Blog, Uncategorized

Lessons from Leaders – Rick Burton

“You’ve got to skate to where the puck is going.” – Wayne Gretzky

It may be an overused cliche – Rick Burton even acknowledged that – but it best encapsulated this week’s podcast.  Rick is a long-time industry executive and brings a background as brand manager at Miller Lite, commissioner of the National Basketball League and CMO of the 2008 Summer Olympics to the classroom, where he is the David B. Falk Professor of Sport Management and Faculty Athletics Representative at Syracuse University. 

This episode went into a number of Rick’s specialties and there are three key takeaways from the conversation in management and leadership and the impact of esports:

Is your mission business-focused or purpose-focused?

Fans want a connection with brands.  If your mission is tied to business goals, then it has to evolve every time your business strategy does.  What business-focused missions don’t account for is the role your customers play in your organization – or the “now, what?” if you actually hit those goals!  When your mission is purpose driven, such as Disney theme parks “creating happiness for people of all ages,” the role that your staff and customers play in your organization is something they can visualize. It is also aspirational – the experience at Disney is constantly evolving to bring Guests back time and again.  

Keep the “engage” in fan engagement  

During the pandemic, organizations found innovative ways to connect with fans – zoom calls with coaches, gaming sessions with players, virtual tailgates, simulated game days on second screens.  Returning to full capacity, fans are still going to want to have that connection with your organization.  Rick borrowed the term “glocalization” – fans globally want to actually feel like they are locally involved.  This is what traditional sports leagues are learning from esports.

Pulling off event days is no small feat for any organization and it will be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day details when returning to full capacity.  Can you still offer a simulated stadium experience for fans who can’t travel to your games?  Are there interactive contests that you could offer to fans who are in the stands?  Cheering from the stands as opposed to the couch is not enough of an active entertainment experience anymore.  

You got to the puck, now shoot it.

It’s a problem we see in a number of organizations we work with – not enough hours in the day, not enough staff to handle everything.  All too often, the focus becomes “just getting through” – managing the email inbox or the day-to-day responsibilities.  Rick sees it in the executive coaching that he does as well.  Those who emerge as leaders have to be thinking about what’s next, diversifying the organization to reach new markets, new revenue streams.

If Rick had a billboard of advice, it would read:

“Learn, and then do those things.” 

What content are you consuming? What are the trends you are seeing?  What are the best practices in your industry?  What are the best practices in other industries that could be applied to sports and entertainment?  Once you are equipped with that knowledge, apply it.  

Check out the full conversation with Rick here.

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Design Sprints

Execute on ideas on 10x faster

Your team needs a new idea, and fast. Resources are limited, time is short, your staff is being pulled in all different directions, and your customers have high expectations. Your last brainstorm session felt like a waste of time… there were a bunch of half-baked ideas with no follow-through or prioritization. You need something different.

We’ve all been there. A senior leader issues a broad challenge, providing no real clarity as to what your team should do. You work hard to align schedules, get all the key influencers in the room. Half the room comes prepared, half the room has no idea why they’re there. Once the meeting gets going, two or three team members dominate the meeting, not because they have the best ideas, more because they have the loudest voices. And you’re lucky if anyone was even taking notes or distributing action items after the meeting.

IBM recently analyzed the performance of their teams and concluded that using the design sprint method can reduce the time between the ideation phase and the publishing of a developed application by up to 50%.

Enter Design Sprints. (TL;DR Here are some examples of problems you can solve with Design Sprints)

Why Design Sprints?

Many organizations have innovation as one of their core values, but how often is it genuinely executed throughout different departments? Many companies talk about consistently innovating, but are they maximizing their time and effort towards innovating and staying ahead of the competition? Many innovative projects get started with big ideas in mind but never come to fruition due to lack of resources, critical people leaving the organization, or simply taking too long. People lose interest.

Instead of spending months on a project that may not come to fruition, the structured design sprint will have a minimum viable product you can test with your customers within one week!

