26 October 2021
A Q&A with Former CTO, Charles Sims
In the space of a week, our team flew to the US to meet with the LA Clippers, and the rest they say, is history. Here we chat to Charles Sims, Former Chief Technology Officer for the Clippers, about how EngageRM has changed their club for the better.
How do the Clippers approach sales and using technology to boost outcomes?
At many of the sports organizations across the US, you have a large sales team which are made up of those experiences sales staff and the interns who are just breaking into the industry. We’ve been running on the philosophy that more salespeople equal more sales, but now we are shifting our vision to ask how we can sell more tickets without adding those 50 bodies that we used to rely on. That’s where EngageRM come in, we can use this technology and conversational intelligence to get the best out of the people we already have. That conversational intelligence has been a game changer for us, it provides our team with a changing script based on the CRM identifying who we’re talking to and our relationship with that person. So, we’ve shifted from a very heavy sales orientated mindset to one that is more efficient.
How are the Clippers using CRM and technology across the business and how much of an impact has it had?
In the past, CRM has been seen as difficult for the user, an extra step in their day. However, were now focusing on how a CRM can make us better to then make the business more money. Especially in sales, everything can be a little all over the place, but with a CRM it’s all in the one system and our sales team can use all that information to make more sales. In terms of sponsorships, the CRM enables us to easily track what was activated and what was leftover, which helped us when the season was shut due to COVID. Finally, finance has been overhauled as well, with all our data streaming into one platform.
How have you found the change into a virtual world, especially after COVID?
Originally, we began with a form of a virtual crowd, where our supporters would show up when there was a free throw for example. But what we realized rather quickly was that it all seemed a bit clunky, and there was no atmosphere. So instead, we used Microsoft Teams to create different experiences for our fans such as 24 second challenges and a kiss cam to create that experience game day experience at home. It’s a big question around how long this will continue for and how we can build this into our post-pandemic operations which is exciting for that virtual fan experience.
What is the main benefit you’ve seen from embracing the use of CRM technology?
The reason why we brought on EngageRM is that in a lot of US sporting organizations try to build an app within an app, and this doesn’t translate well across a while company with all the different departments trying to access data. So, when the Clippers decided to go back Microsoft there was a lot of IP that we’d have to rebuild, which is where the EngageRM platform fit right in. we integrated the platform into our processes and that is the main benefit, that the platform was created to meet our needs and fit in well.
In what other areas of the fan journey are you using data and analytics? And how does this spread across the business?
What I’ve always said about data is that it is an influential piece of invaluable property not to be taken lightly. I don’t want to collect data with the sole purpose of using it to push sales and such, I want to use it to provide tailored fan experiences. Say your favorite player is Kawhi Leonard, and we know that from our CRM, well then as soon as you scan your tickets, we can identify that there is an opening at the high-five tunnel which Leonard will be at. The CRM enables us to send a notification offering that spot to those fans and that might influence ten to buy another Clippers jersey. So instead of pushing sales, we want to enhance the experience for our fans.
We’ve seen ticketing change over the past two years, so what do you think the future of ticketing will look like?
The idea of overselling tickets is something that it new and beneficial to our industry. By selling 20,000 GA tickets when capacity is only 18,000 then you can push to have a full stadium by encouraging fans to come early to grab their seat. Overselling isn’t a bad thing any more, it can push for sellout crowds and an amazing atmosphere which is what we all want to see.
The COVID pandemic has changed everything, what are some of the good changes we’ve seen that are valuable for the future?
A lot of the contactless technologies have been driven forward, things like tap and go, cashless ordering and such. Locker room ordering is another process I’ve been looking at, where customers can order, and their food will be in an assigned locker for them to take. Everything is driven towards streamlining that customer experience to create space and get them through the concourse as quickly as possible.
What would you say to someone who’s trying to enable technology in a way that’s meaningful and just starting out?
The biggest thing I can say here is stay away from the big new product that will need a complete tech overhaul from your organization for it to work. Find a CRM that is native to your systems which can be implemented in a simple and easy manner and that you and your colleagues want to use. In our three months with EngageRM, we’ve achieved more than we have in 6 years with an old system that never worked and which no one wanted to use.
How does CRM work for corporate hospitality? Also, how can it incorporate experiences into the venue?
For those corporate clients the main thing that comes with those corporate partnerships is tickets, may that be 20 or 100 per season. Normally, those tickets are sent and divided by an assistant and all the data around who those tickets go to is lost. With EngageRM, we can create portals for clients to log in and claim tickets and all that data that was once lost is now stored in our CRM. In terms of incorporating the technology into the venue, with this data we can have personalized screens in corporate hospitality, unique to each client to add that personal touch.
Finally, how has Microsoft and the EngageRM suite assisted in growing member ticket sales and conversion outside of the sales team?
We’ve spoken a lot around how the CRM makes it an easier experience for the fans, but it also makes our experience in serving the fans a lot easier as well. We have the right information at the right time which helps us put the right people in front of the fan at the right time. We can listen to the fans and not bombard them with 50 phone calls, we’ve become incredibly agile and can respond to issues or queries incredibly fast. That’s the big takeaway here, that we can communicate with the fan easily, but also within our own departments to boost those fan experiences.