• October 1, 2013
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

CRM in Sports—Mobile and Social Tech Get the Call

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While the if-you-build-it-they-will-come mentality might have worked in the movie Field of Dreams, modern-day sports and entertainment is a lot more complicated. Just building a 70,000-seat stadium doesn't guarantee that people will file in to cheer for the teams that play there. For that, many organizations are just now starting to turn to CRM technologies.

"Sports as a whole is lagging [behind] a lot of other industries with its use of CRM, but we are catching up fast," says Tim Zue, vice president of business development for the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Sports Management, which also handles sales and marketing for Fenway Park, the Liverpool Football Club, Roush Fenway Racing, and the New England Sports Network.

"Sports teams traditionally have not had the resources to do a lot of what other industries are doing [with CRM]," Zue adds.

Part of the reason for the delay, he explains, is that in sports, like in no other industry, fans have a lot of ways to express their interest. "They can come to a game. They can watch on TV. They can listen on the radio. They can follow on Twitter. They can buy a jersey. There are probably twenty to twenty-five different ways for people to show they're fans. It's hard for us to keep up with all of them," Zue says.

That doesn't mean the industry isn't trying. "We're all trying to grow our CRM systems so we can know everything about our customers," Zue says.

At the same time, boosting sales is always a goal. To help with that, mobile applications are getting a lot of attention. Mobile is where the Boston Red Sox, and much of Major League Baseball, have seen the biggest impact on ticket sales today. The number of tickets purchased via smartphones has doubled in each of the past two years, according to Zue.

"The ticket purchasing method has definitely changed over the past few years. Tickets are no longer bought over the phone, but on the Web," Zue says. "And now, we have to have a mobile-optimized Web site."

The Red Sox, he says, "are very focused on mobile as the next phase of ticket purchasing."

The same is true at Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, England, home to the Nottingham Panthers ice hockey team. Last summer, management deployed a ticketing and customer relationship management solution from AudienceView to build out a mobile sales offering for Panthers games and other live events at the 10,000-seat arena.

"This is critically important to the Capital FM Arena, because our customer base is among the most connected and socially engaged across the arena network," said Martin Ingham, deputy chief executive of Capital FM Arena, in a statement. "With a growing percentage of consumers accessing the Web through mobile sites, it gives us the best opportunity to maximize ticket sales and future-proof our business."

Social media is also starting to gain traction for the same reasons. Just look at TicketCity, which handles ticket sales for more than 75,000 sporting events, concerts, and other live events at 2,500 venues in 28 countries. TicketCity recently partnered with Spredfast to expand its marketing outreach and sales efforts to social media.

"We have definitely seen, as we grow on social media, [an increasing] number of customers coming to our site and buying tickets on our site," says Meredith Owen, communications director at TicketCity. "We want to make sure they know about our events and that we are able to answer their questions."

After just 30 days with Spredfast, TicketCity's engagement rate improved 61 percent and its audience reach increased by more than 11 percent. The company's time to resolution for customer service inquiries via social media decreased from nearly 20 minutes down to less than 12 minutes because agents are spending less of their time answering the most basic customer questions.

Consumers who follow TicketCity on social sites such as Twitter and Facebook are mostly looking for information, so the company also uses social media to share schedules, event guides, seating charts, and other event details, according to Owen.

Customers also use social media to share reviews of concerts and events, and TicketCity likes to keep track of those mentions and engage the people who post them. "These social ambassadors have had a big impact on our business," Owen says.

The phone is still a large part of TicketCity's business, she adds, but "often, social is the first point of interaction we have with the customer."

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