  • No more wasted resources on a project that takes much longer than anticipated to complete
  • No more incomplete projects due to not getting the correct stakeholders involved at the beginning of the project
  • Your team becomes aligned around one goal through the design sprint process, preventing any potential negative downstream impacts.
  • Design Sprints help solve this problem by providing a systemic approach that maximizes everyone’s time & effort resulting in a testable prototype in just one week.

You may be familiar with the term design thinking, as it often is thrown around by leaders in creativity and innovation. When we had Duncan Wardle, the former head of Creativity and Innovation at Disney, on our podcast, he spent the whole episode unpacking his favorite design thinking tools. At it’s core, design thinking is a set of principles focused on solving problems with the end-user or customer at the center.

A Design Sprint is a structured problem to solution process, using design thinking principles every step of the way. Design Sprints are a systematic approach, whereas traditional design thinking is more focused on philosophy & mindset. Conventional design thinking using only one principle or two may result in team members not aligned on the same goal resulting in a project that never reaches completion.

Design Sprints can be utilized for any line of business or level within the organization as the process is systematic, logical, and does not go the route of open or vague conversation. At EngageMint, we’ve seen this firsthand while facilitating Design Sprints on topics from making the season ticket renewal process more hassle-free, to centralizing complaints from fans so that leaders can prioritize the biggest issues. Due to the high efficiency of design sprints, many companies have used them to develop new products & services including:

  • The methodology is used by Fortune 500 companies, including Disney, Netflix, Google, Amazon, etc. because they know how to be efficient with their time and energy!
  • Google used the design sprint methodology to produce both Gmail and Google Hangouts!

Design Sprints take elements from design thinking, with the differentiator being a systemized framework to develop a high-fidelity prototype. This is tested with users quickly and avoids wasting unnecessary resources.

One Big Goal for Each Step of the Sprint

What Scenarios are Design Sprints used for?

One of the biggest benefits of design sprints, is they can be used to tackle any large project or process improvement. Some industry examples of what a design sprint can help to solve for:

  • Developing a new season ticket holder renewal website to better educate fans, increase renewal rates, and remove unnecessary touchpoints. In fact, design sprints can be used to create multiple web pages that fit the needs of your fans.
  • Develop a new map for fans on game day
  • Improve your gate entry process
  • Shorten food & beverage transaction times
  • Ideate new sponsorship activation to drive more revenue
  • Develop or improve on your existing app to create a seamless experience for fans not only on game day but receiving news and updates throughout the season
  • Develop training modules for third party staff to improve customer service
  • Identify key issues that your customer service team has and develop clear solutions for them
  • Enhance your in-game entertainment
  • To launch the beginning phase of a longer-term project such as transportation improvements and the development of new infrastructure.
    • Check out this case study from “The Avenue Project,” where they were asked to design and develop mobile services for future users of autonomous shuttles. They used the design sprint process to create approximately 10 possible services for their project to be accepted and initiated.

How Can A Design Sprint Help Me Innovate?

The design sprint is a step-by-step, one-week process going from nothing to a high fidelity prototype of a testable product or process at the end of the week.

A team of people from all different departments comes together to share their feedback during the week-long process. We know it can be a challenge to get everyone’s calendars synced up, but any client we have spent time facilitating a design sprint has agreed the time is well spent.

With the design sprint process, you bring all critical stakeholders together from the very start. From there, run a two-day, highly intensive workshop, and from there, the design team goes off and designs the product and shows it back to that team all within the same week. This has proved to be much quicker than a typical brainstorm session with a follow-up a month or so later to check in on progress.

What Makes Design Sprints More Effective than Traditional Brainstorming?

“Together, Alone”

In a typical design process or meeting, everyone is talking simultaneously and putting their solutions on the table. While there is a lot of talking and collaborating, and it may feel productive, it can be highly inefficient. Generally, team members who work in sales or customer-facing roles are more confident and voice their opinions more loudly than other team members. 

