What does it really mean to delight premium customers?

What does it really mean to delight premium customers?
by Kirk Wakefield – July 2013

Sports franchises may draw some of the less-discerning masses with dollar hot dog night and all-you-can-ingest seating sections, but luxury seats and suite buyers expect intimate personalization. 

You can’t get intimate with an advertised special or promotion night. As with any other relationship in life, intimacy doesn’t lend itself to just anyone who makes an offer. As customers, we are only willing to commit ourselves to those who take the time to get to know us, understand what we like or prefer, and are interested in our past. Then, maybe, we can talk about having a future together.

What does it mean to delight customers?

Consumer psychologists have studied the concept of consumer delight–the consequence of surprise mixed with joy–for over two decades. Not all surprises are good, of course. Surprise mixed with anger results in outrage. Good to avoid those types of surprises.

More aggressive, proactive properties now go beyond trying to satisfy customers to interact on a very personalized basis. Why?

Selling suites and luxury seats caters to an expert clientele dissatisfied with what everyone else gets.

Fans with limited resources and experiences (novices in terms of sport & entertainment consumption) may be excited just to see a game from the upper deck. But expectations are much higher in premium sales situations and it takes much more to truly delight expert consumers.

Start with knowing your customer

Steve Massi
Steve Massi

Steve Massi, Director of Marketing and Client Strategy at International Micro Systems, explains, “Customer delight is driven by one primary insight: Know Your Customer. At IMS, we transform our customers’ businesses through unique utilization of real-time customer-centric data, resulting in more relevant customer engagement, customer experiences and organization-wide ROI.”

How can this kind of technology lead to delighting customers? The STADIS© Data Integration, Promotions and Engagement Platform empowers properties to use customer data two primary ways:

intimate personalization
Fan Intimacy
  1. First, to drive real-time behavioral engagement and incremental revenue at the transactional “moment of truth,” and
  2. Second, by making this customer-centric data accessible and actionable to develop more relevant offers, communication, and customer experiences.

Mass/group focus vs. Individual focus

Pre-planned, scripted elements of the event experience are aimed at masses or groups. No surprise there. And no delight.

Venues with commercial messages seen on TV surprise no one. Bored or annoyed would be more like it.

Groups brought on the court for special occasions are expected. The only possible delight is when the little kid in the dance squad performs in some unexpected way. Of course, those in the group benefit from belonging, connecting, and recognition (see Fan Intimacy matrix). Semi-scripted portions are more enjoyable.

We only begin to make real progress when we begin to reward and acknowledge individuals with meaningful, relevant methods illustrating our understanding of the customer as an individual.

Brandon Steffek
Brandon Steffek


Brandon Steffek, Director of Sales at Full House, helps properties delight customers by incorporating variable information into the designs and content of email and direct mail collateral. Through analyzing market and customer data, Full House can use variable information such as surnames, demographics, company names, industry specific images and content to appeal directly to the behaviors most applicable to customers. Brandon emphasizes, “This approach creates a more personalized and meaningful touch to our email and direct mail efforts both internally and for our customers.” 

The Oakland Raiders, for instance, can personalize emails and mailings to individuals who’ve leased a suite in the past or are identified as potential suite customers.


First thing to do

The first thing you must do to delight premium customers is simply to understand that’s the goal. If you think it’s just to sell them space in a seat or suite, provide an entertaining experience, and good service, they can get that at a lot of places. If you continue to do only what expected, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.

The second thing you must do is take advantage of the technologies available to us today to market, sell, and service on an individual personalized basis. We’d love to hear your ideas and examples of ways you’ve found to truly delight premium buyers in your markets. Leave a comment or tweet to us @BaylorS3 and @KirkWakefield.

Download our Sales and Technology Presentation from the 2013 ALSD Conference.

Dynamic parking? Who will be first?

Dynamic parking? Who will be first?
by Kirk Wakefield – March 2013

Who started dynamic pricing anyway?

Following deregulation in the early ’80s American Airlines initiated dynamic ticket pricing to deal with new low cost competitors. Extra points if anyone remembers People Express. People Express offered a simplified fare structure and was first to charge an extra fee for each checked bag. So, they had that going for them. Before they went out of business.

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Are airlines stalking me?

Don’t be so paranoid. Of course they are. Airlines have gotten so good at dynamic pricing they even use it each time you visit their websites.

Have you ever thought the price went up just because you showed interest in a flight? It’s quite possible it did. Helpful hint: Clear your browser history & cookies before going back to the site. It may not work but at least you’ll feel better for trying. [/dropshadowbox]

A short 30 years later the sports industry is coming around. Since the San Francisco Giants fully converted to dynamic pricing in 2009, many others have followed suit. Why? They understand the economics of a system that simultaneously increases total revenue and reduces average prices to the consumer.

Why not parking?

Like seemingly every other technological breakthrough, the bay area leads the way. SFPark is the first municipality to implement dynamic pricing for parking meters. Rates vary from 25¢ to $6.00 during normal hours with an original cap of $18 for special events. Just this month spots around AT&T Park on Giants’ game times moved to $5-7/hour dependent on proximity. As traffic and parking patterns change, prices adjust 25-50¢ each month around the city. Prices by location are easily viewed online. And, of course, there’s an app for that.

Teams could wait until the Giants or another bay area team does it, but with a little fan education and ingenuity, others could increase team revenue and fan satisfaction.

Some people, like me, would just as soon park further from the stadium to avoid exit traffic and maybe even get a little exercise. I have season tickets to every Baylor sport and parking passes I never use. Then again I live a block from campus. The point is teams issue parking passes and set parking prices without determining who values them and when.

If we’re willing to apply the fundamentals of economics to tickets, why not parking?

Transparency the key

Kirk’s LFA

Years ago we researched grocery shoppers finding the majority (55%) couldn’t even tell you the price of what they just put in the basket two seconds ago. Clearly not everyone is price sensitive. Last week I heard a presentation claiming “everyone is so cost-conscious.” Really? That must explain all of the Porsche, BMW, and Lexus cars parked on the streets. And that’s just the Baylor students.

The point is some people are price-conscious and some aren’t. Let’s let those who want to pay less walk more and those who want to walk less pay more.

San Francisco is successful because they transparently communicate about the process.  Those who care enough to save a quarter will seek out the best prices, just like the same people who coupon-clip to their heart’s delight. Those who drive a Lexus LFA won’t think once about whatever price tacked on for parking.

So, who’ll be first?

We can think of plenty of reasons why we can’t or don’t want to do it. The question is: How could it work with the parking we control? For instance, some teams like the Yankees already have all parking online, so it wouldn’t be hard to go to variable pricing.

Innovators like the Giants took the first stab at tickets. Who will do it with parking?