Ruby Newell-Legner - 7 Star Service
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How to Show Appreciation to Your Fans

As a Fan Experience Expert who specializes in the sports and entertainment industry, I know a great fan-centric tool when I see one. Any product or service that increases customer retention, promotes fan loyalty and helps create a legendary guest experience has my vote of confidence and full support.

Prior to the 2011-2012 NHL season, I had the pleasure of working with the Tampa Bay Lightning to guide the team through its transformation to “World Class Service.” With owner Jeff’s Vinik’s $40 million-plus investment to renovate the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the level of service had to be enhanced to create the full fan experience.

With the fan experience mantra “Electrifying Experiences Ignited by World Class Service,” the Lightning’s goal was (and is) to continually increase customer satisfaction and create legendary guest experiences for every fan that visits the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

And, believe it or not, the RFID chip played a significant role in that mission.

Knowing that 80 percent of any new technology’s success will be determined by how it is implemented, we had before us the daunting task of planning the distribution of 10,000 Season Ticket Member (STM) jerseys and educating people about how to use their new RFID chip embedded into the jersey’s sleeve — which would provide them with season-long discounts on team merchandise and concessions. The goal was to create a seamless, fan-engaging process and make it a positive experience for everyone. It didn’t matter how good the new piece of technology was if it was not introduced strategically and embraced by users.

With that in mind, numerous meetings and countless brainstorming sessions were held to plan the communication and distribution process at a local hotel. Using my proprietary 7 Star Service Cycles of Service™ methodology, each step of the jersey distribution process was planned, down to the tiniest detail, including:

  • Invitations to pick up jerseys
  • Instructions and RSVP process
  • Thank-you confirmations
  • Directions to the event
  • Parking instructions
  • Arrivals in parking garage
  • Golf cart concierge delivery to hotel
  • Talking points to build the relationship during the process
  • Flow of traffic
  • Signage at each station
  • Greetings at hotel
  • Check-in process
  • Paperwork completion
  • Jersey fitting/confirmation station
  • Storage of 10,000 jerseys
  • Staff break area with food and refreshments
  • Answers to frequently asked questions
  • Connecting the correct RFID chip to the correct Season Ticket Member’s account
  • Personalization station
  • Paperwork review
  • Package station where dry cleaners donated STM-labeled hangers and dry-cleaning bags with laundry instructions and a coupon
  • Friendly greetings, smiles and fond farewells throughout the experience
  • Thank-you email and code of conduct
  • Staff training to acknowledge each STM and thank them for their loyalty

That required a lot of coordination.

Then came opening night. The Tampa Bay Lightning transformed its generic-attired fan base into a cohesive community united in cheering for the team — side by side, wearing custom blue jerseys. Imagine 10,000 Season Ticket Members, all filled with pride, camaraderie and team spirit, ready to swipe their chip and receive a terrific discount!

Nothing describes how the community has embraced owner Jeff Vinik’s vision more than to know that 10 of those jersey-clad fans emblazoned Vinik’s name on the back of their customized jerseys.

Not only did the TBL jersey and the RFID chip improve point-of-sale and service levels, but they also helped fill the arena with engaged fans immediately, resulting in a Customer Satisfaction Score of 99.1 percent during opening week.

Each cash register in the arena is equipped with RFID readers for STMs to scan their chip; payment is automatically deducted from their account, with the discounts applied. The technology also provides staff with an analysis of the flow of STMs, tracking spending details so future offers can be personalized.

The ability to greet each Season Ticket Member by their name encourages interaction between servers and guests, and their discounted purchases reward their loyalty.

This is a true testament that high tech can merge with high touch to create a whole new level of fan engagement and increase loyalty. Today, with a 90 percent renewal rate, the Lightning has grown its Season Ticket Member fan base to more than 14,000 and continue to present a sea of blue jerseys in the stands at home games.


About Ruby Newell-Legner

As a Fan Experience Expert, Ruby helps leaders in sports, leisure and entertainment build strong teams between front line staff and management, and make exceptional customer service a way of life. She has consulted with and designed customized training programs for more than 60 sports and entertainment venues, 80 leisure facilities and 29 professional sports teams. From the only 7 Star Hotel in the world to Convention Centers, from Denver to Dubai, Ruby brings unprecedented expertise and insight on how to create a service culture that motivates employees and promotes customer loyalty and retention.

Opinions, feedback, and thoughts:

  1. Wow! All I can say is WOW!

  2. It’s a great story isn’t it Leslie? It was such an honor to work with them. Mr. Vinik and the entire leadership team is nothing short of amazing. They are truly leaders in the world of innovation in sports.

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