Building relationships and communication are keys to patronage, loyalty and satisfaction – Armed Forces Recreation Society

Ian Bonise

Everyone knows that a good tip from a friend about a service or product makes an impact on your opinion. Testimonials work. And places that feel like a second home, where “everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came,” are appealing. You can enhance the patronage of your agency by improving customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Using these marketing avenues, MWR professionals at Fort George G. Meade created a new program, Lane to Links, that was so successful that it was selected by Community and Family Support Center as a concept to use Army-wide. Lanes to Links attracted 120 players in 2001, and 144 participants in 2002. After the first year, 37 golf courses Army-wide considered the duo-tournament, and 11 actually conducted Lanes to Links.

Lanes to Links participants bowled in the morning and golfed in the afternoon, with continental breakfast at the bowling center, lunch at the golf patio grill, and then steak, baked potato and corn on the cob at an evening awards banquet at the golf clubhouse. Recognition was given to overall champions as well as out to four places for best bowling and best golfing. Awards were also given for perfect games closest to pin; worst overall; worst golfing; and worst bowling. All participants also received a thank-you letter signed by the garrison commander.

Why bring these sports together? Easy marketing. Golf and bowling at Fort George G. Meade accentuate competitive advantage in each pro shop, lesson-learning sessions, member tournaments and lots of employee-customer interaction. With both sports, patrons feel familiar and at home with the MWR activities. The programmers used this strong communication network, plus the loyalty around each sport and their participants, to expand programming and build an even stronger bond that transcended to strengthening the base and community spirit.

How was Links to Lanes pulled off? The premise for the event was that some people bowl and golf, and that an 8-pin-no-tap bowling competition and a golf scramble would offer a fun experience for all skill levels. What’s more, using an interactive marketing approach allowed patrons to use their energy, enthusiasm and time to promote and recruit the twin tournament. League members and golf foursomes got involved and brought team rosters to registration. Using e-mail to 1,102 subscribers, announcements to 1,100 bowlers and one-on-one conversations through programmers, instructors and front desk people, word about a duo-tournament traveled fast. Registration was at capacity over an abbreviated time span. Empowered customers made it happen, and quickly.

A focus on benefits for customers, interactive marketing and electronic databases proves to be a successful marketing strategy in service operations. The reasons deal with current trends in uses of technology and social interaction as these correlate with a consumer’s time, receptivity toward messages, attention of consumer, his or her previous experiences and people with whom he or she enjoys spending time.–NRPA/AFRS Member Ian Bonise is an Army marketing program manager.

COPYRIGHT 2003 National Recreation and Park Association

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

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