. We have something for everyone, and with our wide range of talented Associates, every visit will bring a new experience.

What makes Topgolf’s hospitality stand out from other companies providing similar services?

Instead of a one size fits all approach, we have a “one size fits one” mindset. Our Associates have curious intelligence, so they will ask questions to determine each individual guest’s needs and preferences.

Also, one of our Core Values is Edgy Spirit. We try to be trendsetters and entertain guests in surprising ways. You’ll notice Associates breaking out in a flash mob dance from time to time. We’ve had skydivers land on our outfield. We have a light show at night where our targets “dance” in synchronization to music. We’ve shut down game play and invited guests to film the Harlem Shake with us on the field. There are many more examples, but the common theme is WOWING our guests.

What’s your approach to service recovery?

We empower our Associates to make things right for our Guests. That includes making appropriate decisions to better the Guest experience. In terms of our response to the Guest, we balance the art of actively listening, being accountable, taking responsibility, apologizing for any inconvenience, and assuring the guest that we will act quickly to correct the situation. We’ve had situations where our service recovery was so stellar that we created raving fans for life. That’s what we strive to do every time.

When looking forward, what trends in hospitality or service delivery are you excited about? What are some recent improvements?

Since the Topgolf concept itself is ahead of the curve with technology, it’s important we are always innovating. Lately, we are most excited about our new high-tech golf instruction powered by Ubersense. Guests can receive a slow-motion video analysis of their swing with voiceover from a Topgolf Pro. They can also see a before-and-after version of their swing and see how their swing compares to a PGA TOUR player’s in a side-by-side view. This year we also implemented an amazing social media listening platform called Spredfast. Spredfast enables us to take a really deep dive look into what guests are saying about Topgolf online and interact with those people. We are using Spredfast to curate guest feedback, surprise and delight, and keep up with the trends in our local markets.

Next on the horizon, you will see that we are investing in technology and lean processes that will improve our lobby, game and bay experiences. We have also partnered with AT&T to offer exciting activations for guests – stay tuned! This next year will continue to bring more personalized touches to every aspect of our hospitality. We are also making big investments in our people and our leadership training. With 10 new locations opening each year for the next three years, we need to build a strong bench of leaders!

Thanks for your time, Deslyn!

Founded in 2000 in Watford, Hertfordshire, Topgolf today serves more than 4 million annual visitors at 16 locations in Britain and the United States.

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