Research Proposal Case Study-NCR County Club

NCR Country Club started out as a benefit for thousands of National Cash
Register employees. By the late 1990s, those employees were aging rapidly and
the core membership needed to be increased. NCRCC offers two golf courses.
One is an award winning, championship-hosting course on the PGA tour. But it
wasn’t attracting new members, especially younger families. This case is about a
membership study done as part of a larger management initiative to evaluate
several strategic directions the club might take to expand its membership.
www.ncrcountryclub.com
>Abstract
>The Scenario
1
NCR Country Club (NCRCC) started in 1954 as an employee benefit of the
National Cash Register Co. but is now an open-membership club. This country
club located in Kettering, Ohio (near Dayton), hosts two 18-hole golf courses.
The NCR South course, a par 71 championship course of 6,824 yards of heavily
wooded rolling countryside, the site of the 1996 PGA Championship, the 1986
U.S. Open, and the 1998 U.S. Mid-Amateur, is consistently ranked by Golf
Digest as one of the top 100 courses in the United States. The prairie-links style
of the North course, a 6,358-yard par 70 course, is considered challenging. In
southwestern Ohio, the active golf season usually lasts from May through October.
Within a 30-minute radius of NCRCC, the avid golfer will find eight other
private golf and country clubs as well as 29 public golf clubs and courses.
In 1997, after the purchase of NCR Corporation by AT&T, AT&T
provided a $4.0 million interest-free loan to raze the original clapboard-sided
clubhouse and replace it with an all-brick colonial-style facility. Boasting both
formal and informal, inside and outside eating facilities as well as banquet and
party rooms, the members voted that the new clubhouse would be totally smokefree.
The rich cherrywood paneling and the hunter green and burgundy décor
mellow the high-ceiling, interior spaces. Golf memberships are $20,000 with
social (nongolf) memberships at $1,000 each. NCR employees did not and do
not pay membership fees to join. Additionally, each member must spend $150 per
quarter in dining receipts and pay $225 (golf) or $160 (social) in annual dues.
Needing to attract new members to support the renovated facility after
AT&T divested itself of NCR and given the growing age of its members, NCRCC
implemented an aggressive membership campaign in 1998. The goal was to bring
golf memberships to 680 and attract as many social memberships as possible.
After only moderate success, NCRCC commissioned McMahon Group to assist
with strategic planning.

