In New York on Thursday, April 16, 2009, Brett Yormark, president and CEO of Nets Sports and Entertainment addressed a session of the leadership in hospitality and leisure forum on the subject of the customer first mentality. In the changing consumer landscape, which features the immediate exchange of information, including reviews and ratings, via the internet, companies are forced to react to consumer presences in a very different way than they might have in the past. What is especially changed, according to Yormark, is that the consumer now expects more of an experience in addition to the product that they pay for. This shift towards more intense consumer demands led Yormark, for example, to hire a representative of the Four Seasons to re-vamp the Nets’ treatment of their season ticket holders. By being completely transparent in their dealings with the consumer and offering a superior experience, companies can continue to compete moving forward. “We interface with our season ticket holders all the time. We do it via the Web. We do it at our games. It’s truly about the touch points. And then like most of you, the response time is critical and we mandate a twenty-four hour response time. Giving customers a voice, something that we think is truly critical,” said Yormark, reiterating the importance of superior customer service in an age when poor treatment of customers could end up on the web for all to see.
Something that might seem to be unique to Yormark’s situation, he says, can actually be used by anyone in the hospitality industry. One of the most important aspects of the customer experience, according to the Nets president, is complete transparency and access. For Yormark, this means not only access for season ticket holders to the front office and the customer representatives but also to the players and staff. This leads the team to do a great deal of community initiatives, in order to give the customers a more thorough experience. One initiative that Yormark was particularly proud of was a Nets fan resume bank. To jump start the program, they offered any Nets fan who was looking for work free tickets if they sent a resume to the team, which the Nets then passed along to their season ticket holders, who might be owners of operators of companies and would benefit from the resume pool. In addition, they also began hosting a series of backyard bar-b-cues so that season ticket holders, fans, and representatives could network and become more loyal to the Nets brand: “We literally go to a high net worth individual and say, ‘Find us more people just like you.’ And we go into their backyard and we host a party with our players and our coaching staff, our dance team and other Net celebrities and it’s been terrific. It’s humanized the players; it’s gotten them to really relate you know to our fan base and at the same time we’ve been able to monetize it.”