Leveraging the “We Want You Back” Opportunity
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), the parent company of the Toronto Raptors, went to work to devise a win-back strategy aimed at wooing back fans to remainder-of-season games. Said MLSE Director of Ticket Sales, Chris Overholt, “…There was an urgent need to rebuild our relationship with our 4,000 season-ticket holders. We wanted to provide them with updates on ticket pricing, seating, new players and other benefits as soon as possible.” But a quick turnaround was critical and direct mail and other traditional forms of communications, alone, were deemed too slow or not personal enough.
The solution? MLSE built its win-back plan around a CRM technology called “Ventriloquist Express” which allows a client’s voice, recorded from any touch-tone phone, to reach individual customers as a personal phone message. Ventriloquist, a technology provided by Toronto-based International Teledata Group (ITG), enabled MLSE to develop five different personalized and interactive broadcast messages to season-ticket holders over an eight-week period. And the price was right. Up to two-minute messages could be delivered for just 45 cents each and two- to three-minute messages for only 55 cents each.
Calling Fans to Action
MLSE developed a script for the first of five planned messages to Raptor fans. Butch Carter, the new Raptors head coach delivered the first message, a 1 minute and 30-second information summary. Carter’s strong vocal support of the team during the lockout and his new head coach status made him a natural choice for the initial message.
Concurrent to Carter’s recording the message, MSLE forwarded the season-ticket holder list (first and last name and phone number) to ITG. Using its extensive audio database of first names, Ventriloquist matched fans first names with the corresponding audio files to create a message that sounded as if Carter was calling the fans personally:
“Hi, its coach Butch Carter of the Toronto Raptors calling for FIRST NAME. Now that the lockout is over, I wanted to thank you for your continued patience…..we are working towards rewarding your commitment with a winning team…..I’ll have better, younger athletic newcomers and veteran leaders…..and, the new Air Canada Centre….I can tell you that the arena will finally show Toronto the way basketball is really meant to be played…”
At this point in the message, the ticket holders had several options: they could opt to listen for the personal message, request a call back from the Raptors, end the message, repeat the message or let the answering machine capture the message. Moreover, Raptor fans also had the option to receive no further messages from Ventriloquist.
Encouraged by initial response, MLSE decided to use Ventriloquist to also contact hundreds of Best-8 Mini Pack ticket holders. During the lockout, these fans had been allowed to cash in their tickets for a full refund. MLSE wanted to contact these people to get them re-enlisted as Mini-Pack fans. Within four short hours of the message being delivered, phone lines were lit up with callers confirming Mini-Pack attendance.
Other messaging over the eight week period included Richard Peddie calling fans about the new six-year collective bargaining agreement and Glen Grunwald, Raptors General Manager, calling fans on the evening of the opening game to update them on the new coach, players and to thank fans again for their support.
But MSLE didn’t stop there. With the goal of rebuilding its relationship with fans, MLSE also continued with its existing marketing communication tools, including direct mail, a medium already proven in its ability to leverage the Raptors’ star players. The Ventriloquist technology is proving to effectively support direct mail. ( MSLE reports that tracking has shown that the Ventriloquist technology has helped increase direct mail response rates, in some cases, by more than 280 percent.)
Although MLSE’s actual Raptor fan win-back numbers are considered proprietary and not for disclosure, the win-back program was classified a big success.
Your Win-back Opportunity
If you think an emergency the magnitude of a NBA lockout is necessary before your company develops a win-back strategy, think again. With the average company losing 20 to 40% of its customers yearly (for internet companies, defection rates are substantially higher), it is imperative that firms create hard-working strategies, not only for acquisition and retention but also for winning back lost customers and saving those on the brink of defection.
If you’re like most firms, at this moment, at least one-third of your customers are in some phase of defecting. And you are probably ill equipped to manage this risk. Need convincing? Consider this: Our nationwide defection study conducted among a cross section of business-to-business and consumer product and service industries found that 60% of sales managers and marketing managers surveyed had no system or process for identifying customers who are at high risk of defection. Our study also found that over 75 percent of purchasing agents surveyed reported giving suppliers advance warning about possible termination of the account. Yet these agents also reported that only about half of their suppliers responded assertively to this warning.
Never before have technological tools for winning back lost customers or saving at-risk customers been more available or affordable. And with a softening economy, keeping high value customers is more important than ever. To maximize customer loyalty, start today to create plans for winning back lost customers, saving customers on the brink of defection and making you company defection proof. It’s the surest way to score a big bottom line.
Jill Griffin is co-author of the new book, Customer Winback: How to Recapture Lost Customers and Keep Them Loyal and author of the business best seller, Customer Loyalty: How to Earn It, How To Keep It. Jill is principal of The Griffin Group, an Austin,Texas based customer loyalty research and consulting firm (www.loyaltysolutions.com). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.