Breakfast With Bernie

Ask Your Fans What They Want, And Give It To Them

Written by Bernard Mullin, PhD
@bernard_mullin
July 29, 2016

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The Aspire Group is going into its fourth year of conducting post-game and post-season fan surveys at Georgia Tech. The data from these studies is analyzed and applied before the next kick- or tip-off fueling immediate improvements to the fan experience. GT’s dedication to listening to and implementing fan feedback has resulted in an increase in response rates each year, including an overall increase of 324% in post-game survey response rates.

GT uses the fan studies as a service and retention tactic to better understand and predict future behavior. Insights are provided from an overarching perspective and funneled down to an individual fan’s experience.

GT can improve the exact experience for a fan in Section 10, Row 5, Seat 2. This is hand-to-hand combat to win the battle of being the best sport game day experience among the competition.

“The fan surveys have allowed us to get a pulse on our season ticket holders,” said Ryan Gottlieb, Director of Sales & Service for Aspire’s Georgia Tech Fan Relationship Management Center (FRMC). “We can better analyze and understand our market and that allows us to provide next-level service to our fans.”

Miami University has the same mindset. The RedHawks survey fans and then use the insights to help the operations staff implement changes to the fan game day experience.

The surveys allow a two-way dialogue between the property and the fans. It builds trust when you can prove you are listening by your actions.  The fans invest back.

The surveys are instrumental in telling the school the immediate areas they need to address in-season and what actions can wait until the off season.

Here are a few examples of how GT and Miami use the fan feedback to make improvements:

  • Georgia Tech was able to adjust the fan reward programs to better meet fan needs and ended up saving money by restructuring them.
  • Miami University is upgrading its video board in its arena because the fans confirmed the issue needed to be addressed.
  • Georgia Tech fixed an issue with the in-house music conflicting with the marching band.
  • Miami University is changing its hot dog wrappers from paper back to foil because fans asked for a more moist hot dog bun.

“We have been able to make changes to our game day presentation that are critical to enhancing the fans’ driveway-to-driveway experience,” said Rick Thorpe, Associate Athletic Director for Sales & Fan Experience at Georgia Tech.

“You are not always going to like what you hear,” Gottlieb said, “But it is important not take a defensive stance when fans push back.”

Miami University used post-season surveys to understand the low rate of usage among season ticket holders for hockey (70 percent). Miami wanted to know why the 30 percent were not showing up to games and how they could put those tickets back to use.

The fan feedback from the surveys suggested implementing a loyalty program for season ticket holders that included a buy-back program.

“The biggest thing for me is the studies have given us more concrete evidence for areas of improvement,” said Jude Killy, Assistant Athletic Director for Miami University. “There were some things we had suspicions about that we needed to improve, and the survey results validated for us.”

“There were also some things that surprised us that we needed to fix. We are not experts here, and the surveys have taken a burden off our shoulders.”

If you are selling tickets, fan feedback is never inconsequential. Whether the data is directly relative to ticketing the feedback provides incremental ways for a sport property to improve, which increases the likelihood of that fan to return again.

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