Having spent my formative years in Florida, it would’ve made sense for me to adopt the Marlins as my team. But, like most Floridians, I found any other team in the National League to be more appealing. Today, living in Chicago, I support the Cubs, who in their 17-year run as baseball’s lovable losers have amassed the same number of World Series titles as the Marlins.
What won my loyalty to the Cubs? Sure, the team’s Wrigley Field is a world-famous ballpark, but that’s not what won me over. Wrigley provides a great fan experience – and it’s mostly due to staff that are attentive, approachable and quick to respond to needs.
Naturally, many factors affect fan satisfaction. Bad weather, obnoxious neighbors, poorly cooked food – they all play a part. But it is the customer service at the stadium that has, perhaps, the greatest impact. In this recent blog post, a fan explains a negative experience at Yankee Stadium during ALDS game 3, where he tried to get new seats to accommodate an injured leg. Though his father is a season ticket holder, the attendants were not quick to respond or offer a satisfactory solution. Although it’s unlikely this fan will stop attending games altogether, not all organizations have the same privileges and draw as the Yankees.
For newer teams especially, one unpleasant experience at the ballpark can affect fan retention. Poor service recovery practices can determine if a fan chooses to forego buying or renewing season tickets. Fan loyalty is especially important because it is more expensive attracting new fans than retaining current ones. And with ticket prices ever mounting, fans do, and should, expect a lot from a game-day experience.
During the regular season, Coyle Hospitality referred professional evaluators to several professional ballparks and, no matter whether the home team won or lost, guests frequently noted that they would happily return next year not only for the concessions and amenities, but because staff members were friendly, knowledgeable and contributed to an all-around favorable fan experience. In fact, guests who never attended baseball games before said they’d return simply for the experience.
Like the Yankees fan, I too have the privilege of supporting a storied team, but it’s not just the men of the field that have won my loyalty. Organizations don’t have to wait a hundred years to undertake practices to attract and retain fans.