A first of its kind customer experience program in college athletics just launched today at Penn State.
For the last few months, members of the EngageMint team and Penn State Athletics team have been working on this. We’re excited to see the big impact it will have both externally & internally.
It’s not a new concept by any means, but it is one of the first in college athletics at this scale (that we know of). To form the group, we talked to a few other sports & entertainment organizations who have built something similar, including the WWE, Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers.
Imagine it as an expanded fan council, focused more on quantity & frequency of feedback, rather than quality and depth. We’ll have a diverse group of 2k fans who volunteer to be surveyed on a frequent basis, on a wide variety of topics, throughout the year. The goal of the program is to increase the frequency at which we communicate with superfans, and allow them to have a little more ownership of the experience they are so passionate about.
The program is a testament to Penn State’s investment in innovation and trying to become more customer-centric every day.
Here are some of the impacts from this program I’m excited about:
- It should deepen emotional connections w/ fans by allowing them to weigh in on department decisions… that doesn’t mean we’ll always do EXACTLY what fan sentiment tells us, but we’ll always listen & provide updates.
- Strengthen trust with fans through transparency. We’re taking a “You Said, We Listened” approach, sharing key insights from the surveys with the group. We’ll try to be just as transparent about what’s NOT being done with the data as what is.
- Breaking down silos internally by allowing all departments to submit survey topics. If the food and beverage team wants to understand pregame eating habits, we’ll run a survey on that. If the development and fundraising team wants to understand fans’ deeper motivations towards charitable giving, we’ll run that.
- Surveys will be focused on specific, focused topics, but we’ll share that data across the department to make better decisions as one team. It shifts the entire department to become more customer-centric by making decisions grounded in data.
- This allows us to make smarter financial investments by testing how the market feels before committing resources to specific projects. Rather than merely thinking a Pet Club is a good idea and investing time and $ into the intiative, we’ll run a survey to understand PSU fan relationships with their pets before spinning our wheels on a project the market had no appetite for. (That’s a hypothetical example, I love Pet Clubs because people irrationally spend $ on their pets.)
- The experimental nature of the program becomes a vehicle to shift the department culture towards “done is better than perfect.” Too often in traditional industries, everything has to be perfect before it goes out, which often does more harm than good. With this frequency and high touch, we’ll inevitably make a small screw-up at some point. And we’ll have to recover. But we won’t let that risk detract from our desire to build genuine relationships with fans.
- The speed and frequency will force us to improve the efficiency of internal approval processes & workflows and increase employee empowerment. I believe a hassle-filled employee experience is often the biggest barrier to delivering an exceptional customer experience.
Penn State Athletics is already one of the best organizations in the sports & entertainment world at delivering incredible fan experiences, and I’m excited to see them take it up even one notch more.
For more learnings from this project, or to see what else we’re working on, subscribe to our newsletter. Working on something similar? I’d love to hear on Twitter@davidmillay.