Mark Rickell is vice president of sales for Club Car. He is responsible for the company’s growth in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean. Rickell has been integral in building Club Car’s industry-leading portfolio. The products offer course owners and professionals inventive, revenue-generating products that elevate the golfing experience.
The Rickell Story —
Today, I find myself more focused on my communications with my team and customers. Our communications have traditionally relied on physical business meetings, hallway conversations, meals and face-to-face customer visits. This was how we conducted business and how we built relationships. In this remote environment, it’s important to create strong virtual connections to keep the teams and channel engaged, stay aligned and share the vision.
To do so, I’ve taken these three steps:
• Immediately following-up after conference calls to regroup my teams around our shared objectives and confirm our next steps.
• Established a weekly call with peers and team members to discuss project needs and for personal check-ins to see how they are doing.
• Encouraged my teams to onboard technological solutions to maintain communication channels. One example is the virtual walk-along we provide customers for our new Tempo Walk product.
Under these new circumstances, it was also important I convey my beliefs, confidence, vision and commitment through email, voicemail and texts. For me, it’s been all about raising my game in effective daily communication and leveraging technology to do so.
How has global pandemic most significantly affected Club Car?
First, it brought our key objectives—to protect the well-being of our people, our operations and our customers — into sharp focus. We’ve reduced travel for our sales force and service technicians. Non-operations-essential employees are working from home, and we have implemented site-specific safeguards for those needed in the plants.
Second, we must be in lock-step with our customers. Some customers have seen unprecedented demand, while others remained locked down. We need to be a good partner to both. We are matching our resources with their needs, while also managing our expenses to maximize operations.
What challenges does this pose to the company?
It has been a challenge and took a great effort by our teams to stay open and keep the business operating efficiently during the pandemic while under stay-at-home orders. Now, as local and state governments re-open the economy, we need to be sure we bring our remote work force back into the office safely. And we’re doing that through careful planning with a return-to-work team, policies and playbook. We also need to be flexible with our customers, helping them as they, too, ramp up and open back up for business.
What strategies have been implemented or are being contemplated as you look toward moving the business forward?
Prior to COVID, our markets were growing. While some areas of our business are achieving record months, some of our industrial markets are now challenged as corporate spending is reduced. Therefore, we are shifting resources and investing in markets that continue to grow—like our consumer vehicle business and our golf markets, which remain strong year over year.
Some have pointed out a possible silver lining to the pandemic: people will now walk when playing golf. What’s your take on that?
Golf is beneficial to mental health and fitness, in some states, golf courses remained open as essential businesses. Encouragingly, this has resulted in more golfers on the links. That increased demand has shown that our efforts to continue our operations were well placed.
For instance, our hands-free caddy, the Tempo Walk, has enjoyed accelerated success. With social distancing top of mind, many golfers are choosing to walk the course. The Tempo Walk, which moves clubs around the course, makes it easier for golfers to control their distance from others on the fairway.
What marketing strategies is Club Car developing, given these new dynamics?
Our tried and true basics won’t change: putting customers first and remaining attentive to their changing needs. But, we are also integrating more digital sales and marketing strategies and lead generation.
Given the increase of at home orders, online traffic is increasing and we’re taking advantage of that. We have sales tools – like virtual demos and online configurators allowing our customers to experience our products and move forward with purchases contact-free.
“Customer service” is routinely touted as a priority by most companies. Define the term and how it takes on new urgency in these new times.
It boils down to taking a proactive stance when it comes to understanding our customers’ top priorities. We have always worked diligently to provide timely and accurate support to our distribution partners and end customers, using traditional communications and digital tools — available 24/7 — to do so.
During this crisis, our commitment to customer care has not wavered. Both when our customers were closing down, and now, as they are opening back up, our supportive customer support teams have been well-prepared as they faced many logistic pressures to deliver critical products and services.
We also helped our customers as they faced financial challenges — offering new financing programs, as well as new products and features to address changing market needs.
From a company standpoint in terms of employees and operations, will Club Car be able to return to pre-pandemic numbers or is that unlikely?
Deemed an essential business, our main operations remained open throughout the pandemic — we were able to protect employees’ health through the safety measures we introduced into all of our sites and our manufacturing plants operational in order to secure healthy supply lines to provide our customers with products and services they need.
What new product efforts do you see Club Car pursuing given the new dynamic that golf is now facing?
As described before, we anticipate Tempo Walk that has been a hit for courses, will become more prevalent with optional accessories/advancements. We also believe there’s an opportunity for in-car technology to play an even bigger role. We have seen courses using Club Car Connect, to reduce contact between golf staff and golfers through digital food and beverage orders, ensuring social distancing of golfers with car tracking and delivering safety tips through the in-car screen.
From a personal standpoint, have you been able to return to playing and how much golf do you see yourself playing for the remainder of 2020?
I live in Charleston, South Carolina, so I’m fortunate the weather allows me great opportunities to play. I played this weekend and can’t wait to play my next round and to enjoy the sport many more times in 2020.
Final questions — the biggest challenges facing Club Car – short and long-term is what?
Our challenge will be to figure out ways that support the growth of the game by creating and delivering products and solutions that support the course owners and operators who are looking for ways to deliver a differentiated quality golf experience while maximizing incremental revenue and bottom line profits.
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*Lead photo shown is Club Car’s Tempo Walk*