Improving Athletic Security Through Fan Surveys | Athletic Business

Improving Athletic Security Through Fan Surveys

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In an industry where retaining loyal fans is paramount, feedback is critical. A proactive approach is to survey a wide net of patrons and do it often. Take the opportunity prior to the start of your season to establish important milestones to survey. These might include the end of a preseason or non-conference schedule, after a highly anticipated rivalry game or the end of the regular season.

Drew Pittman is an assistant athletic director for Baylor University and oversees event management for its football program.Drew Pittman is an assistant athletic director for Baylor University and oversees event management for its football program.

Most athletic programs already conduct overall fan-experience surveys, focusing on general guest services issues such as concessions and in-game entertainment. But it's easy to add a few questions specific to safety and security.

When composing a survey, it's easiest to let fans rate you on a scale (1-5, least-satisfied to most-satisfied), but in the area of safety and security, the best responses come in the form of "comments." Fan surveys are the best opportunity to address concerns or issues for which you've received unsolicited feedback. For example, if you've received feedback on a particular screening method or a specific gate, survey fans to gauge if the feedback you've received represents the opinion of one fan or many.

If you don't have specific concerns, start broad and refine your questions based on the responses that you receive from previous surveys. First and foremost, ask questions that you think you have the ability to address in a meaningful way. Don't be afraid to ask questions about things you may consider a problem. The data may allow you to better explain to stakeholders why an investment may be necessary as part of a corrective action.

Ask process-driven questions, as well. While fixing the physical structure of facilities sometimes becomes a focus, small adjustments to your process and operations can lead to meaningful change at little or no cost.

Season-ticket holders will quickly get survey fatigue if contacted too often, and thus it may be most appropriate to survey them once or twice a season. Single-game buyers, on the other hand, provide new insights after each game.

Surveying fans is a priority, but feedback from within the organization and even from outside vendors can also be valuable. They can provide focused and timely feedback after small changes have been made to help you evaluate direction on an improvement plan. It's important to give them an outlet after every event and to provide them with more structured opportunities to weigh in at milestones throughout the season.

Find ways to survey staff on gameday operations, gauge attitudes toward certain policies and procedures, and seek ideas for how to improve procedures. Your supervisors and staff see the effects of your policies and procedures firsthand and can see the reactions of your fans that are hard to capture in a survey.

Similarly, let fans evaluate supervisors and full-time staff on a regular basis. This helps supervisors and staff to grow within their roles and provides knowledge on how better to support the frontline staff as they interact with patrons.

Finally, survey and solicit feedback from law enforcement and other public safety partners. These partners are critical to your operations, and mechanisms for feedback allow them to provide needed information. Your ability to respond and act on this data will allow you to gain better buy-in from your safety and security partners as a whole.

When it comes to sending your survey, remember that your patrons are bombarded with requests for information through email on a minute-by-minute basis. There are a great number of solution providers available in the surveying industry that can guide you in distributing a survey. Be deliberate with whomever you choose to provide something to your fans that is aesthetically pleasing and looks like the rest of your branded communication. This helps gain credibility for your survey and a better response rate.

Also consider less-traditional methods of surveying fans. Polls on social media can be used in-game and provide the ability to incentivize respondents while they are still at your venue. This type of technology is rapidly growing and may provide actionable information in a much faster manner than more traditional methods. Keep in mind that these methods cast a narrowed net and will generate a different set of responses.

Taking the effort to create and distribute a survey is only the beginning. Using the data you gather to make a noticeable positive change is the goal. Focusing on trends is key to deciphering large blocks of data. Pay attention to the individual comments and identify patterns from this data, as well. These comments often provide actionable information, such as recognizing an exemplary performance of an individual staff member.

Use the data to improve your operations and the experience of your guests. If you aren't certain that a change will be an improvement, test it. Make the change in a limited area (one part of a gate, a smaller entrance, during a non-peak time) to gauge feasibility and overall improvement.

Reflect on both the positive and negative responses to your survey. While it is easy to focus on the things we need to fix, it is also important to celebrate the success of our processes and our staff. Share survey results with others in your organization and, when appropriate, with your front-line staff. Use the results and the data as teaching points during your next gameday briefing or training.

It's important to retain the survey data to allow for benchmarking over the course of the season and over the course of many seasons. This allows for the ability to see if the improvements you are making are translating into better experiences for your customers. It also allows you to normalize your data against spikes caused by exciting wins or devastating losses. This long-term benchmarking data may once again be used to justify investment in areas where a capital project may be necessary to make significant improvement.

While the amount of time required to create and review surveys may seem daunting, the ability to react to the needs and concerns of your patrons can pay long-term dividends.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Gameday Security with the title "Utilizing fan survey data to drive safety and security"


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