In a design sprint, everyone works towards the same goal without sharing what they are working on, especially the specific solutions. Everyone works on the answers by themselves, and then it is brought together later.

Tangible Discussion

Anytime there is a discussion during the sprint, the facilitator is constantly referencing a developed concept during the design sprint. This prevents the talks from going off the rails and misunderstandings and gets the entire team aligned around one goal.

One of the most frustrating meetings is going around the room with no action items developed, no plan, and a lack of accountability for getting things done. This design sprint solves all of those problems, and everyone is clear on what their role is in achieving the short & long-term goals of the sprint.

Getting Started > Getting it Right

Moving forward and getting started and going from one exercise to the next is more important than execution. It’s all about momentum, not second-guessing if you are doing things correctly or not. TRUST THE PROCESS!

No Creativity Required

The sprint framework itself doesn’t require participants to be “creative” to come up with solutions. The system and exercises themselves within the sprint allow for creativity within itself. Participants do not need creativity to get through the sprint, and the sprint provides the framework to set all participants set up for success. This framework helps it be inclusive of everyone in your organization from Guest Services, Marketing, Sales, Food & Beverage, Security, Game Day Operations, from the front line to the Director level.

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Future of Sports
Chatting Sports Tech, Uncategorized

Edition #10 – Mobile Ordering

Analyzing Mobile Ordering: Why Your Organization Should Adopt, What Not To Do & The Players In The Space

So I haven’t attended an in-person game since the pandemic began. But man am I itching to post up in the Yankee Stadium bleachers on a hot summer day. Vaccine shot number two on Monday and then straight to the ballpark (two weeks later).

Speaking of returning to venues, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two months talking to companies building future in-venue technology. The next several editions will discuss emerging technologies changing the stadium experience. This edition will kick off the series by focusing on mobile ordering & in-seat delivery. 

One housekeeping item – If you want Chatting Sports Tech delivered to your inbox, subscribe at the top of this page. 

Let’s dive in…

All the rage coming out of COVID is stadiums upgrading to fully contactless payment. Is this the same as mobile ordering?

Not exactly. Contactless payment generally refers to the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) or near field communication (NFC) to make secure payments. Think paying with your smartphone by holding it near a point of sale terminal. Essentially you remove cash entirely and eliminate the need to physically hand over a plastic card.

By mobile ordering, I’m referring to the ability to place an order through a smartphone and eliminate waiting in concession lines or flagging down a hawker in an aisle. 

Going contactless doesn’t address certain pain points of concession ordering. Contactless might speed up lines but doesn’t eliminate them. Fans are still distracted from watching a game. There’s no benefit to the workforce who still need to manually key in an order and then quickly round up the items. 

Early in the pandemic, everyone clamored to go cashless since the coronavirus was assumed to live on surfaces and be transmitted through touch. Though proved untrue by science – don’t stop washing your hands however – the pandemic provided the spark for more venues to go fully contactless even though the technology had existed for a while. But don’t automatically assume headlines that a venue has gone contactless means it implemented a robust mobile ordering strategy. 

Gotcha. So walk me through the value of mobile ordering.

Let’s look at the benefits of mobile ordering from three angles: 1) Improved customer satisfaction, 2) Technology can drive more dollars and 3) Removing frictions aligned with cash.

  1. Improved customer satisfaction – When I meet a person who enjoys waiting in lines, it will be the first in my 32 years on this planet. People HATE lines, especially mid-game where time spent waiting could result in missing a game’s most exciting play. With mobile ordering, fans who value watching the game over getting food have an avenue to order efficiently. 
  2. Technology can drive more dollars – Besides increasing your customer base, mobile ordering technology can drive additional revenue through higher per caps. If used effectively, promotions and push notifications can increase cart size. Push inventory that’s not selling. Sell hot dogs 50% off within 5 minutes of a big play. Add popcorn to an existing item for $2. As long as you cover marginal cost, additional sales are accretive to your bottom line. 
  3. Removing frictions aligned with cash – We touched on this above. Cash is messy. You don’t collect any buyer payment history. It’s slow to process. It’s vulnerable to theft. Removing cash speeds up the check-out process, resulting in an increased volume of sales.

