Sadly Saying Goodbye to Pete Winemiller

petewinemillerI just heard that Pete Winemiller passed away, and it hit me hard. I knew that he had been battling cancer, but I thought that he was winning the fight. How could he not? Pete was one of the most positive people that I’ve ever met. The world lost a wonderful man… and a true customer experience trailblazer.

Pete was the Senior Vice President, Guest Relations for the NBA’s OKC Thunder. His work on customer experience focused on the people who were interacting with fans. Not just employees of the Thunder, but all of the people from all of the partners who played some role in the fan experience, including concessions, parking, ticketing, maintenance, and even the police force.

I actually was privileged to give Pete and his team two different CX awards. In 2012, the Thunder earned Temkin Group’s CX Excellence Award. When Pete heard that they had won, he immediately asked if we could provide multiple versions of the award to give to his partners. He brought his partners out during the half-time of a game to share the award with them.

In 2014, the Thunder won a CXPA.org CX Innovation Award. Pete flew in to accept the award and I gave it to him on stage. He was a big man who had a huge, warm handshake. As with all of his accolades, he wanted to share the award with all of the Thunder partners. In November of 2014, I went to OKC with my daughter to participate in the halftime ceremony (I’m on the left and Pete is next to me).

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I really enjoyed that visit (you can read about it here). It was great to see Pete operate. He seemed to know the names of all the people who were working at the game. As he walked around the stadium, he was both a cheerleader and a stickler for quality. In his wake, he left a highly engaged workforce, most of whom were only part-time employees.

Pete was a great example of a purposeful leader. He operated with a clear, well articulated set of values. As a result, all of the employees who affected the fan experience delivered on the OKC Thunder’s five service principles (acronym CLICK!):

  • Communicate courteously
  • Listen to learn
  • Initiate immediately
  • Create connections
  • Know your stuff

We regularly interviewed Pete as part of our research, so you will see snippets of the OKC Thunder’s efforts in may of our reports. One of the most detailed overviews of Pete’s work can be seen in our 2013 report, Lesson in CX Excellence (download for free using the code “ThanksPeteW“).

The world lost a true CX trailblazer and a great human being. I’ll miss him.

R.I.P. Pete.

Off Topic: Who Are NFL Fans?

Today is the first Sunday of the 2016 NFL season. (Go Pats!)

So I tapped into our Q1 2016 benchmark of U.S, consumers to look at the make-up of NFL fans, examining the consumers who say they like watching the NFL (and other pro sports) on TV. As you can see in the chart below:

  • NFL is the king of U.S. pro sports. The appeal for football is more than 20-points higher than baseball and basketball.
  • Older males love the NFL. Males of every age like to watch football more than their female peers, and the level of interest increases with every increase of age. For females, 45 to 54 is the prime time for NFL interest.
  • Gender gap jumps at 35. For consumers who are 35 and older, the gap between male and female NFL fans is more than 20 points.
  • More income means more NFL. Consumers who earn $100K or more are considerably more active fans of the NFL on TV than are those who earn less.
  • Sheraton’s customers are NFL fans. We examined the customer bases of 318 companies across 20 industries. The level of NFL fandom ranges from a high of 74% of Sheraton’s customers down to 48% of Empire BCBS’ customers.

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Off Topic: Young Adults Turn Off Baseball, Turn On Soccer

One of the things I noticed at this year’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is that teams were not as focused on the issue of losing younger fans. So I decided to see if there’s anything to worry about. While we don’t have data on kids, we do have lots of data on young adults.

I tapped into our 2012 and 2016 consumer benchmark studies to examine the percentage of of 18- to 24-year-olds who enjoy watching sports on TV. It turns out that:

  • The top 3 major league sports across all U.S. adults this year is football/NFL (56%), baseball/MLB (35%), and basketball/NBA (33%). For young adults, the top three are the NFL (46%), the NBA (38%), and soccer/MLS (23%).
  • Over the past four years, young adults have lost some interest in five of the eight sports we examine.
  • MLB has dropped the most (down 3.4 %-points) followed by NASCAR (down 2.6 %-points).
  • MLS has increased the most (up 7.1 points) followed by the NBA (up 2.5 points).

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14 Highlights From the 2016 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

This week, I made my 5th annual pilgrimage to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. As always, I really enjoyed hearing players, owners, general managers, members of the press, and experts discuss two of my favorite topics: #sports and #analytics.

