Getting the word out to customers without tipping off the media was the challenge. Knowing better than most what technology can do, Allen had invested in a Web-based customer relationship management system in 1999, one that captured customers’ email addresses and specified their preferred way of being contacted. Within days, the Blazers got the word out about “See Red” night, and more than 90 percent of the fans caught the spirit.
The Blazers’s eCRM system, sold by Bellevue, Washington—based Onyx Software Inc. (www.onyx.com), captures data on all interactions between the team and ticket buyers, from the big- time sponsors and corporate box holders who fete their clients to more regular folks who bring the kids for some hot dogs and hollering.
In the post—Michael Jordan era, basketball finds itself competing fiercely with action movies, boy bands, and even Nintendo, so knowing who the customers are and what they respond to has become more important than ever. Today, when season ticket holders call up the Blazers (or receive so-called wellness calls from service reps), they have a very personal experience, with questions like, “Did Tessa graduate yet? Did you get that Scottie Pippen poster? Will you be bringing the boys to Boy Scouts night?”
“Our customers expect more in this day and age,” says Jim Kotchik, senior vice president and CFO of the Trail Blazers. “They’re paying more for games and want more in return — a better entertainment experience and better service.” And with the newly built Rose Garden holding 20,000 fans versus fewer than 13,000 for the previous venue, the Trail Blazers had to find ways to put bodies in all those additional seats.
The CRM data is a veritable gold mine of potential sales leads, telling reps the types of events the ticket buyer enjoys (country western music, for example), how they like to be contacted (by email), and what they like to be contacted about (Friday night events). In addition, the system gives the company leverage with promoters representing artists who may be unsure whether a Portland stop makes sense. “By tapping into the CRM database, we can point out that there are 10,000 people interested in an Eric Clapton concert,” explains Cesarano.
The big test of the system came in 1999, a few months after it was installed. Allen wanted to bring a women’s basketball team franchise to Portland, but the Women’s National Basketball Association said he’d need to sell at least 5,500 season tickets before it would guarantee a franchise. The team decided that parents of school-age girls would be hot prospects, and the CRM system made it easy to identify and contact them.
Kotchik says the two primary ROI metrics used to determine the effectiveness of the eCRM strategy — productivity improvement and customer service — indicate it is paying off handsomely. “We can measure things like overall revenue, but that wouldn’t tell us if we’ve got more fans because of how we service them or because the team just pulled in two new superstars,” says Kotchik. “We needed to develop other metrics to analyze the impact.”