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By Denise Brodey
If you ask a Boston Red Sox fan what they love about their ballpark, it’s unlikely they’ll say the communications network, and that’s a good thing. The Red Sox organization may use state-of-the-art technology, but its legacy runs on authenticity—the feeling of being in the stands, making memories, and rooting for players—and there’s absolutely no app for that.
“I love the idea that I might witness an unforgettable play, surrounded by thousands of die-hard Red Sox fans,” says Emily Kessler, a native New Yorker. She’s a Boston college student who won a fraternity giveaway to her first Red Sox game last spring and vows she’ll be back for more. (Just don’t tell her grandparents, longtime Mets fans).
Boston sports fan and lawyer Andrew Upton, who lives in Cambridge, says he’s excited to try new food venues, and his kids get pumped about all the music, but he, too, loves the nostalgia factor. “I bring my kids because I get to share a feeling I had when I went to this same park. We’re creating memories and it’s an experience,” says Upton, who remembers when the iconic organ and the announcers were the big entertainment.
Whether you love the new or cherish the old, the heart of the matter, which the Red Sox leadership were aware of, was that one of the most unpredictable, fast-moving pieces of the organization needed a fix: their internal communications network.
“We knew that our ability to master our everyday communications was crucial,” says Adam Grossman, chief marketing officer for the Red Sox. “First, we needed a reliable communications network that could serve hundreds of people who do their work from the road more often than they do from an office.”
He says they also put a high priority on having reliable, fast service in the stands where Red Sox Nation concierges and sales folks serve fans. Grossman says, “And of course, there’s instant replay. The communications between the bullpen, dugout, and video review rooms needs to be secure and stable.”
The Red Sox credit their partnership with Mitel, a global leader in business communications, with creating a unified system that meets those goals.
“It’s sophisticated, flexible, and serves the organization on multiple levels—before, during, and after the game is over,” says Grossman.
It also has the added bonus of lowering the cost of operations. Updates may happen more often, but they’re less cumbersome, according to Mitel, because their flexible approach allows organizations to easily add new features as their needs change.
“Because Mitel’s approach to collaboration begins with virtualized software, the Red Sox have the ability to leverage a communications system that requires little change to current structures both in Boston and Fort Myers,” says Al Hurren, vice president of research and development at Mitel. “We offer all the high-tech features and functionality fans have come to expect, all without taking away from the feel of a historic ballpark.”
To better understand Mitel’s work, we asked about the everyday impact Mitel has had on the fan experience. Here are three examples:
Real-time, real-people updates
This spring, like many before it, the wild card for fans—and customer service representatives—was the weather.
Long stretches of soaking rains and bitter cold made conditions less than ideal, even for hardy Boston fans. (One April game was the coldest on record since 2003.) How did they keep Red Sox game-goers happy, despite the weather?
“Excellent customer service—it wins every time,” says Adam Grossman, chief marketing officer for the Red Sox. “One of the best examples of that is how we handled rain delays this season.”
While you might imagine that anyone could find out about a game-day rain delay online or via an app, Grossman says that an enormous number of fans want to pick up the phone and talk to a person. “They’ve got questions when a game is canceled or delayed, and they want to be heard as quickly as possible,” says Grossman.
While delays are part of the quirky appeal of the game, communication delays are not considered part of the fun. After big events and when Mother Nature refuses to cooperate for days on end, everything from call volume to hold times is analyzed to look for possible improvements and track trends. According to Grossman, by using Mitel’s contact center data and analytics features, hold times have been reduced and calls are consistently routed to the proper agent. There’s even call prioritization for season ticket holders to increase loyalty.
Inside the ballpark, Red Sox Nation concierges help ticket holders navigate the concessions, find extra seats and, yes, get the latest on delays, with Mitel’s network providing the uninterrupted service fans expect.
“At a most basic level, we need to make sure that we hear people and that, in a very literal way, we are connecting with fans and their needs,” says Grossman.
Being mobile is one thing—being accessible is everything
The Red Sox organization has hundreds of employees and players who are constantly on the road, across the country and internationally. If you consider how much time they spend traveling, you can see how the ability for someone to work from a remote location and have the same user experience that they have in their office is a game changer. This makes sense, as speed of response matters as much off the field as it does on the field. In fact, in a recent Mitel survey on user experience, 98 percent of IT decision-makers said accelerating workflows was a crucial benefit of a unified communications system.
“Staff, personnel, and players can count on the same set of communications tools whether they are in the ballpark, the office, or at a training facility,” Hurren says.
While that may sound simple, that flexibility is often what legacy phone systems or disparate collaboration tools lack. In the case of the Red Sox, players demand fast, secure connections to coaches. Vendors require mobility in the ballpark and staff depends on reliability, says Hurren. Mitel provided a seamless way for the entire Red Sox organization to connect.
Then there are game-day communications. For staff, whose job requires that they are constantly on the move, a consistent mobile experience is key. The Mitel system put in place for the team eliminates the issue of dropped calls in the ballpark. Mitel also serves as the official business technology and communications partner of MLB, so you will find Mitel in all 30 MLB dugouts and bullpens.
“The clarity and security of that call from Boston to New York during an instant replay is a must; there is no room for error,” says Hurren. “Internally, we say ‘#MaketheRightCall,’ but we know full well how important our role is in ensuring compliance with all Major League Baseball rules and regulations and in helping game staff communicate effectively.”
The sales team can work smarter—and more collaboratively
The first impact of new technology on fans is through sales and customer service. In the big leagues, sales teams use video conferencing, text messaging, and web and desktop sharing to collaborate in ways that can translate into big numbers. And no statistic is too small to analyze: Real-time, customizable sales reports offer data that can be analyzed to create special offers and cut down on hold times. Mitel enables the Red Sox to accelerate and personalize how they care for both long-time fans and first-time attendees.
Inside the ballpark, Red Sox Nation concierges help ticket holders in the ballpark and are constantly on the move. Account executives in the ticketing department say it’s the one-on-one work they do out in the stand—greeting ticket holders and talking with them—all while having their office desk forwarded to their pocket smartphone, that gives them an edge on the competition.
“When you can speak with fans at home, in the stands, in the corporate boxes, and from the road,” says Grossman, “you know you are creating a better fan experience.”
When asked if he knew anything about Mitel’s communications system and the work they do for the Red Sox, Andrew Upton says, “No, but I’ve been coming to games with my grandfather and my dad for years. Now that my wife and I bring our kids, I appreciate that the ballpark feels modern and includes lots of clever programming, but it is still recognizably the same place I experienced games back in the early seventies.”
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