McMahon Group specializes in providing research and strategic consulting to golf
clubs and full-service golfing facilities. “Golf club membership within the United
States is perceived as a discretionary luxury of life. NCR faces a similar situation
found elsewhere in clubs around the country-an older satisfied membership
which sees no reason to change what they perceive to be a good thing,” shared
Frank Vain, president of McMahon Group. “With NCR, we faced another
wrinkle. Because NCR was once corporately owned, NCR retirees and current
employees saw membership as an entitlement, a right.”
After McMahon’s First Impressions visit (a free on-site assessment where
a club specialist tours facilities, collects information on membership and operations,
and discusses industry trends with strategic planning committees),
NCRCC’s board hired McMahon to provide direction and assistance to
NCRCC’s strategic planning committee. “Historically, NCRCC has a 7 percent
penetration rate among NCR employees. NCR’s employee pool was trending
smaller, providing continuing downward pressure on NCRCC membership,”
explained Vain. “With membership segments of NCR retirees (1/3 of members)
and current NCR employees (another 1/3 of members) getting less numerous
each year, only the segment comprised of non-NCR affiliates provides an opportunity
for growth. NCRCC needs to become a stand-alone club to survive.”
McMahon Group conducted six focus groups at NCRCC on December
3-4, 1998, involving 43 members, seven nonmembers, and 12 employees.
Especially among younger members (under 46) and nonmembers, a golf-only club
was less attractive than the full service array that some other area country clubs
offered. A consistent theme was that members did not feel they received the
overall level of service at NCRCC that they expected from a fine private country
club, whether it be in the dining operation or on the golf course. Staff members
were frustrated that meeting the board’s profit directive was often counterproductive
to a high level of service. The NCRCC board directed McMahon Group to
conduct a membership study to explore the feasibility of adding additional facilities,
including swimming and fitness facilities to attract younger adults and families
with children.
McMahon Group distributed mail surveys to 1,650 members and their
spouses in January 1999 (see Exhibit NCRCC-2). A return rate of 57 percent
and 48 percent, respectively, netted 886 usable surveys. Data were interpreted at
±3% (or ±0.1) at the 95 percent confidence level. Due to McMahon’s extensive
consulting and research experience with golf facilities nationwide, it was able to
compare NCRCC’s membership survey results with those of members of 80
other country clubs.
NCRCC: Teeing Up a New Strategic Direction
Marketing Research, 1/e, Cooper/Schindler
3
Overall, 72 percent of NCRCC members were either satisfied or very satisfied.
This is slightly less than the 79 percent satisfaction level for other clubs. Only 12
percent are very satisfied, with other clubs averaging 21 percent. The group with
the highest dissatisfaction rate (19 percent dissatisfied or very dissatisfied) was the
key 55-64 age group, with the under 46 group generating 11 percent dissatisfaction.
While members currently saw the club as an “Adult Golf and Dining Club”
(63 percent), many believed its future would need to incorporate facilities for
children, if the club were to remain competitive for new members. This was
especially true for those members under age 46.
Most current members joined for golf (80 percent either important or very
important) or dining (77 percent either important or very important). Most members
were satisfied with golf (81 percent either satisfied [29 percent] or very
satisfied [69 percent]). However, level of satisfaction was lower with the over 65
group when it came to course layout (58 percent very satisfied) and condition (77
percent very satisfied). Fewer members were satisfied with dining (49 percent
either satisfied or very satisfied). However, even given some dissatisfaction, 61
percent felt their membership was a good value.
The 37th Hole, the casual dining facility, generated concerns about speed
of service (27 percent either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied), professionalism of
wait staff (19 percent either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied), and menu variety (36
percent either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied). The same concerns surfaced in the
formal dining area, with menu variety and meal-to-meal consistency generating the
highest dissatisfaction scores. It is very important for NCRCC to provide casual
adult dining (95 percent either very important or important), but less so for casual
family dining (78 percent), outdoor dining (69 percent), formal dining (44 percent),
men’s grill (37 percent), and women’s grill (22 percent). Dining prices are
seen as the same (65 percent lunch, 48 percent dinner) or higher (32 percent
lunch, 47 percent dinner) than other clubs and restaurants frequented by members.
Members overwhelmingly continue to endorse the no-smoking rule (97
percent formal dining, 94 percent 37th Hole, 83 percent bar/lounge).
“Members think of NCRCC as first a golf club, but the golf wasn’t
meeting expectations. Second, members see NCRCC as a dining club, but the
members were dissatisfied with the casual dining product and service,” shared
Vain.
Survey results offered good and bad news. Additional facilities would not
be attractions to most current members, but many members are interested in
improving the current facilities. Fully 59 percent, however, were unwilling to pay
higher dues (including 43 percent of under age 46) to obtain the changes they
found attractive.
>Some Results
NCRCC: Teeing Up a New Strategic Direction
Marketing Research, 1/e, Cooper/Schindler
4
NCRCC: Teeing Up a New Strategic Direction
% All Members % Members under 46
Facility Additions
Swimming pool 30 60
Tennis courts 22 36
Health and fitness center 30 49
Spa 30 58
Activities
For adults 26 40
For families 23 53
For children 18 47
Current Facility Alterations
Expanding bar/lounge 41%
Important or very important
Improving the driving range 36%
Important or very important
Improving short game practice area 40%
Important or very important
“New facilities were an attraction for the non-NCR affiliated segment,”
summarized Vain in discussing what McMahon Group shared with the strategic
planning committee following the completion of the study. “New facilities, especially
swimming, fitness, and outdoor dining, provide the best opportunity to
broaden the attraction of the club.” See Exhibit NCRCC-1.
· 74% golf (single or family) and 24% social, with 2% corporate memberships.
· 65% are (23%) or had been (42%) employed at NCR.
· 55% male, 45% female.
· In each of four age groups:
· Under 46 (19%)
· 46-55 (23%)
· 56-65 (26%)
· 66 or older (33%)
· 74% lived within seven miles of NCRCC.
· 42% had been members for 20 or more years.
· 78% did not have children (under age 21) living at home.
· 41% belonged to a swimming/tennis club (15%) or fitness facility (26%).
· 81% reside in the Kettering-Dayton area year round.
>Who Answered the Survey?
Marketing Research, 1/e, Cooper/Schindler
>Source
>Discussion
5
NCRCC: Teeing Up a New Strategic Direction
1 Build the management-research question hierarchy, through the investigative
questions stage. Then compare your list with the measurement questions
asked.
2 Given the research question, how appropriate were the measurement
questions?
3 Describe the sampling strategy. How appropriate were the various sampling
design decisions?
4 What, if any, problems did you find with the questionnaire as a whole?
Consider structure, directions, question order, question phrasing, appropriateness
of response strategy chosen, etc.
5 If you were McMahon Group, how would you present the findings of your
study to the NCRCC board? Explain the rationale for your chosen method.
6 Given the data presented in the case:
7 What would you recommend to the board of NCRCC with respect to adding
facilities like tennis courts, a swimming pool, a spa, a fitness center, and a
year-round driving range?
8 What would you recommend to the board of NCRCC with respect to adding
or changing programming activities like social activities for adults, families
with children, and children?
9 What would you recommend with respect to changing current operations?

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Attachments
NCRCC_Strategic_Direction.pdf
Solution Preview
Attached, please find the 9 questions associated with the NCR Country Club case study. Please note, there is probably more room for additional thoughts on number 4.

1 Build the management-research question hierarchy, through the investigative questions stage. Then compare your list with the measurement questions asked.

? Management Dilemma: Core membership of NCR Country Club needs to be increased
? Management Questions
o How can the membership of NCR Country Club be increased?
o Why isn’t the country club attracting new members?
? Research Questions
o NCR Country Club isn’t attracting new members because service is lacking
o NCR Country Club isn’t attracting new members due to lack of full-service facilities
? Investigation Questions
o How satisfied with the level of service and current facilities are current NCR Country Club members?
o What new services or facilities need to be added to increase membership at the NCR Country Club?

2 Given the research question, how appropriate were the measurement questions?
? The majority of the measurement questions were very appropriate to the research question. Question 21 regarding the non-member events and willingness of respondents to pay additional dues, was not appropriate to the research question.

3 Describe the sampling strategy. How appropriate were the various sampling design …

Solution Summary
This solution answers the 9 questions associated with the NCR Country Club case study. The solution evaluates the research proposal for the country club and addresses the following research concepts: management-research question hierarchy, sampling strategy, research questionnaire, research question, measurement questions, results presentation and research-driven recommendations.

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