Baseball Isn't The Same

Its spring -- one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. Spring means a lot for sports – the Final Four, the Masters, the NHL Finals, and finally the opening of baseball season.

That’s why I’d like to talk about baseball. Rangers Ball Park – Arlington, Texas. It’s the Rangers against the Angels. I bought my tickets online a week before the game.

The day before the game, I received a “Thank you” e-mail from the Rangers. The e-mail included a lot of information about the game. For example, it had pictures of the pitchers, their stats, and even video links with highlights of the pitchers’ previous performances. The Rangers also included helpful information such as directions to the stadium, information about the stadium (including a link to a seating chart), and a link to an A-Z Guide with a lot of information on the way things work at Rangers Ball Park at Arlington (customer service).

In that e-mail, there was also a banner with information about the Major League Baseball Application for smart phones (cross sales), and a second banner with information about how to buy more tickets (up sale). There was also some information about the pitchers’ “Scouting Report,” for the lovers of the game. It had precise information about the pitchers’ strengths and weaknesses (precise information about the product). The only thing missing was information about the weather for game day.

The game started at 7:00. At 5:30, a huge rain storm arrived. I was in the middle of the storm 40 minutes before the game, and I think a lot of people thought the game would be canceled. But I had hope, like I did as a kid. I hoped that there was sun in Arlington. When we arrived in Arlington, there was.

I was greeted at the entrance by a smiling and friendly lady. She had great attitude. She smiled and helped me scan the tickets. At the end of the interaction, she said, “Enjoy the game,” (Customer Service) and we headed to our section. We entered the tunnel through the field, and there it was: this magic view. I felt like a kid for a moment.

When we got closer to our seats, another nice lady approached us. She smiled and pointed us to our seats, but did not come all the way with us. I passed by a paper towel roll, and wondered why it was there. I sat down in my seat and my legs and back got all wet. Then I realized that the lady missed the opportunity to provide me with great customer service – she could have given me a paper towel to dry my seat before I sat down.

I had nice seats behind home plate – it was amazing to see a 94 mph fastball from such a short distance. I hoped to catch a foul ball for my kid.

Play ball!

Wherever I looked, there was a brand name. Everyone was trying to sell me something. There were three video screens, with video game brands presenting short video presentations prior to each Rangers batter. There were promotions, contests at every half inning, and a lot of noise. There was so much sound that I was surprised during the few moments when it was quiet. Noise came from the stadium speakers, attendees tweeting messages that would appear on the main video screen about food preferences in the stadium (authentic and live customer preference surveys), and people sending text messages trying to guess the total attendance. Suddenly, it seemed hard to pay attention to the game!

There were a lot of options for food and drink. One could find a local or Dutch beer, eat a burrito, and—obviously the “must” for a baseball game—have some peanuts and a hot dog. There were also lots of seating options. One could be seated on the top row of the left field for less than $10, or sit in the Cuervo Lounge (invitation only)--it’s up to you, the customer. It’s about giving a lot of options which target several segments, all with the goal of getting people to the ballpark.

If you could manage to pay attention to the game, you would realize that the game itself is pretty much the same. It’s still just as hard to hit a 95 mph pitch or an 84 mph changeup. Even today, when pitchers throw faster, hitters are stronger, and players have more athletic capabilities, it’s about the same thing it always has been: trying to hit a small white ball in the “field of dreams.”

I had a great time. I saw the game, ate peanuts and a hot dog, drank a beer, sang “Take me out to the ball game,” and danced to country music during the seventh inning. I got to spend some great time with my family. The Rangers didn’t win, but there are many more games to play. While I was in the ballpark, I forgot about the daily stress of life. I was disconnected from my busy life and my long list of “things to do.” I was so happy for those two and a half hours.

While I was walking that night to my car, I thought, “What did I buy with my ticket? What did I get from my ticket? What do the Rangers actually sell?” I think I got joy. I think that the Rangers sell recreational experiences, and that they understand what they sell very well.

That night in bed, I thought, “Do the Rangers know that I went to the Stadium?” Obviously they do know, but my real question was: What will they do about it? The next morning, I got an e-mail that answered that question. The e-mail was personalized with my name, and had the subject line: “Game Recap and thank you from the Rangers.” It contained the score; a recap, video highlights of the game, information about upcoming games, and a link to purchase tickets (Keep selling). It also had coupon codes with ticket discounts (Sales Promotions). Finally, it had another very important section, which read: “GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK. Did you enjoy your time at the game? Is there anything you'd like to tell us about your game day experience at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington?” It had a link to an eight-question survey, where they asked about the overall experience, the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, and the entertainment value of the audio, video, and music. It also asked about the experience at the Rangers retail stores, the concessions, and the factors that influence your decision to attend to a ball game. The only thing that could have made the e-mail better would have been some incentive for the customer to actually take the survey, like a coupon or discount.

After this experience, I understand that it is not luck that makes Major League Baseball teams so profitable. I understand that it takes a lot of effort to have good communication with your customer, and that it is even harder to create a great experience for your customers. It’s not just about the desire to do it. It’s not even only about money. It’s about good planning of the full customer experience; it’s thinking as your customer thinks, all the time.

How often do you think as your customer thinks?

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