Maximizing Value To Members During Tough Environmental Circumstances
Like The Pandemic By Leveraging Technology

(As posted in the July 2020 issue of the PCMA Club Membership Marketing Magazine)

Brian Hall Profile

by Brian Hall
Director of Sales

Bob Wagner Profile

by Priya Kumar
Director of Marketing

Even before the end of the first quarter, 2020 became a landmark year as the COVID-19 pandemic struck nearly every inhabited corner of the globe. Clubs, like the rest of the world, have been severely impacted by the pandemic. Thankfully, clubs throughout the USA are emerging from the “pandemic shutdown”.

A good club is known for its service: going above and beyond the norm to ensure the needs of its members are met. However, in the unique and challenging pandemic circumstances, clubs found themselves struggling to provide value-added service to their members when most of their facilities (dining rooms, golf courses, gyms, pool, etc.) had to be closed. Then when allowed to reopen, follow a whole new set of rules to enforce social distancing.

When existing paradigms suddenly shift, it behooves both technology providers and club managers to explore how the current software a club is using can be extended, stretched, and pushed to accommodate new circumstances. A good software suite is usually tailored to the needs of its industry but should include flexibility that allows it to be multipurposed.

As the environment changes, technology providers need to assess the situation and see what they can do to help their customers cope with the “new reality”. We may need to have fewer people in the Pool Area, Grill, or Gym to maintain Social Distancing, for instance. This may involve:

  1. Modifying current modules to enforce social distancing rules on the golf course, or use of events & activities reservations to sign up for the gym, swimming pool lanes, etc.
  2. In many states, dining capacities are reduced substantially. The use of Dining Reservations within areas of the club (such as the Grill) where traditionally has been “no reservations required” can be used to avoid too many members arriving at one time.
  3. Fewer Members at the club does not always mean fewer services. Member Self-Ordering for F&B Items, or online grocery/essentials items for pick up (or delivery) provide meaningful services. As a bonus, it may help the Member satisfy their minimum requirements.
  4. Lottery Systems for the golf course and member events may also help to equitably “share” limited capacities. If a club must cut back on seats available for that member event or tee times, a Lottery System can help avoid some getting more than their “fair share”.

As businesses re-open everywhere, and clubs are no exception, there is a drive to eliminate “paper passing” as much as possible. Single use menus are now in place; used once, and then discarded. Clubs can take that a step further: Eliminate the “Member Chit” altogether, with the ability formembers to sign and close their chit right from their mobile device.

During any change, communication is key. When the club must alter service levels or close operations temporarily, it is vital that the communication channels (email, push notifications, etc.) between the club and members remain open. Clubs sometimes have a limited amount of mass email capacity (SMTP Services) from their communication module or provider – this is one of the areas where a technology partner can help – to not just identify this limitation to the club, but see how it can help address the limitation by increasing email capacity if needed. Enabling clubs to communicate frequently, in a targeted manner, helps keep the members connected to the club in an environment where there is potential chaos.

The “Member Experience” is why we are ALL here. Technology providers have a front row seat in the vast club arena and can see the myriad of unwanted trials clubs face today. As the providers see member services challenges arise, the good ones will assist to learn about and facilitate best practices and share this knowledge (and resulting solution) with all their partner clubs. Clubs should communicate their needs and ideas with their technology vendors; it helps them grow – and thus improve the member experience. These times are certainly not painless, but developing new ways to amplify member services makes it all worthwhile.

Bank Account Reconciliation

By Bill Wagner

Bob Wagner Profile

William “Bill” Wagner, CCM, is the Club Industry Advisor at Northstar.  Bill, a Past President of the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) was previously the GM at Shadow Wood Country Club, Riviera Country Club, and other prominent Clubs.  In this blog series, Bill shares the General Managers’ perspective about Club Life & Operations. Bill can be reached via email at

The subject I’ve been given for this Blog is one that a GM rarely has a perspective on, or for that matter rarely thinks about. That’s true unless there is an audit in progress or there is an accusation of theft or errors in the accounts payable or receivable, affecting cash flow.

This subject usually lies in the purview of the accounting department. Accounting Departments, like all of the departments in a Club have many opinions of what is the best way to accomplish “Bank Rec”.

