When Spurs Sports & Entertainment, the premier provider of sporting events in South Texas, wanted to find a better way to reach customers, streamline their communication methods and provide greater support to their sales, marketing and internal teams, they turned to Zipwhip—an industry leader and dominant player in the Texting for Business™ software arena.
SS&E owns and operates the San Antonio Spurs (NBA), San Antonio Rampage (AHL), Austin Spurs (NBA G League) and San Antonio FC (USL). With so many team rosters to manage and promote, the organization wanted to make sure they stayed connected to their fan base while still maintaining an internal system that kept customer information secure. They also wanted to promote transparency among departments to achieve a more cohesive workflow.
Keeping the lines of communication open—including texting lines
Texting has proven to be an effective way for SS&E to communicate with their fans. You could even say it has netted some impressive results by helping each of their franchises open an alternative to traditional sales outreach methods such as email, phone calls and printed mail.
By giving their supporters a new channel to communicate with them, SS&E has shown a strong desire to be responsive to their core audience, which is primarily made up of basketball, soccer and hockey fans. Everyone from prospective customers to single-game attendees to season ticket holders can text their favorite teams and get answers about ticket sales, parking options, stadium food vendors, game schedules and more.
Texting also increases fan engagement by providing a fun and easy way for them to connect with the teams they love. They can text in questions, receive answers in real time and even participate in a variety of promotional activities.
“SMS texting has all the best qualities of a phone call
and the best qualities of an email rolled into one.”
— Jordan Kolosey, Sr. Director of Corporate Analytics & Insights
Data shows consumers prefer texting with businesses
According to Jordan Kolosey, senior director of corporate analytics & insights at SS&E, the organization had been hearing from their sales team that texting was how some customers preferred to engage, so the reps felt they had to use that communication channel in order to make the sale or provide the world-class service the team prides itself on.
Research conducted by Zipwhip confirms that consumers do prefer texting when it comes to communicating with a business. A recent survey on generational texting habits found that 74% of consumers said they would like to receive more text messages from businesses. And it continues to be a high-priority form of communication, with 3 out of 4 consumers in our 2019 State of Texting survey saying they respond to texts from businesses within an hour.
Private conversations were taking place without company visibility
SS&E already had the proof that texting was an effective way to communicate with fans, but they had concerns about their reps using their personal cell phones to have casual text conversations with clients. Bringing a professional software solution forward to formalize the process made sense.
While SS&E wanted their reps to be as nimble as possible in order to make a sale, they recognized that texting on personal phones using native texting apps led to a lack of transparency. They felt it was good that reps were developing customer relationships, but the organization knew that if they were to leave the company, the conversations along with the customer relationship could be lost.
Texting has a much higher open rate vs. email
One area in particular where they wanted to improve was in notifying customers about declined credit card payments as quickly as possible. They found that when sending the information by email it was often overlooked or got lost in the flurry of emails customers would receive from other senders.
Historically, their email open rate hovered around 20%. While strong by industry standard, that was a disappointing number from a message deliverability standpoint, especially given that the information contained in their messages was important and often time sensitive.
However, when they began sending the same information by text message, customers quickly took steps to rectify the situation so they could secure their seats. SS&E recognized that a large part of their success came from having that next-level channel that they could use to deliver critical information.
According to an article in Forbes, open rates for text messages can reach 98%. To capitalize on their positive results, SS&E also began sending texts with proactive information such as where to park, what to do if game tickets are lost or misplaced and other frequently asked questions.
Standing head and shoulders above the rest
In a crowded field of business texting companies, Zipwhip clearly stood out. In September 2017, the organization began using our texting service with a small test group of account executives and quickly activated it across five different departments and more than 40 staff members.
The first team to begin using the platform was the San Antonio FC. From there, the platform was rolled out across the San Antonio Rampage (AHL), San Antonio Spurs (NBA) and Austin Spurs (NBA Development League). To date, there are 68 different texting lines being used across the organization.
Chris Monroe, senior director of membership for SS&E, said “Zipwhip has increased our customer connectivity and helped strengthen relationships. Account execs have another tool in their toolbox and this contact method is one that busy, on-the-go clientele appreciate and respond to favorably.”
Chris noted the Zipwhip features they use most frequently relate to sending texts for meeting requests, client event confirmations, service cases, important game-night alerts related to the customer experience, Accounts Receivables and general client contact. Chris added, “Email sometimes has the connotation of a delayed response. The texting option allows us to communicate directly with clients and manage customer service cases more fluidly.”
“Zipwhip has increased our customer connectivity and helped strengthen relationships. Account execs have another tool in their toolbox and this contact method is one that busy, on-the-go clientele appreciate and respond to favorably.” — Chris Monroe, senior director of membership
Sales reps close deals faster with texting as a communication channel
For sales teams within SS&E, texting with customers is now a real game-changer.
Zipwhip’s flexible messaging platform fully supports mobile usage but it allows them to send and receive texts using company-provided laptop and desktop computers. Text messages can be typed using full-sized keyboards and viewed on large monitors for easier readability.
And to keep the momentum going, reps can communicate with more than one person at a time by navigating between open text windows. If a sales rep is waiting for one customer to reply, they can assist another without missing a beat. Nobody is left waiting on hold, which makes the experience a win-win for everyone.
While technology certainly helps sales reps succeed, the human element is still key. That’s where the benefit of two-way, conversational texting comes into play. As Jordan said, “An important part of being a successful sales professional is knowing how to build relationships. Great sales reps make it look easy, but excellent performance usually indicates that a salesperson knows how to effectively communicate with their prospects.”