This was the 10th year of the conference. I want to say congratulations and thank you to the two co-founders and leaders of this great event:

  • Jessica Gelman (VP of Customer Marketing & Strategy, The Kraft Sports Group)
  • Daryl Morey (General Manager, Houston Rockets)

Moneyball Reunion

The conference opened up with a session called Moneyball Reunion, looking back at the book that fueled the sports analytics movement. Jackie MacMullen led a panel with Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball), Bill James (godfather of sports analytics), and Paul DePodesta (key player it the Moneyball story and now Chief Strategy Office of Cleveland Browns). Here’s one of my favorite scenes from the Moneyball movie:

Interesting comments from Michael Lewis:

  • He started out researching an article on financial inequities in baseball, wondering what the Oakland Athletics’ right fielder (who made $100K/year) felt about the fact that the right fielder was making $4M/year.
  • Bill James referred to a picture of the baseball diamond that was on his wall as a “field of ignorance.”
  • “Billy Beane had to learn not to trust his intuitive judgement.”
  • When he looked at the Oakland Athletics coming out of the shower for the first time, he was shocked at how fat and un-athletic they looked. He went on to say that the trick was to “find people with some defect that was overvalued.”

Interesting comments from Bill James:

  • I was just trying to get from a question to an answer. I never thought of the use of the data by baseball professionals.”
  • There was a lot of discussion about what people can’t do, which is irrelevant. What’s important is what people can do…. You win games with what people can do.”
  • When MacMullen asked how to speed up the game of baseball today, James said to get rid of the balk rule. He said the balk rule slows down the game the same that basketball would be slowed down if the fast break was eliminated.

14 Key Highlights From the Conference

Here are some other key themes that I heard during the conference. They don’t represent a full view of the event, because I only attended a subset of the sessions.

Read More …

11 Highlights From the 2015 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

This week, I attended the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Once again, I really enjoyed hearing players, owners, general managers, members of the press, and experts discuss two of my favorite topics: #sports and #analytics. Here are 11 highlights from the sessions that I attended:

1) The Van Gundy family is entertaining. My highlights from last year’s conference included several memorable quotes from Stan Van Gundy (Coach of the Detroit Pistons). While Stan didn’t speak at the conference this year, his brother Jeff Van Gundy (ESPN Analyst and Former NBA Coach) who said that his brother “Stan has steel balls” filled the void with his very outspoken approach. One of the funniest moments was Van Gundy’s rant about how to coach a 4th grade girls basketball team [in response to something that I heard Vivek Ranadivé (Majority Owner, Sacramento Kings) say last year]. He pretty much said that the trick is to get two of the lower performing girls not to show up so that you can have your two best girls play for most of the game.

2) Shane Battier was basketball analytics’ ground zero. Let me start by saying how impressed I was with Shane Battier (College Basketball Analyst, ESPN; Retired NBA Player). Not only was he styling some sharp green pants (see below), but he was incredibly smart and articulate. Daryl Morey (GM of the Houston Rockets), who traded for Battier, said the trade was the first one based on analytics and he got killed in the press for it. While Battier didn’t have great numbers, Morey could tell that his game was a strong complement to the Rockets’ key players, Yao Ming and Tracey McGrady. Michael Lewis, who wrote a great exposé on Battier in the New York Time called The No-Stats All-Star), described Battier as a “lab rat who understood the experiment.” Battier refined his game to focus on the places where the analytics said he added the most value to his team, defending opponents’ best player and shooting 3 point shots. Read More …

NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder CLICKs With Its Fans

I attended last night’s Oklahoma City Thunder game to participate in a ceremony awarding the NBA team’s partners with a CX Innovation Award from the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org).

Actually, the Thunder won the award for its fan experience efforts. But the NBA organization feels so strongly about the role that its partners play in the overall experience that it shares these types of awards with partners.

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In addition to the Thunder’s Pete Winemiller, Senior Vice President, Guest Relations and Danny Barth, Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, I was joined on the court by Gary Desjardins from SMG, Steven Tamborello from SAVOR, Joe Guthrie from Levy Restaurants, Brandi Plumlee from Force Personnel, Aaron Blum from Gameday Merchandising, and Major Brian Jennings from the Oklahoma City Police Department.

There are actually dozens of partners that create the OKC Thunder fan experience. They collectively help the Thunder achieve its mission to be “the most FAN-centric organization in professional sports.” The Thunder does a great job, it even won a 2012 Temkin Group CX Excellence Award.

The Thunder’s approach to fan experience includes having all front-line team members, from parking to concessions (including police officers assigned to the game), participate in its CLICK™ With Your Guests training program. This is part of the Thunder’s three-step customer experience improvement process: Educate, Evaluate, and Congratulate.

The acronym CLICK! represents the Thunder’s five service principles:

  • Communicate courteously
  • Listen to learn
  • Initiate immediately
  • Create connections
  • Know your stuff

I really enjoyed touring the “on stage” and “off stage” areas of the game with Winemiller. The signage clearly reinforced the team’s message with employees.