Northstar, through communication with our Trainers, clients and engineers have created an upgraded process to achieve the Bank Reconciliation function.

A few of the features that have been added or upgraded are as follows:

  1. A simplified reconciling of AP checks, deposits and other bank transactions.
  2. Full integration of all NS Modules to fetch cash, check, credit card, and ACH in a single view for reconciliation with the bank statement.
  3. Option to journalize daily transactions into a clearing GL account which upon reconciliation, posts to the bank GL.
  4. Introduction of Deposit Groups to combine multiple transactions into a single line item on the Bank reconciliation screen.
  5. Industry standard reporting with summary and detailed views for reconciled and unreconciled transactions.
  6. Capability to save reconciliation batch and resume later.
  7. Mistakes can be corrected by undoing a finalized batch with proper authorization.
  8. All transaction selections upon undoing a batch are retained to save time and effort.
  9. Add manual journal entries, bank transactions and bank transfers direct from the new Bank Reconciliation Screen with a minimum amount of steps and clicks.

I recommend all that are involved in the process of bank reconciliation sign up for one of the two Solution Café Webinars on the Bank Reconciliation Process that will be presented on Wednesday September 18, 2019

Click here to register for the 11:00 a.m. EDT on Sept 18th 2019 Click here to register for the 2:00 p.m. EDT on Sept 18th 2019

Also, a reminder to sign up for the Northstar Annual User Conference which will be held on October 21st and 22nd, 2019 in Orlando, FL.
Bill Wagner

Maximize Your Club Brand and Communications with Membership Marketing

By Bill Wagner

Bob Wagner Profile

William “Bill” Wagner, CCM, is the Club Industry Advisor at Northstar.  Bill, a Past President of the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) was previously the GM at Shadow Wood Country Club, Riviera Country Club, and other prominent Clubs.  In this blog series, Bill shares the General Managers’ perspective about Club Life & Operations. Bill can be reached via email at

Back in the day, getting new members was easy for the club but for the prospective member, not so much. Today, for most clubs' times have changed and clubs work actively to attract and recruit new members. A prospective member in most markets has many club choices and looks for a club that will best fit his / her needs. One thing, however, remains the same - the word of mouth of current members; their engagement & enthusiasm level with the club greatly impacts future member recruitment.

Technology has disrupted the way a club communicates with its membership and potential members too. A newsletter or periodic club magazine is still a nice to have but the importance of digital communication has increased tremendously in the past decade. A club that communicates with its members on a regular basis is more likely to have a membership that is engaged both virtually and physically. An engaged member is a happy member and one who talks excitedly about his club and recommends it to his / her friends and family.

The Northstar collection of unique modules provide many ways to reach the membership on several levels - be it via one on one targeted communication with members, segmentation by interests and club activities or app notifications to name a few. Additionally, the system generated notifications of special days like anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, etc. creates a very personal and lasting connection between the club and its members.

I recommend signing up for the Northstar Solution Cafe Webinar on Membership Marketing that will be held on July 24th at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Eastern time to grow and improve the personal communication methods with your membership. You will be glad you did!

Click here to register for the 11 a.m. EDT webinar Click here to register for the 2:00 p.m. EDT webinar

I look forward to the next edition of A General Manager’s Perspective.
Bill Wagner

A General Manager's Perspective
Club Food and Beverage Operations Alert: “The Future has arrived, are you ready for it?”

By Bill Wagner
Bob Wagner Profile
William “Bill” Wagner, CCM, is the Club Industry Advisor at Northstar.  Bill, a Past President of the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) was previously the GM at Shadow Wood Country Club, Riviera Country Club, and other prominent Clubs.  In this blog series, Bill shares the General Managers’ perspective about Club Life & Operations. Bill can be reached via email at

Back in the day, Private Clubs were all about fine and formal dining. Coats and ties were mandatory, and tables were reserved for the entire evening. Serving and cooking tableside was not uncommon. Life was good in the world of clubs. The member’s names and preferences were known to all because the staff rarely turned over.  That was then, and this is now.