Those benefits seem obvious. Should I rush my venue to implement mobile ordering?

Lesson for any technology implementation – When you fail to consider the human element and training required, responses can be disastrous. Per Front Office Sports, MLB fans loudly complained about concession lines during opening weekend, forcing the teams to revert back to traditional walk up ordering from planned 100% digital ordering. Clearly, the pandemic accelerated the move to cashless but teams were ill prepared to deal with the high volume. 

Quick clarification before proceeding: We generally only hear when things go wrong. It’s why the media covers plane crashes so intensely but never mentions the tens of thousands of planes landing safely everyday.  Before you assume every mobile ordering implementation has hiccups, understand many venues successfully launched mobile ordering without a blip that you’ll never hear about. 

That said, it’s also very possible those MLB teams lost fans for life during those games. The in-venue experience is in constant battle with at-home viewing. Adding miserable concession lines can be enough to tip the scales for some people.

You mentioned the human element and training required. Can you elaborate on those and other operating challenges for implementation?

Identifying useful technology is only the first step to making life easier. The implementation piece is often the bigger determining factor whether technology can achieve its intended purpose (hence, why we are building a service to help sports properties navigate the entire sourcing through implementation process). 

Here are the operating challenges in my mind:

  • Awareness – People won’t order through mobile if they don’t realize it’s an option. How will you introduce fans to mobile ordering technology? Will there be in-stadium signage? Will there be a stadium announcement? Will fans be made aware prior to arriving? Success relies on a coordinated effort between venue operations and marketing. 
  • Access – In other words, how will customers be able to place orders? Mobile app or a QR web pass-through? I have a couple thoughts down below but what method you determine relies on connectivity in the stadium. More thoughts on this in a future edition. 
  • Integration – A customer facing ordering platform will often need several integrations to be successful. That includes: 1) Point-of-sale system – To accept payments, 2) Inventory Management – Back end reconciliation of supplies, 3) CRM – To collect customer information, 4) Mobile Wallet – To allow people to link branded cards and gift cards (optional), 5) In-Seat Delivery (if a separate vendor) – See below
  • Fulfillment – Fulfilling mobile orders is a different operational process. Will fans pick up from an existing concession stand or a designated pick-up area? If you use a designated pick-up area, how does that impact the customer flow in the venue? Regardless which you choose, you will need to retrain your workforce to ensure mobile orders get the same attention as walk-up customers. If I had to guess, this was a major factor in the opening weekend MLB fail. 
  • Workforce Size – Similarly, understanding the demand when implementing mobile ordering will determine whether additional staff are required. Normally, you’d consider piloting in a small area of a stadium but the pandemic forced many venues to adopt without a trial period. If mobile ordering increases volume of orders by 25%, will you have enough employees to adequately handle?

How does in-seat delivery factor in?

How I think about it – in-seat delivery is absolutely crucial coming out of the pandemic and for the next generation of fans. 

Why? Behavior is sticky, breaking habits is difficult and Americans are generally lazy. With everyone stuck inside, the pandemic accelerated the reliance on delivery services to the point customers now expect to have that option. 

With in-seat delivery, you face some of the same operational challenges as mobile ordering, namely adequate staffing and retraining your workforce. But if you can figure out a strategy that redeploys hawkers for deliveries, your operational flow can be made more efficient by transition from push supply to pull demand. 

What else should I consider as part of my mobile ordering strategy?

Your mobile ordering strategy shouldn’t be an isolated decision by venue operations. Rather consider other organizational objectives and how mobile ordering can influence fan behavior.

What’s an example? Let’s say a goal is to collect more fan information and supplement your CRM system. An asset at your disposal is your team mobile app. Thus, you can force fans to download your mobile app to access in-venue mobile ordering and then push additional notifications to that fan outside that specific game. Venue operations vendor selection would therefore benefit the marketing and sponsorship teams. 

