Imagine being a service rep for the New Jersey Nets. Simply stated, they're a mediocre basketball team that's going nowhere in a metro that traditionally favors the New York Knicks. Their coach is on the bubble, and the odds of them making the playoffs this year continue to worsen. So then, how does the Nets organization satisfy and retain season ticket holders?
With great service. Whether your seats are on the floor or in the rafters, the Nets have taken lessons from some of the top hotel chains - companies that know how to satisfy guests. Using whatever tools they have available, teams are doing what it takes to make season ticket holders happy. As the old adage goes, it's easier to retain current customers than it is to find new ones.
Recently, the new VP of Guest Experiences for the Houston Astros, Marty Price, conducted a focus group among season ticket holders to determine what it will take to keep them writing the big check. To keep them happy, Price intends to bring fans behind the scenes, allowing them to watch batting practice.
There's a great book about service that KISW's Dave Richards turned me onto earlier this year, Danny Meyer's Setting the Table. Once you get beyond the culinary details of Meyers' life, you discover how he intuitively works hard to meet his diners' needs, such as using technology to determine the last time they ate at one of his restaurants or to seat customers near other professionals in the same industry to foster networking. And to also remind diners that when they see other bigwigs in their business dining at a restaurant, it reinforces that sense that it's a cool place to eat.
Radio shares the same basic challenges - and opportunities. Conducting focus groups among database members (season ticket holders) usually costs about $50 worth of pizzas. But the concept of "research as marketing" is very much an advantage. Listeners tell you what it will take to make them happy, while they appreciate the station taking the time to find out. A tour around the station, and of course, the air studio, caps off the experience. And with it comes great word-of-mouth that is generated when listeners get the chance to go "behind the curtain."
Imagine the promotion departments of stations having a goal to run one tour of 10 listeners a day through the station - a meet-and-greet that might set the company back 10 T-shirts and keychains a day. Imagine mining the email database to find listeners who enjoy movies, sporting events, and specific artists and groups, and then periodically sending them a small token of appreciation in the form of a free pass or even a CD single. Imagine the program director providing listeners with a direct line or special email box, guaranteed to generate a response within 24 hours to help make the listening experience better.
In a competitive landscape filled with hot new gadgets and personalized, on-demand entertainment, stations are going to have to work harder at customer retention and satisfaction, using its unique resources to seal the deal. Great service and attention is a key element in the process. And as Nets season ticket holder, Dave Lasky, tells the Wall Street Journal, "Everything about the season tickets is good - except the play."