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What Business Leaders Can Learn from Sports Fans

By Seiki "Stan" Hirota

Originally published October 15, 2019 on LinkedIn

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

The $1.5 billion Mercerdes-Benz Stadium, better known to sports fans as the new home of the Atlanta Falcons, is more than an architectural masterpiece, even with its Pantheon inspired, color-changing retractable roof and 360-degree video board.

What’s magnificent about the building, aside from the obvious, is that every construction decision, from the views to the seats to the menus, was shaped by a singular driver; to create an ultimate fan experience.

Business leaders can learn from the stadium architects and owners by considering how to create the best customer experiences – and then shaping their decision-making around those answers. Here are four considerations to think about.

Keep Customers at the Core

Regardless of industry, products, or service, businesses have to meet customer needs in order to stay relevant and profitable. While some organizations (Amazon, Apple, Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines) seem to have mastered the art of reinventing the customer experience, the key to realizing this vision is putting customers at the center of every decision.

For Falcons owner, Arthur Blank, operating with a fan-centric culture means worrying about the value provided to the customers as the purpose, instead of profits. His rationale: when you deliver the right experience, the money will follow.

Every business leader can apply this same mantra by focusing on the best ways to engage their customers. By creating memorable experiences, customers will come back time and time again.

Ask Customers What They Want

It’s hard to deliver the right customer experience if you don’t know exactly what your customers expect it to be. This is where data, information and analytics become priceless to an organization. Visit or survey customers to find out how they make their purchase decisions, how they want the products or services to be delivered, and what matters to them. Constantly ask for feedback about the service, the product, or what they with the company to offer them. For the Mercedez-Benz Stadium, owners used “fan intelligence” to help determine their service offerings. When you ask for feedback, you can determine what’s working – and what isn’t. This information can be a catalyst for the necessary changes that need to happen.

Put Words Into Action

Shape your marketing and customer journeys around what the data says. Once you know what customers want, it’s time to meet their expectations. It may not happen all at once, but customers will want to see the effort. One compelling story that comes to my mind when I think about working toward what customers want, is how Domino’s Pizza overcame a crisis in 2009. Their customers were telling them that they had the worst pizza in the US with the crust tasting like a cardboard and the sauce tasting like ketchup. I will try to write a separate blog regarding this incident with Domino’s Pizza, but their first step started from admitting the mistakes and listening to the customers. While improvements or adjustments may be incremental, over time they equate to big changes (read more about the importance of continuous improvement in my blog, “The Business Roadmap called Kaizen.”)

Remember Experience Often Overrules Price

Would it surprise you to know that 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience? Another survey found that 64% of customers say their experience is more important than the price. This means that you can have the best product or service on the universe, but if the customers find it cumbersome, difficult, or stressful to obtain it, they will take their business elsewhere.

These stats (and there are plenty of others) demonstrate just how influential a great experience can be in your long-term intimate relationship with your customers. Like the experience Falcons fans have at their new stadium, the experience your customers have will determine their long-term loyalty. Deliver what they want and you’ll win the game.

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