As the world continues to navigate COVID-19, collegiate athletics programs across the country must take proactive measures to lessen the blow caused by the impact of the virus. Guest services personnel are getting bombarded with new questions and requests pertaining to the new norm, making it hard to keep up with the demand for answers needed by fans and donors alike.
How Can Colleges & Universities Prepare for a Return to College Sports?
With decrease in budgets, smaller staff sizes have made it even harder to meet those daily demands. We’ve detailed five things collegiate athletics programs should be doing to return to college sports and how technology can supplement or enhance the experience.
1. Ensure health & safety policies are available and up-to-date
COVID is still an evolving situation, so being able to provide accurate answers is important. Collegiate athletics programs should look for conversational AI solutions that allow health and safety information not only to be accessed easily, but changed or updated quickly. AI-powered solutions streamline communication, provide flexibility to easily adjust rapidly changing answers, and learn over time which provides a scalable solution. This gives fans the confidence that information is the most up-to-date, making a school’s website the go-to source of information.
2. Educate fans on new game-day experiences, and what will be different
There is no question that the experience fans are used to is completely different while attending games during the COVID pandemic. Educating them on new game day protocols is key to keeping everyone safe and ensuring that fans have a good time. Being proactive and upfront with the new changes will help ease anxiety and set expectations. Fans need to feel comfortable about the overall experience before and during their visit. Therefore, creating efficient communication, across multiple channels, is essential to making sure you are able to answer all questions.
The most basic experiences like entering a stadium, getting food or drinks, and going to the bathroom have changed, so it is crucial to have technology in place to control fan movement. At any given moment during game day, fans could be gathered in food or bathroom lines. Clusters of people are the easiest target for the virus to spread. Collegiate athletics programs should be looking for solutions to inform fans of ways to more directly map their journey before heading to a game or even before leaving their seats. On the professional sports side, some teams have implemented food and beverage finders to minimize wandering, or wait time technology so fans know which bathroom line is the shortest. Overall, these implementations increase efficient movement and reduce the spread of germs.
3. Decrease points of contact between customers and venue staff
While some collegiate athletics programs have embraced limited fans into venues, the goal is still to create an environment with as little physical contact as possible. The goal is to maintain points of engagement while ensuring everyone feels safe. That includes both venue staff and fans. Being able to leverage technology in a way that enables you to have staff-free guidance is a major win. That could include mobile live escalation which would seamlessly switch a fan from automated responses to a human agent to address questions and concerns, providing a high-touch experience without the contact. It could also include a mobile ticketing experience which would eliminate the need for fans to have to go to the box office to engage with support staff.
4. Help fans adopt mobile ticketing technology
We know adoption of technology is going to be rapid, because it will be forced on everyone as we move away from using products that exchange hands. The goal is to make sure that teams have something in place that makes it easy to accomplish. Tickets are the Number One thing that exchanges hands between staff and fans. Many professional sports have already done away with paper tickets in some capacity, most notably the NFL who switched completely to digital ticketing beginning in the 2018 season. As physical tickets have already begun to disappear, COVID-19 is simply escalating the need to adopt digital ticketing solutions to limit contact between venue staff and customers. With this rapid adoption, comes the need to support fans as they navigate mobile tickets. Having a simple guided solution to walk new digital ticket users through the process of confirming tickets, accessing tickets, or transferring tickets is essential to minimizing contact with staff and also reduces the strain of answering an influx of questions.
Collegiate athletics programs, such as Georgia Tech, noted the importance of this assistance in an interview with Front Office Sports. As part of their measures to decrease points of contact between customers and venue staff, the Yellow Jackets implemented a digital-only approach to ticketing. Many questions the virtual assistant is now handling for the staff are pertaining to digital tickets assistance, as a result.
5. Enable at-home fan engagement
Venues that are allowing fans are doing so at a limited capacity. Only about 25% of fans can be in attendance, this means those 75% that are used to the live game experience still need to be engaged. While collegiate athletics programs can offer an at-home experience through broadcasted games, new digital and conversational messaging channels can enhance the at-home fan experience by providing them with engagement through games such as trivia and polling, or access to real-time statistics and game data. Making sure fans feel like they are part of the action has always been important, but now broadening that access across all the channels fans frequent will ensure that no matter where they are experiencing the game, they feel connected.
Conversational AI and virtual assistants are the future of sport engagement and collegiate programs. With Interactive Answer Engines, Satisfi Labs enables collegiate athletic programs to provide automated and on-demand answers for fans, donors, and ticket holders so they can access all the information needed for positive game day and on campus experiences.
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