Nothing energizes sports fans like a brand-new stadium and behind-the-scenes access. So who better for Prophet to partner with to talk about customer experience than the Atlanta Braves, who made enriching the fan experience the focal point of their newly opened SunTrust Park?

A few weeks ago Prophet hosted approximately 40 clients and guests from companies like Coca-Cola, Equifax, UPS and Yahoo at SunTrust Park. Starting out in the expansive Hank Aaron Terrace, we took in a spectacular view of the ballpark from left field. Then we toured the dugout, clubhouse and even the ritzy Delta SKY360 Club, with behind-home-plate seating that offers the best game views in the Major Leagues.

Put the Fan Experience First

The $622 million park made a great spot to talk about what Prophet calls “next generation customer experience,” especially as it’s lived by the Atlanta Braves staff. As the organization has been preparing for the move from Turner Field to the new park over the last four years, its also been rethinking what it wants a baseball game to mean to fans, adding exciting new elements to its rich game traditions.

This guests-first approach grew out of research that 40 percent more people in the Atlanta area rate the fan experience at a Braves’ game as ‘friendly,’ compared to other Atlanta sporting events, says Greg Mize, the Braves’ director of digital marketing, and Chandler Faccento, the guest services manager.

Enhance the Fan Experience with New Technology

People also rate the Braves as better value and more innovative. So the team is working to strengthen this notion with helpful new apps, such as a partnership with Waze and Uber that provides up-to-the-minute traffic and parking info and helps shuttle fans from parking to seats.

And it has also created a new, proprietary app called “Remedy,” which enhances the fan experience and provides guests with better customer service during games. In past years, the Braves would only hear about guest complaints at the ballpark in the days and weeks after an incident occurred. Now with Remedy, fans can report issues via the app in real time, so the Braves and its guest services department can find a way to help the fan in the moment.

“If someone didn’t have an experience at SunTrust Park that met his or her standards, or our standards, it’s an opportunity for them to raise their hand, and for us, an opportunity to “remedy” the situation,” said Mize.

These digital connections go a long way toward enriching customer experience and resetting people’s expectations, says Peter Dixon, Prophet’s Chief Creative Officer. “Customer experience is the holistic end-to-end set of interactions–and resulting emotions and perceptions–that customers have with brands,” he says. That includes all the waypoints on the path to purchase, from how people buy tickets and park right down to the best mustard for their hot dogs.

But experience improvements have to extend beyond the obvious. “Brands need to understand what the customer is experiencing in all aspects of their lives and especially in the use of–and engagement with–their products and services,” he says. “This richer view of the customer experience will enable companies to provide greater customer value and drive sales impact.”

5 Critical Traits to Improving the Sports Fan Experience

When trying to improve customer experience, Prophet’s work with some 500 brands has shown that there are five critical traits:

  • Discipline: Customer experience won’t improve with hit or miss initiatives, but requires thorough and exhaustive efforts to reach every touch point.
  • Empathy: Putting yourself in people’s shoes means thinking about their entire lives, not just the few moments they interact with your brand.
  • Relevance: What will make your customers feel like your brand is indispensable?
  • Innovation: Brands must be constantly finding new ways to surprise and delight customers.
  • Intelligence: Leveraging tech-enabled data throughout the customer experience will make the experience more personal and more valuable.

And while some of these considerations are functional, the underlying emotional components can’t be overlooked.

Final Thoughts

The Braves are well aware of that, and it’s no accident that they’ve made Walter Banks, who has been an usher for Braves games for 52 years, a sort of fan experience ambassador. He was on hand at the event to explain how important it is to show people to their seats with warmth. He says:

“I ask them where they are from, and how they are liking Atlanta… It’s so important that when they leave here, they think we are friendly and easy to get along with.”

No wonder the Braves have summed up their expectations with a simple two-word slogan. Welcome home. At SunTrust Park, that says it all.