In college athletics, your fans mean everything to your business. They expect a great game and great service – so it’s vital that your athletics department is trained to hit a home run with every customer interaction.
Just ask Jacob Kershaw, Customer Relations Manager in the Sales and Service Department at the University of Minnesota – the home of the Golden Gophers. He knows there’s a lot that goes into creating an outstanding experience for Gopher fans – from leveraging CRM and being proactive with email communications to making use of real-time data and training student workers. That’s why he is passionate about creating efficiencies so he can keep fans engaged while focusing on the big picture.
“My role has almost been catered around these efficiencies,” explains Kershaw, adding that the main responsibility of his predecessors was to oversee the department’s student workers.
Now the Sales and Service Department spends more energy catering to fans and offering them different products, including multi-sport and discounted packages. More time is devoted to the Black Friday on-sale and initiatives that supercharge fan engagement – like loyalty programs and the hugely successful Golden Ticket campaign introduced a few years back. There has also been a big push to cater to the large season ticket holder base that wants to relocate their seats each year.
To keep fans coming back, here are six things that Kershaw and his Minnesota colleagues are doing to help drive a great overall experience:
- Leveraging CRM. All the conversations that Gopher fans have are with front-line workers. On top of selling tickets, they can respond as customer service agents because all of Minnesota’s data is available in real time. Reps can pull up any account while they are on the phone and know a fan’s full history – from which emails they’ve opened to events they’ve attended.
- Offering seamless service. After a substantial price increase for football season tickets, Minnesota had to train its staff on handling those conversations and escalating calls to a manager. “By creating a process we were able to renew 88 to 89 percent, which is considered very successful,” explains Kershaw. “We navigated that process using AudienceView, and using the training materials we’ve built using AudienceView went a long way for us to renew a majority of our football season tickets.” Fans who did not renew were identified so that staff could reach out personally, discuss their concerns and suggest multi-game tickets or seats for an away game to keep them engaged with the Gophers.
- Communicating updates instantly. Minnesota is always thinking ahead when it comes to fan communications. Kershaw builds emails in advance so he is ready to hit “send” if there is a last-minute change or imminent announcement of a bowl game or post-season tournament. “We need to have the ability to produce content and the email list for that content quickly. As soon as a game is cancelled, we can send out our email communication instantly and update the event on the website,” says Kershaw. “With the ease of building events in AudienceView, we are always prepared for a potential on-sale or selection to a post-season event. We can build it ahead of time then plug in the basic info, flip the switch and have it on sale within minutes. There is a lag time for others in the industry, which doesn’t happen here.”
- Having a fully integrated website. Minnesota’s website is organized so that anyone can easily purchase tickets and consume information. Sport hubs provide event info – everything from where to park to lists of items prohibited at the venue – so there are no surprises on game day. This is especially important for people who are experiencing a Gophers event for the first time, perhaps as a single game attendee or fan of an opposing team. “We always have information ready for them,” explains Kershaw. “Once they get to the game, they can have the best experience possible. There is nothing worse than something just going wrong because it paints your experience…and it’s usually the small things that add up to create a bad experience.”
- Making decisions using real-time information. Using business intelligence, Minnesota can get any type of data out of AudienceView, including up-to-date sales and attendance reports, number of fans scanned into a game, entrance patterns, the uptake on special promotions, email conversion rates and more. Sales and marketing strategies can be adjusted with this information, adding discounts for hard-to-sell games and raising prices for popular events. Events teams are also better prepared and staff can be reassigned in real-time to keep things moving. “It is so difficult around the industry to get real-time info, but it’s second nature to us as AudienceView users,” says Kershaw. This is just one of the great things that AudienceView enables us to do that is a challenge for others in the industry.
- Quickly onboarding new ticketing staff. There are a lot of transitions in college athletics. As student workers progress in their studies, they pursue other jobs and graduate. This never disrupts operations at Minnesota because a great training program and intuitive solution ensure new hires are on the phones in just two days. “Make sure they are trained and passionate. A lot of that comes from AudienceView – because if they are prepared they can be friendly and an ambassador for our organization,” says Kershaw.
“My favorite thing about AudienceView is how intuitive everything is – I don’t have to think about how to do things. If someone comes to me and needs a report created or a web page built, it’s second nature,” he adds. “How easy it is to learn everything goes a long way. Once you learn, it’s easy and it makes your job easier. You don’t have to wait on reports or on someone to build an email for you – you can do it efficiently so you can focus on the big picture.”