In conversation with Jo Newell, Wedding and Events Manager, Essendon Country Club
About Essendon Country Club
Essendon is different from other wedding venues. Owned by two brothers, it’s an independent, family run operation and a business where money is continually reinvested with a strong focus on the members.
Jo Newell and her team have been managing successful weddings and events for over six years. Helpfully, Essendon has two managers called ‘Jo’, so naming their EnquiryBot was a no-brainer!
Essendon is quite a large hospitality and leisure operation. There are two golf courses, a restaurant and bar, as well as ‘The Grand Barn’, our wedding and events venue where we can cater for up to 200 people.
The whole operation has around 100 staff at peak times, and there are three of us running the wedding and events business. The focus is very much on how can we modernise, differentiate our services and re-invest to benefit the members and customers and keep the business moving forward and growing each year.
In golf, we have signed 50+ members coming out of lockdown and have over 1200 golf members in total, most of whom hold 7-day memberships. We run lots of golf competitions and events like summer parties and winter balls, which are really popular with the members.
We have a welcoming culture at Essendon where you can socialise and have a nice time. The wedding and events business has grown rapidly in the last 8-years.
The old owners couldn’t really monetise the barn because it was used as a clubhouse. Since we refurbished it for weddings, we’ve gone from running 10 weddings and events a year to hosting 50+ weddings and 100’s of events and conferences.
What has happened since you put EnquiryBot on your website?
We’ve got lots of enquiries! We actually have two EnquiryBots. One on the main site and one on the wedding venue site, but to our customers they’re one and the same.
The best thing about ‘Jo’, our EnquiryBot, is the amount of information she collects at the initial enquiry stage. The additional detail helps us tailor and personalise our responses, which is great because it tells people we’re attentive and professional right from the start.
We’ve deliberately made her very conversational and friendly, which reflects our brand and the actual service we provide.
We get clients feeling comfortable about discussing their ideas. Then we get creative and work with them to make a day that’s highly personalised to them.
The other big plus is that we save a lot of our time and our customers time, because Jo takes them through a series of structured questions.
For weddings, we’re also able to prioritise show rounds based on the dates and numbers people submit.
Are you happy with EnquiryBot's performance so far?
As far as weddings and events are concerned. We went live around the 18th of May and we’ve had over 40 wedding and events enquiries worth around £400K that we’re dealing with at the moment.
We’ve even managed to get some firm commitments from people which, given the current situation, we’re really pleased with.
EnquiryBot has also proved a popular vehicle for people to ask general questions. Depending on what people enquire about, we’re able to route enquiries through to the people in the business best placed to deal with them.
EnquiryBot shows the enquirers a picture of the person handling the enquiry at the end of the chat, which is another really nice personalised touch
What do you think about the sales management platform and reporting dashboard?
It’s been really useful to organise and visualise enquiries by what stage they’re at, and see them develop. Both the golf and weddings businesses have been using it to great effect.
It’s been helpful amending dates and diarising when to follow up with people. Anyone can dip in and see the notes against what’s been discussed and who’s dealing with it.
Getting a feel for the pipeline and where revenue lies has also been really valuable. Our GM was really keen on the reporting charts and the functionality, when we were first being shown the EnquiryBot system.
We’re really looking forward to be able to answer and administrate enquiries on the move, using our phones too.