What’s another example? An effective mobile order strategy can redirect flow positively. If you put a food pick up zone in front of a merchandise store, a fan may notice a cool new jersey they ultimately buy. Before mobile ordering, they would have headed straight to a concession stand, waited in line, maybe gotten frustrated and then headed straight back to their seat with a singular focus. With mobile ordering, free advertising of merchandising through strategic positioning. 

Who are the companies playing in the stadium space? 

There are a bunch of companies that have emerged. This list doesn’t even include mobile ordering solutions for non-sports use cases like restaurants. 

Since many of the companies aren’t solely focused on mobile ordering, I’m going through the list based on value proposition:

  • Don’t have sufficient WiFi in-stadium? UK company SwipeStation has built a mobile ordering system using kiosks that doesn’t require connectivity. Additionally, their system simplifies the order preparation process to reduce the training burden on concession staff. 
  • Looking for a low cost provider? Partake, which also has multiple other mobile fan engagement features, has partnered with multiple minor league baseball clubs at the lowest price point I’ve seen.
  • Want a company with a flexible contract model? FanFood offers fee sharing agreements or hybrid pricing (i.e., fixed per stand) allowing a client to choose the structure best fitting their situation. 
  • Think your fans are sick of another mobile app? TEXT4Service from TEZ Technologies enables ordering through a QR code without needing to overhaul your venue point-of-sale system. 
  • Looking for a company that is 100% focused on mobile ordering? Tapin2 provides a complete product set enabling mobile ordering including order taker hardware, kiosks, hawker technology, suite focused products and fulfillment solutions. 
  • Is in-seat delivery a priority? Several companies have grown since starting as in-seat delivery specialists, including SeatServe, Stadium Drop and sEATz
  • Do you have an existing POS system? That company may have built their own ordering solution. For example, point of sale company Appetize has built out its own mobile and online ordering software. 
  • Approaching mobile ordering from an ecommerce focus? Venuetize takes a mobile first approach to in-venue ecommerce, offering mobile wallet and a native loyalty & rewards program in conjunction with mobile ordering capabilities. 
  • Looking for a comprehensive venue solution? VenueNext combines mobile ordering with mobile wallet and point of sale as a complete offering.

That hopefully provides some quick context but if you’re looking into adopting mobile ordering in your venue and want to learn more, don’t hesitate to reach out for guidance.

That was a lot of helpful information. Can you summarize quickly?

Absolutely. Key takeaways:

  • The benefits to mobile ordering are numerous, including improved customer experience, ability to drive additional revenue and remove frictions associated with cash.
  • However, failing to consider operational challenges before deployment can result in headaches (see MLB opening weekend wait times).
  • Deploying mobile ordering technology effectively can help drive other organizational goals. 
  • The space is crowded. Certain mobile ordering companies have approached the service differently, though at the end of the day, customers only care about having a seamless ordering experience. 

Until next time,

– Charles

Future topics in this series will include digital ticketing & mobile wallets, smart check-out technologies, safety & security, connectivity and in-stadium engagement.

If you enjoyed this edition, tell your friends or colleagues about Chatting Sports Tech. Add me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter @ccampisi_EES.  

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Be the Spark

In our latest podcast episode with former Disney and Hyatt leader, Simon T. Bailey, we discussed how to empower your staff. In his latest book, Be the SPARK, Simon outlines five key steps to empower your employees to deliver customer excellence. 

See them as guests

Personalize the experience to their needs

Anticipate their needs

Respond Immediately

Keep them loyal with acts of Kindness

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Just Ship It

Instead of toiling over every little detail, sometimes the best thing to do is launch your project and get real customer feedback.

Once you get real feedback from customers, you can get to work on the things customers actually value, rather than wasting your time working on the things you THINK they care about.

Jeremy Parker and his team applied that insight when building, one of the most innovative and successful promotional product companies in the world.

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