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October 2018

Caller Alert: Handling Third-Party Sales

By Jared Williams, Managing Director, GOLF USA TEE TIME COALITION

It’s no secret that the reservation process changes on a daily basis. At one point, more than half of airline tickets were sold through travel agents and in-person sales. Now, almost 90 percent of travel is booked online or through call-centers. 

As always, trends in other areas of hospitality are usually a sign of things to come for the golf industry. More and more golf courses are turning to third party call centers to handle the tee time reservation process. Minimizing overhead costs associated with employing staff to answer phones and take reservations is often the reason for this business decision. Other times, the course is simply looking to offer golfers the option to book tee times 24/7, even when the course is closed. Using call centers can offer the smart operator an opportunity to earn revenue opportunities that might otherwise be missed if the golfer is unable to be connected directly with the course.

Using third party call centers is not without its challenges and we hear about those challenges from course owners. You need to be asking the right questions — of yourself and the call center — to ensure you’re getting the best service. Are you comfortable with trade times being sold on your course website or via the call center? Have you agreed that trade times can be sold through the call center? Are you doing any secret shopping to make sure that the third party reservation specialists are providing accurate information to golfers? If you agree that trade times can be sold via the call center, are you certain that the reservation specialists are not incentivized to steer golfers to certain tee times (trade or otherwise)? Have you asked the third party if there is some rational basis (dynamic pricing strategies) for directing golfers to tee times other than those requested?

Many of these issues you must assess for yourself. First, determine whether or not you want to be in the business of bartering tee times. Next, determine under what conditions barter tee times will be marketed and through what channels they will be sold. Lastly, be certain the third party will make you aware of when, where and how tee time inventory is sold. These issues ultimately turn on knowledge. The third party that is most transparent with all their business dealings usually has the happiest operator-clients.

Is your golf course using a third party call center? Is the relationship being managed according to your wishes? I want to hear from you, contact me at jwilliams@teetimecoalition.org.

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