How to create a successful university season ticket holder retention program

About Bryce Killingsworth

Development Associate A&S at Oklahoma State University Foundation

Connecting Fans

What is customer service?

Customer service is taking an ordinary situation and making it extraordinary. At Oklahoma State University, we implemented a newly developed retention program to build long-term relationships while providing supreme customer service.

The retention program includes four representatives focused on (1) connecting with the fans, (2) moving fans through the buying funnel, and (3) cultivating fans for life. We believe our best marketing plan includes a superb customer service plan.

“As a three time graduate of Oklahoma State University, and as an academic leader and consultant in the area of sport marketing – particularly as it relates to sales and retention, I am excited to see OSU Athletics realizing the importance of retention activities. OSU has decided to keep its sales and retention activities in house and is taking responsibility for the revenue generation necessitated by that approach. Having dedicated retention specialists, much like the majority of pro sport franchises, shows the Cowboys’ commitment to their customers and shows a deep understanding and strategic approach to not only customer satisfaction – but customer happiness.”

How we do it

The stadium sections are divided among the four reps. Each rep takes full responsibility for providing customer service for the assigned fan base and increasing renewal rate percentages. By assigning specific sections we can target more personal messages toward customers. We provide a personal touch by:

  1. Personally calling or e-mailing every season ticket holder as the first touch point.
  2. As relationships build, we make arrangements to meet season ticket holders at their tailgates on game day and bring them a small gift (poster, lapel pin, etc.) as a gesture of appreciation.
  3. This season we are leaving a personal thank you card on the seat of season ticket holders to display appreciation. Reps will provide their business card inside the note to personalize the relationship.
  4. We invite football season ticket holders over for a basketball game with complimentary tickets. When they come in to retrieve the tickets we offer refreshments, adding another touch point.

Anytime we have an opportunity to meet a fan in person is an advantage for us, as we provide that personal connection and increase the level of the relationship between the fan and Oklahoma State University.

Seizing first impression opportunities

Last season, I helped a dad buy single game tickets to take his son to his first ever football game on his birthday. I took notes of their names and seat locations and just before kickoff I went up to their seats to introduce myself and wish the boy a Happy Birthday. I also gave him a gift bag that included an OSU poster. Both the father and son were overjoyed. Seizing first impression opportunities produces a significant impact on the buyer’s connection to the program.

Results

“To me, the best part of the program is that it falls perfectly in line with our long term approach to relationship building. We want our fans to feel connected to our program and our university. This is just another aspect of how we do this.” Adam J. Haukap 
The most notable benefits from the program?

  1. Decreased complaints. That means not only happier fans but also saved time by administration not putting out fires. The complaints are virtually non-existent at this point.
  2. Improved process for dealing with issues. Problems still come up. But with the retention program each one is addressed in a timely manner with full communication throughout the process with the fan. The issues are managed at the lower level and rarely need reach the AD. This creates a great working environment for everyone. Fans are able to speak with a rep instead of feeling like they are battling an organization.
  3. Increased interaction. One indication our program is being productive is our direct lines ring more than our general office line. Customers directly reach out to their reps rather than dialing the 1-800 line.
  4. Increased referrals. Customers voluntarily give out referrals of friends, family, and co-workers on a regular basis to help extend the Oklahoma State family. This translates into less reliance on finding new leads each off-season to reach department goals.

We now have better quality data when making decisions and developing strategies in our retention program as we continue to increase our renewal rate percentages. OSU just broke their personal record of public season ticket sales for the fifth time in six years, in large part to increased motivation of our reps in providing great customer service in-season and out-of-season to the OSU fan base.

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