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Everywhere we went, we met happy, engaged employees (who worked for many different organizations). Most of them were wearing lanyards around their necks with FAQ’s to answer customer questions, key information for their jobs, and the CLICK! Principles. On the back of their CLICK! With Your Guests cards was a note or picture that each person had created for themselves, which identified something that they wanted to do above and beyond the “non-negotiable” CLICK! principles.

I witnessed one team member receiving a CLICK! Chip, which recognizes employees for doing a little thing that makes a big difference for fans. Winemiller called these “employee of the moment awards.” Once employees receive four chips, they can redeem them for an “I CLICK! With My Guests” pin and select one of many unique gifts not available to the general public (a few employees were sporting a very sharp-looking Thunder scarf). Here’s one of those employees, Tori, who had just selected a set of headphones for her prize (notice the branding on the bag).

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Thunder employees can also win monthly Fan Favorite and employee of the year awards.

Winemiller calls complaints free consulting. That’s why the Thunder collects feedback in many ways including intercept surveys at the game, post-game surveys, secret shoppers, text messages, comment/complaint cards, and several visible guest relations booths. And they act on what they learn. After every game, the Thunder meet with leaders from their partner organizations on the floor to discuss any issues or lessons learned that they can use to improve the next game’s experience.

I really enjoyed the game, and need to give a special shout out to Kaylee Lonsinger, Guest Communication Coordinator, who helped make this fan’s experience so wonderful. I even had a special visitor come to my seat.

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The bottom line: Do your employees CLICK! with customers?

Female Sports Enthusiasts are the Happiest

In recent posts I explored the demographics of sports enthusiasts and the demographics of happiness. So why not  look at those two topics together? I dug into our U.S. consumer benchmark and examined the happiness of males and females who enjoy watching sports. As we know from the previous analysis, females are happier than males. But this analysis also shows that:

  • Females who enjoy golf are the happiest consumers.
  • The happiest males are those who enjoy golf, soccer, or tennis.
  • Consumers who enjoy sports are much happier than those who don’t.
  • The largest female-male happiness gap occurs with consumers who don’t enjoy sports. When it comes to sports enthusiasts, the largest gap is with golf, basketball, and football.

SportsHappinessGenderThe bottom line: Sports enthusiasts are happier people

Analytics from Mark Cuban to Text Mining

As I mentioned in a previous post that analyzed sports enthusiasts in the U.S., I recently attended the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. The event was fantastic! I enjoyed all of the sessions that I attended that included a who’s who list of people in the sports world such as: Mark Cuban, Scott Boras, Drew Carey, Eric Mangini, Jeannie Buss, Jeff Van Gundy, Jonathan Kraft, Mark Shapiro, Michael Wilbon, Bill Simmons, Steve Tisch, and the grandfather of sports analytics Bill James (who deservingly was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award).

I also just got back from attending the Clarabridge Customer Connections at the Doral in Miami where I gave the opening keynote speech: What Makes a Good Voice of the Customer Program? Interestingly, it was also the location of this week’s World Golf Championships so there were PGA people all over the grounds.

Given how much I enjoyed those two events, I’ve decided to list out 10 things I learned, observed, and/or enjoyed:

  • #10: It’s good to be Mark Cuban. Mark missed a couple of the sessions, but showed up for his one-on-one interview with Bill Simmons (ESPN). He was great, totally relaxed, even smacking Bill on the back of the head as he walked on stage. He talked about the NBA lockout as “...lockout bullshit. You talk about a whole lot of time on a whole lot of nothing.”  And he went onto say that the NBA stands for “Nothing But Attorneys.” In his tweets, Cuban referred to the event as the dorkapalooza. I’ve added “hang out with Mark Cuban” on my list of goals in life; he seems like a lot of fun.
  • #9: The NBA is an analytical hotbed. Cuban said that the stats that you read in the box scores for NBA games “are pretty useless.” So the Mavericks have four people at games logging information that they use to make in-game decisions. The Mavericks won the award at the event for “Best Analytical Decision” based on the team’s decision to move J.J. Barea into the starting line-up at last year’s NBA championships. In addition, the winning presentation in the “Evolution of Sports” track was titled “From 5 to 13, Redefining Positions in Basketball” that used cluster analysis to identify 13 unique types of players instead of the guard, forward, center model used in the past. Also, we heard that many NBA arenas are putting three cameras on each end of the floor so they can track the X/Y/Z coordinates of players and ball movement to fuel more advanced analysis.
  • #8: Taking action on insights is precious. I started my keynote speech by getting the audience to do a chant: “Feedback is cheap. Actionable insights may be valuable. Taking action on insights is precious.” My speech was all about how to focus voice of the customer efforts in a way that they add business value. As a part of my speech, I also discussed how many existing market research practices are obsolete. And, I ended my speech as I started it, with the chant: “Feedback is cheap. Actionable insights may be valuable. Taking action on insights is precious.”
  • #7: Big analytics vendors are missing from sports. As with most conferences, the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference had its trade show full of vendors. But, surprisingly to me, there weren’t any of the big guys like SAS or IBM SPSS at the event (at least with high visibility). All of the vendors were sports-specific providers like EDGE10, StarStreet, and Team Rankings.
  • #6: Making people believe is critical. One of the sessions at the sports analytics was “The Power of Belief in Sports.” It examined some research about how athletes can improve their performance. The study that was discussed examined what happened after giving athletes performance enhancing things (like caffein or acupuncture). By doing a study with placebos, the researchers found that the level of improvement was not determined by whether or not the athlete received the enhancements. It was much more driven by whether they believed they received the enhancement and how much they believed that it would help them.
  • #5: I’m a proud Sloanie. As a Sloan alumnus, It was great to see the MIT Sloan School lead such a great event. One of the co-chairs of the event was Daryl Morey, General Manager of the Houston Rockets, who is also a former MIT Sloan grad. There were also about 50 other Sloan students who were active in planning and running the event. Nice job Sloanies!
  • #4: Parking in Boston is a mess. We drive into Boston on the first day to attend the sports analytics conference at the Hynes Center. There are no obvious signs as to where to park, so we ended in the main Prudential Parking lot. It’s a huge labyrinth of parking sections. After finding a spot, we walked aimlessly for a few minutes trying to figure out where to walk to get out of the parking lot — there weren’t any signs. All that was just for the honor of paying $30 for parking.
  • #3: You’ve got to speak the right language. Scott Boras discussed how different parties have different languages and you need to speak their language. Players are typically kids in their 20s who come to the ballpark every day and just want to perform better. They discuss things like weight shifts and batting stance and care about optimizing what amounts to be a pretty short tenure as a professional athlete for most of them. Managers need to figure out line-ups every day that will give them the best chance to win. Owners want to win and make money, with a different emphasis across owners. I used this point in my speech, because its critical that analytical insights are translated into the language of the people that you want to use them. A store manager does not have the same needs as a product manager, so trying to show them the same voice of the customer insights and data in the same reports won’t be effective. You need to customize what they see to the decisions that they are going to make with the insights.
  • #2: The Seattle Sounders are customer-centric, who knew? I was surprised to see Drew Carey (the actor) on the agenda at the sports analytics conference. But it turns out that he is an owner of the Seattle Sounders, a soccer team in the MLS, and a funny guy who is comfortable swearing on stage. The club has adopted some very customer-centric practices like having an advisory board of season ticket holders that provide feedback on strategies and decisions and even has the power to replace the general manager. These fan-centric efforts have really worked, as they get about 40,000 people to attend their matches. Here’s what Drew said about what they’re doing at the Sounders “If I owned a Costco, I’d do it [the same practices] there.” The Sounders appear to be a good business case to study.
  • #1: Text analytics is a requirement. For several years I’ve been advising companies to look into text analytics as a way to tap into a myriad of wasted insights from call center interactions, sales notes, social media, and open-ended comments on surveys. I even wrote a post a couple of years ago called It’s Time For Text Analytics and have listed “unstructured data appreciation” as one of the key customer experience megatrends. Clarabridge and other vendors in the space have fine-tuned the technology to serve many key customer experience use cases. I really liked some of the new capabilities that were highlighted at the event: Automatic theme detection, root cause analysis, and collaboration. Other than the price tag, there’s no reason for any large company not to have some text analytics efforts under way.

The bottom line: I really enjoy combining sports and analytics

Off Topic: Pro Sports Appeal To Different Ethnic Groups

Tomorrow and Saturday I’ll be attending the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. It’s an amazing line-up of the biggest names in sports. And they’ll be talking my language: sports, statistics, and analytics.

In honor of the conference, I did some of my own analysis of pro sports, digging into our recent consumer survey to identify which US consumers prefer watching eight different professional sports. As you can see below, the sports have strongholds with different ethnic groups:

  • Football appeals the most to African Americans
  • Basketball appeals the most to African Americans (basketball has the largest ethnic gap, 38 percentage points between African Americans and Caucasians).
  • Baseball appeals the most to Hispanics
  • NASCAR appeals the most to Caucasians
  • Hockey appeals the most to Caucasians
  • Golf appeals the most to Asians
  • Tennis appeals the most to African Americans
  • Soccer appeals the most to Hispanics

The bottom line: Analysis matters in sports, even on the business/marketing side