Last week, the Lua team attended the annual Association of Luxury Suite Directors conference. That’s a fancy name for stadium operators, food and beverage vendors, and team representatives that deal with suites and premium seating in stadiums. Representatives from major NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, Minor League venues, and the major collegiate athletic programs convene to discuss best practices, new ideas, and hear from food, beverage, and software vendors.
Over the past year, we’ve had a close relationship with the Brooklyn Nets, helping them manage communication in many areas, including premium seating and suites. We came down to ALSD to share our success there and learn about trends in the space.
If you look at some of the recently built stadiums in the country, like the Barclays Center, the Amway Center in Orlando, or Sporting Park in Kansas City, they’ve embraced smaller seating capacity to maximize premium spaces. Premium ticketing and VIP experience are leading sources of revenue for teams and are becoming more and more important. Even Michigan Stadium, AKA “The Big House,” America’s largest stadium, has removed capacity to make room for more premium seating space (in the collegiate world, more luxury seating can directly lead to more donors).
The layout of the spaces and their best practices presented at the conference were all geared toward one thing: guest experience. The idea is that providing an engaging and (near) perfect guest experience not only catalyzes fans to get off their couches, but convinces them to purchase expensive season ticket packages.
Lua Co-Founders Eli Bronner and Jason Krigsfeld spoke on several panels and presentations, combinations of ticketing, point of service, and CRM vendors, all trying to address some part of the guest experience. Team representatives discussed how the information age was changing their operations. They are beginning to embrace high speed internet and WiFi in stadiums to provide their fans with a second screen experience (not to mention let them stay in touch with the office at a 7 pm ball game). AT&T alone has already connected 25 stadiums with high speed, reliable WiFi. Many teams also touted the importance of social media for guest experience, noting that by hearing guest reactions to service and amenities, they’re able to, for instance, have the CIO of the team deliver a hot cheeseburger to a fan that tweeted out a complaint about their food being cold.
While having more information on the habits and sentiment of target customers allows organizations to react to issues, no team, food and beverage provider, or software vendor discussed how to maximize managing issue resolution itself. That was the unique message that we at Lua championed during the conference: You have to deal with issues and coordinate resolutions quickly and efficiently, as soon as you hear about them.
We highlighted this idea during presentations and our panel – “Technology: A Necessity, Not An Amenity” – but it became clearest when Eli spoke on stage with two of our users from the Barclays Center: Dan Lefton, VP of Suite Sales and Premium Seating, and Erin Leach, Manager of Suite Services. After Eli gave a quick demo and overview of the Lua, he proceeded to ask questions that reflected the direct impact of Lua on a sports and live events venue. Their responses were quite telling, and clearly demonstrated the importance of instant communication and collaboration in arena management.
“With a messaging system, everybody can see something right away. Usually, with a problem in a suite, we send out a notification to the entire group and somebody grabs it and says ‘I’m on it,” so that way you know immediately that somebody is working on it. Otherwise, the account manager who’s account it is will just work on it. It allows us to have an immediate response, and gives us the reassurance that things are being handled.” – Erin Leach, Manager of Suite Services
“It’s been very helpful. As managers for instance, we’ll send out the inventory that’s available for sale and use the downloadable files for listing which suite holders are in the building. We can keep up with what inventory has been sold, and it helps drive customer urgency because it gives you real-time updates.” – Dan Lefton, VP of Suite Sales and Premium Seating
In order to make guest experience a priority in this industry, key stakeholders will have to value their own operational speed and efficiency to the same degree that they do in learning their clients wants and needs. The Barclays Center has taken these necessary steps and the resulting success is apparent.