In many clubs, there is a more severe dress code on the Golf Course, than in the clubhouse and dining areas. Smart phones are seen and used on a regular basis. Members don’t dine as much as they tend to “eat and run”.  Takeout food has become increasingly popular. Even private clubs are not immune to the multi-tasking culture of today’s world.

The number one dining complaint at many clubs is “the slow speed of ala carte service.”  Even if a club hires more staff, there are practical limits to increasing both service and production speed in the kitchen while still maintaining a high quality. A buffet is also not always a good solution, depending upon the club’s culture.

So, what is the solution?

High Volume Chain restaurants have had monitor screens in their kitchens for several years and a growing number have hand held ordering modules to speed orders from the table into the kitchens.

Private Clubs are more complicated and much more personal than chain restaurants.

What about a system that is created just for the Private Clubs of the World? 

A system with built-in business intelligence that would contain the information of every member and their family. That information would include billing preferences, allergies, menu preferences, pictures of the family members and would fit in a server’s palm. The system (a 7” tablet) would contain the complete menu including a scrolling wine list with descriptions that would make a Sommelier proud, plus the bar menu. The drink and food orders entered into the tablet would be transmitted to the bar and the kitchen instantly.

The kitchen monitors would display the order and track it until it leaves the kitchen on its way to the table. Each order would be timed in and out of the kitchen and the data could be displayed individually and cumulatively by meal period. This system would save many steps and increase the overall efficiency. Less time, fresher food, increased accuracy equals happy members.

Imagine a scenario where a member complains about the previous night’s slow speed of service at the dining room. The club staff would have access to the exact time the tableside order was placed to the time the order left the kitchen.   That is an instant comparison of “member time” to “real time”. If the member is correct, the club staff have a problem to solve.

Northstar has the above described Complete Dining Operation System with the Tableside POS and Kitchen Display System (KDS).  This game changing technology has been successfully deployed in many clubs and is helping clubs reduce ticket times by 4-8 minutes per order, increasing the accuracy of orders and enabling the club to make better decisions about dining operations with the help of analytical tools.

To get to know more about Tableside POS and KDS and I recommend signing up for the Northstar Solution Cafe Webinar that will be held on April 17th at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Eastern time.  Sign up for the webinar with the registration links provided below.

Click here to register for the 11 a.m. EDT webinar 

Click here to register for the 2:00 p.m. EDT webinar

I look forward to the next edition of A General Manager’s Perspective.

Bill Wagner

The best clubs in the world are a warm welcoming place where you are surrounded by people you care about and truly want to be with. In short, “You want to be where everybody knows your name”. In today’s mad always-on-the-go world it is difficult for members to maintain that connection with each other, for new members to easily assimilate and find members with similar interests and for the club staff to maintain the personal connection and rapport with members.

The imperative therefore falls on the club to ensure that a support system is in place that enables and fosters an environment in which the members are connected with each other and to the club. To this end clubs have to demand that their club software suite not just tick the boxes of accounting, POS, tee times, etc. but really have the tools and functionality that the club staff can use to foster communication on multiple levels with the members and between the members. Additionally, software solutions should not be complacent once they have a couple of methods of communication but be on the forefront, constantly pushing the envelope to make certain that they are keeping up with the rapidly changing technology and modes of communication.

A robust campaign management system that allows clubs to communicate easily with the membership through emails and newsletters is one of the most basic and essential tools. The next step of evolution on the communications hierarchy would be the club website where members can access multiple club calendars so that they can easily find activities and events they are interested in. Members can also indicate on the website areas of interest so that they receive customized newsletters or updates. Websites are also a great way for members to make reservations, access real time charges and make online payments. Social networking portals and buddy list management features on the website allow members to form deeper connections and sign up easily for events at the club. In 2018, it should be a given that the club website is responsive so that it can be easily accessed on the laptop, tablet or smart phone.

Since 2016, the number of users who access the internet on their smartphones is more than those who access it on their desktop. Mobile phones and the best way to utilize them to improve communications and connectivity brings us to the next level of the hierarchy. Mobile Apps are 1.5 times faster than a mobile website and members are likely to check in much more frequently with an app than logging on to the website. Users love personalized content for an immersive experience and mobile apps make it easy to offer tailored communication. One of the most important features of the mobile app is the ability to send instant notifications to an individual or a group of members. Push notifications are received regardless a user opens the app or not and again statistics show that people are more likely to read a push notification than “yet another” newsletter or email from the club.

