As sports teams and organizations across the world are gearing up to start play without fans, these same organizations are also determining what that fan experience is going to be when fans start attending again. Many sports organizations are focused on locking in revenue from existing fans – keeping those season ticket payments coming in on schedule – or more operationally looking at how the facilities and the fans can be kept safe and healthy.
But there’s a middle ground between today (when teams are trying to lock in revenue) and that time when the first fans walk back into the arenas. That gap between the financial rush now and the facility rush weeks or months from now is a huge gap in time. That gap needs to be filled with relationship-building efforts. That lapse in onsite engagement is something sports organizations need to view strategically as an opportunity to learn more about their fans, develop relationships with their fans, and provide value to their fans.
“Sports organizations need tailored Touch Point Plans to individual fans and fan types right now“
We’ve provided fan retention consulting and research services to sports organizations since the early 2000s, and we’ve found that too often sports organizations get stuck in the mindset only focused on sales and marketing, exclusively using push communications. But this COVID-19 world requires a longer term mindset. It requires an understanding that relationships need to be built even when that fan is not experiencing the event itself.
Sports organizations need tailored Touch Point Plans to individual fans and fan types right now. Those Touch Points should be minimal on sales and marketing, and instead maximizing focus on providing information of value and asking customers questions so you can learn about them, their mindset, and their situations.
Get to know your individual fans better now, at this moment. Get to know how they’re feeling and how those feelings are trending over time. Understand their anticipated behaviors, and begin addressing those barriers to return…now. Don’t create your operations in a vacuum, and assume that an open facility will be filled with the same fans that were there months ago. Get moving on Fan Relationship Development.
Building customer comfort and confidence in going to your facilities is a process which has a lot of similarities to the technique we train clients on to reduce customer anxiety. From a tactical perspective, when you’re interacting with somebody who is anxious or nervous, you want to get them more comfortable and less worried about their situation or what’s going to happen.
Convey your understanding of their situation, so they realize they’re not a number – instead, they feel you view them as an important individual. Tell them a little bit about yourself and the experience that you’ve had in dealing with similar situations – you’re building their confidence in you. Next, explain a process or what an experience is going to be like. Oftentimes anxiety or worry are about fear of the unknown. By explaining the next steps and the timeframes, your role v. theirs, the unknown becomes known.
“To create customer comfort, make the unknown known
Finally, end with appreciation and positivity. This whole 1-on-1 interaction technique applies to your broader strategy of building customer comfort and confidence.
Here’s the Strategic View: Communicate with them over time to maintain the relationship leading up to their return visit. Provide some empathy of their situation, and detail what you and your organization are already doing to ensure that your employees and – most importantly – the customers themselves are safe and healthy. Explain all the steps that you’re going to take next to prepare to provide a great (and safe) experience. And thank them in advance for their return and their trust in you.
Build comfort and confidence from your customers by leaning on our successful technique for reducing customer anxiety and worry.
If there ever was a time for virtually every organization to assess their culture, this is it. Culture not only drives customer service, but it also drives long-term organizational success. While leaders can define the Desired Culture and can chart a Vision, leaders typically do very little of the actual work in any organization. Just think of the math. In an organization that has only 100 employees, the chief executive does about 1% of the work.
We are not diminishing the importance of the leader as much as we are highlighting the importance of the leader’s role in developing an engaged, productive, and effective workforce.
“This is an opportunity to rethink the future.”
Most organizations have been forced to transition because of changes in demand for services, changes in how services are delivered, or changes in where and how employees work. In other words, the external environment has forced internal change.
This is an opportunity to rethink the future. This is an opportunity for leaders to take a step back and paint a picture of the future business, the customer’s engagement with that business, and the type of internal culture needed to succeed in that new world.
Four Steps to Plan for Future Success
Here are four major steps to consider today to ensure your organization is still relevant and successful tomorrow:
- Create as clear a vision of the future customer as possible, including their needs and wants in both services and the service experience.
- Paint a vision of the services that are going to address the needs and wants of that future customer.
- Identify the mechanisms that you’re going to use, including processes, technology, and facilities, to deliver those services.
- Determine the kind of culture you need in order for that delivery approach to meet future customer needs.
The front-end key to this overall approach is to incorporate the Voice of the Customer to ensure you are creating this new Service System based on customer needs, issues, and goals. Don’t create a strategy in a vacuum.
The back-end key to this approach is to clearly work with staff to educate them on the future of the customer base and the future of the organization, and include them in the discussion of the desired culture and how to make that culture a reality.
This is a time to strengthen the culture, and to strengthen it you may need to pivot from where you’ve been in the past to where you need to be for future success.