Keeping customer information secure during the sales cycle
Whether it’s because of easy access or direct connectivity, texting has become a popular way for people to connect with the businesses they trust. Yet, it’s important to note that there can be risks for companies and sales teams when employees use personal cell phones to text with customers. Avoiding such risks was one of the primary reasons SS&E decided to move away from the practice.
Throughout the sales process, information exchanged in a text conversation often includes personal details such as first and last names, home and email addresses, and even one’s date of birth. That’s exactly the type of data consumers expect to be kept secure, along with their credit card information.
In addition, personal phones are highly vulnerable to data hackers. And, if an employee leaves the company, loses their mobile device or has it stolen, access to any sensitive customer information that was on it is now completely out of the company’s control.
For more information on how to avoid these risks and more, read our blog post on why your sales teams shouldn’t text on their personal phones.
Protecting fans’ privacy by encrypting messages
In addition to making it easy for fans to buy tickets, SS&E needed to protect the data they received from individuals who sent sensitive information by text. They also wanted all the information to be centralized so it could be seen by employees. Allowing staff members to have access to complete text conversation histories with customers enables them to perform their jobs better.
SS&E’s decision to use Zipwhip became easier after learning that they have partnerships with all the major telephone carriers and use industry-leading anti-spam safeguards. Zipwhip is also one of the few texting providers with SOC 2 Type 1 compliance, signifying trust and confidence in a company’s security. That meant all messages and personal identifiable information sent by customers would be encrypted with state-of-the-art technology.
“The fact that text messages can be tracked in our CRM, just like we would an email, that was incredibly powerful for us.”
— Jordan Kolosey, Sr. Director of Corporate Analytics & Insights
Teaming up: integrating texting with CRMs
Before signing on the dotted line, SS&E performed their due diligence and verified that Zipwhip integrated with their existing CRM and internal software systems. Meghan Passineau, CRM manager for the organization, said, “Implementing Zipwhip has been simple and seamless. The integration with Microsoft Dynamics 365 has been mostly smooth and the ongoing support has been stellar since day one.”
Meghan went on to say, “Zipwhip is always quick to respond, and in the one case where we had to open a support case for a technical issue, the support team was very prompt and able to resolve the problem quickly. Our reps were very quick to adapt to the platform. After their initial training period the ramp-up was fast and they were ready to start using the platform immediately.”
Analyzing data is more than a numbers game
From an analytical perspective, centralizing their customer data and getting internal tools to work together has been a big part of SS&E’s success. One of the initial things that drew them to Zipwhip was their top-notch CRM integration. “When you’re working with large amounts of data across different systems, it helps when prebuilt integrations bring data sets together side by side. The insights just grow exponentially,” Jordan said.
“You can build a dashboard that pulls from multiple data sets and standardize what that reporting looks like. If someone’s texting us and actively asking questions, does that increase their likelihood to renew or do we know that a lot of people who didn’t renew texted in and used some key phrase or word? And so, we know that if someone texts in with that phrase or word, danger lights should flash on and we should do everything we can to turn that around with that account,” Jordan added.
Matt Bruhn, senior account executive with Zipwhip, who has developed a close working relationship with several members of the organization said, “Spurs Sports is technologically one of the most forward-thinking organizations I have ever worked with. Not only has adoption spread across all sports properties under the SS&E umbrella, but they have continued to bring new ideas to the forefront. Whether it’s ways we can improve the platform with additional features, or innovative ways to utilize the tool, Spurs Sports & Entertainment has been a leader in the Zipwhip sports vertical.”
One example is SS&E’s desire to provide the best customer experience possible by responding to customer inquiries quickly on game nights. With a limited staff, they needed a way to maximize their employee resources. The solution they chose was to combine an AI solution from Satisfi Labs to answer simple questions and pass the more pressing questions directly to Zipwhip for conversation via text messaging. Given that Satisfi Labs has an integrated solution with Zipwhip, all communications flow directly into the Microsoft Dynamics CRM for a centralized source of data. From there, an SS&E employee is able to quickly respond to the text message.
Changing hearts and minds inside Spurs Sports & Entertainment
Jordan added, “Zipwhip has been at the forefront of changing hearts and minds internally by diversifying how SS&E communicates with fans.” He noted that the traditional mindset is shifting, where company reps would make phone calls and send emails, then the marketing department would send mass market emails that were not quite as targeted, but they would hopefully soften the ground for the ticket sales groups when they reached out to customers.
Stating that he has been blown away with how intuitive it is to use the platform, Jordan concluded, “SMS is a very powerful messaging tool that’s at the forefront of how people communicate. Now, it’s just a part of how the sales teams conduct business. When they’re assigned a lead, whether it’s an online web inquiry or an inbound lead, some reps just naturally send an email and a text message, and they allow the user to respond in their preferred method.”
From SS&E’s perspective, the learning curve was so short and the software design so user-friendly, its usage grew organically throughout the organization. As time went on, reps and managers in the sales and service areas talked to each other more and more about all the successes they were having.
Adding a final note, Matt from Zipwhip shared, “I always tell folks on my sales calls that texting isn’t necessarily making the sale, but it is getting you on that closing call faster.”
Start engaging with season ticket holders today and follow up on customer service inquires using the medium your fans prefer. Learn more about adding texting for the sports industry to your sales and service department phone numbers with two-way texting.