The above discussion has primarily been centered on communications between the club and members and between members. However, the value your club software suite brings should be over and above this. Technology should be used in service of improving the member experience and ensuring they have personalized, customized service at the club. Mobile Apps with location-based services can alert staff about pre-booked resources like a golf cart so that it is ready when the member arrives at the pro shop.

Staff centered applications on the phone or tablet are the next level of communications hierarchy. These apps give the staff key data about each member so that they can be greeted by name or wished if they are celebrating an anniversary or birthday. The staff app has the ability to capture information about guests at the club and send the information to the Membership Director along with the sponsoring member details. Staff can also enter notes specific to a member in the app so the next time 8-year Joe comes in, the staff remembers to congratulate him on his game winning goal that dad was proudly bragging about 2 days ago. These are the moments that make a club – it makes the member a lifetime cheerleader who recommends the club to their friends as the Place to Be!

1. Member mobile activities and consumer habits are no different than your own – member smartphone usage mirrors your own mobile behavior, especially when you are not at the club (work).

2. Rethink the way you are collecting and managing your member data - create a centralized resource in an easy-to-use environment where your members can manage their profile and club preferences, and that in turn will provide you the most accurate and relevant information about them.

3. Understand what is currently NOT working in your existing marketing & communications landscape – examples include; capturing club interest data, communication lag-times, low response rate, identifying demographics, too much or irrelevant content.

4. Mobile app vs. mobile website - realize there is a big difference! A mobile app is native to an IOS or Android operating system that is easily downloaded from an app store or marketplace. It’s a cleaner, condensed user interface that is easier to navigate, faster and more effective in communications with additional features like push notifications & beacon enabled location based services; which a mobile website cannot provide.

5. Choose an app that conforms to your club brand values that is easy to use and manage – determine what functionality you want to offer your membership today and a couple of years from now i.e. push notifications, location based beacon technology, mobile payments, event & activities registration, club dining and tee-time reservations, mobile food ordering, member roster, automated door access, member check-in, etc.

6. Implement a "facebook like culture" among your membership – your member app should be an extension of your Club's brand by making it a utility in your member’s everyday lives. Make it a social experience for your members to see what's happening at the club with news feeds, inter-app messaging or simply knowing who's attending what event.

7. Define member interest tables for target marketing that will increase club traffic & revenue – general demographic information, club within a club interests or any other special identifying matrixes.

8. Capture transactional data that will categorize member behavior & spending analytics – “past performance predicts future behavior” - a member's club usage can help you create loyalty programs for the more frequent member, generate incentives for the member at risk, or identify new club events and activities that will cater to your entire membership.

9. Determine the most effective and preferred type of communication with your membership – subsections of your membership may have different preferences (email vs. text messages, push notifications, etc.). Normally, smaller packets of information are easier to process and deliver personalized and more relevant content.

10. Educate your membership on the benefits of using the mobile app – "help me, help you"! How, what and why as a member an app will benefit them by increasing the level of service and communication within the club and its staff.

Top 10 Topics of Conversations you should be having at your Club right now:

1. Here's Why Your Business Needs Its Own Mobile App - November 17th, 2014 By Melanie Haselmayr

2. Benefits of a Mobile App – Why You Should Invest - February 16, 2017 By Promatics

3. App Download and Usage Statistics 2017 - October 16, 2017 By Artyom Dogtiev

4. Responsive Web Design vs. Mobile Apps – Which Is Right for Your Business? - September 20, 2016 By Cheryl Dykstra

5. A Four-Fold Strategy to Achieve Success with Mobile App Marketing - September 07, 2017 By Priya Viswanathan

6. How Mobile Technology Is Changing the Hospitality Industry? - September 29, 2016 By Varsha Kumari

7. 28+ Powerful Facebook Stats Your Brand Can’t Ignore in 2017 - September 11, 2017 By Maddy Osman

