A few weeks ago, I received a special invitation to spend some quality time at Sage Valley with a group of CPA executives who I respect very much. Initially, I declined the invitation because this connection event was scheduled around 2.5 days of golf, which is a sport I gave up several years ago. As a golfer, I found myself frustrated and inconsistent, and with very little time to practice, I dropped it and had no interest in revisiting those frustrations.
Although I really wanted to spend some time with this group of leaders, my reluctance to get back out on the course almost made me miss out on a great opportunity. But thanks to the persistence of the organizer, who I respect and enjoy spending time with, I eventually agreed to attend.
As I stood on the tee box on Sunday afternoon, knowing it had been several years since I had even teed up a ball in a scramble, I did not know what to expect. And that is what the entire 2.5 days turned out to be – a trip and experience that I did not expect.
I expected to learn a lot and I did. I expected to connect and know the professional leaders better and I did. I expected to grow new friendships and I did. I expected to hit lots of awful golf shots and I did. And I expected to be sore after walking 36 holes on Monday and I was!
What I did not expect was the WOW factor I experienced from Sage Valley’s attitude of service and hospitality, or the personal experience of a real reverence and love for the great game of golf.
From the moment I was greeted at the front gate, to when I drove my rental car up to the club house at Sage Valley, I knew I had entered a new and delightful world. As I pulled into a parking space, 2 gentlemen rushed out to greet me by my name and informed me that they had been trying to get my attention so they could park my car and help me get settled.
They introduced themselves and asked questions about me, and of course commented on my Ole Miss attire. They were North Carolina and Clemson fans so college football was quickly a connecting point. They took my keys, bags and golf shoes and disappeared while Mr. Bob escorted me into the main clubhouse where my group was waiting with my lunch already ordered.
After a delightful lunch, I quickly changed in the locker room for our afternoon round where I found every amenity available including toothbrushes and sunscreen. A few minutes later a cart picked us up and took us to the driving range where I was introduced to my personal caddy, Colby, who would be there with me for the next three days. Colby was incredible, patient and so knowledgeable. By the third day, he had me hitting the ball so much better (which I admit is not a big leap, but it was a lot more fun).
By the time I made it to that first tee box, I already knew I was experiencing phenomenal customer service. As we played that first round, I noticed every detail on the grounds was immaculate. They even blew the pine straw back into the beds after big gusts of wind or after I tried to hack another 6-iron back into the wonderful fairways. The Fazio designed course is simply beautiful and challenging (the greens might be a little too fast for my game!). However, Sage Valley provided me with my first real golfing experience where the reverence for the game alone made it such a unique and wonderful experience. One where you felt and understood it was a privilege to play this sport.
I made memories and friends that will last a lifetime. My sore back and legs only lasted a few days. And I had an unexpected WOW customer service experience – the kind that we all hope for.
This reflection brought me to the reality that we must re-invent ourselves and our companies to make sure we can deliver a client experience that leaves them with WOW. If we don’t, you can bet someone else will. Sage Valley has helped me to renew my passion for service above self and to be even better.
P.S. – I do ask forgiveness for the rather large divots I left on some fairways, the dent in the side of the greens mower and for the occasional flash of anger at the inadequacy of my golfing skills.