8. What's the Difference Between Push Notifications & Email? - June 26, 2017 By Megan Marrs

9. SMS vs. Push notification vs. Email: When should your app use what? - February 9, 2015 By Jamie Tolentino

10. Mobile Usage Facts and Figures 2017 - January 8, 2017 By Jackie Goldstein

Like many others, I experienced what is now known as “Irmageddon.” I was fortunate that I live north of Naples and Hurricane Irma downgraded to a Category 2 before her arrival to Venice, FL (my hometown). However, many of my industry friends and clients were impacted both personally and professionally when Irma unleashed her wrath on our beautiful state. It is during these natural disasters that we all realize the importance of communications, whether it’s with our families who live away or with our members. It is also important to focus on the business impact during a natural disaster. Before Hurricane Irma, skies were blue, birds were chirping, and we were going about our normal, daily routines. We woke up to the news, had warm showers, and could blow dry our hair. We went to the club, and members were dining, golfing, and playing tennis. Some members were up north perhaps on Cape Cod drinking a Cape Coddah (said in Boston Accent) and discussing plans on how they will head south soon for the winter. All was good right? Yep, until “Irmageddon” hit.

All the fun came to a screeching halt! Those members who were once sipping cocktails, enjoying life - they turned into Irmageddonians! An Irmageddonian is not always someone who lived through the Hurricane; it can be someone who experienced it from afar, and has been impacted by it. This kind of Irmageddonian can actually be the more panicked out of the two. They have not personally witnessed the damage, their minds are racing, and they immediately think their house is now at the bottom of the ocean (even when they live in Central Florida). You will know when your membership has turned into 90% Irmageddonian when you experience the following:

1.) A million emails from the away members requesting a status on the situation immediately. It does not register that you do not have access to email because you do not have the internet. Let’s face it, even if you had the internet, you have no power to get online. See you understand this, but the Irmageddonian who is in full panic mode, does not.

2.) They expect an immediate explanation why Irma hit their beautiful community, and they want it NOW. They want to know what the club staff is doing about it? It does not matter to an Irmageddonian that you had to chainsaw your way out of your driveway to get to the club and assess the damage. It does not matter that you risked your life to get there as quickly as you could with downed trees, live wires, flooding, etc. The Irmageddonian believes you somehow should have been able to achieve this minutes following a major disaster.

3.) An Irmageddonian will also call even though they can’t get through to the club (because again you have just gone through one of the biggest hurricanes that hit the region in ages) but they will continue to call. There will be panic, and the panic will grow because they hear NOTHING back…only CRICKETS.

4.) The Irmageddonians are now forming a larger group of panicked members. The pitchforks out…oh they are coming…they are heading up the hill and heading straight for you…look out! Oh, the horror, the horror of it all!

Ok. Did I scare you? I was obviously overly dramatic in #4 but, if you find yourself in this situation, there are ways to avoid it in the future.

Here’s what we do to avoid 1-4 the next time if you find you have been going through exactly what I outlined above. I share this with you because not only am I an “Irmageddon” Survivor but I’ve been helping my clubs through it as well.

In my 17 years providing member communication and club management solutions, I’ve held a few hands through a few hurricanes and found the following is the recipe for success:

Top 5 Ways to Communicate with Your Membership During a Hurricane:

1.) Engage your Technology Partner: Before the Hurricane, engage your technology provider (the company who provides you with the ability to email and/or website hosting). You share with them that you will need a “go to” person that you can utilize to get the message out to your membership.

2.) Prepare Communications: Have a draft ready for what you need to communicate (yes you may be writing it by candlelight during the storm but get it done). This communication should be a reassurance to the membership that you and your staff are safe and will be assessing the situation. Set a reasonable expectation on when the membership can expect another status from you.

3.) Club Website – Any communication that goes out via email should be posted on the club website (again rely on your technology provider to do this on your behalf).

4.) Member App – If the club has a member app you can send push notifications via the App as another way to keep members informed. Anyone with access to the app (your technology provider) can do this on your behalf if you do not have internet access.

5.) Social Media – If you use FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. update with all the same information. Again, utilize a third party for this method. If you do not have these communication vehicles, this is a wonderful opportunity to create a twitter or facebook account, just to keep members informed.

I hope we don’t ever have to experience another “Irmageddon”, but if we do, I hope some of this information helps you to prepare for the next time!

Stay Safe!

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