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Q&A: Satisfi Labs’ Don White

We caught up with Don White, chief executive of Satisfi Labs, to discuss the conversational AI company’s partnerships with Major League Baseball and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting fan habits…

Could you provide a brief overview of how Satisfi Labs has evolved since launching and what services the company provides?

Since starting in 2016, Satisfi Labs has grown its knowledge base through the ever-increasing number of teams and leagues that utilise our virtual assistant technology. Data insights gathered from these integrations has allowed us to analyse and make actionable recommendations to teams and venues regarding ticketing, safety, and COVID protocols and information.

Through this, Satisfi has grown its services in both the sports industry and the hospitality space, learning new information about consumer habits and behaviours. 

How has the pandemic affected Satisfi and the services clients require?

Through the pandemic, our knowledge base was tested and modified to fit new consumer preferences and priorities. With live events being cancelled and postponed, we updated our knowledge platform to answer new questions around ticketing refunds, safety protocols, and now vaccine information at certain stadiums and large-scale venues. 

We have strengthened our focus on ensuring that health and safety policies are available and up-to-date for all of our clients. Since many teams and leagues are evolving their COVID policies by the week or the day, being able to provide accurate, real-time answers is important.

Venues are relying on conversational AI solutions that allow health and safety information not only to be easily accessed by fans, but to also be changed and updated quickly by team management. AI-powered solutions streamline communication, provide flexibility to easily adjust rapidly changing answers, and learn about the most frequently-asked questions over time, which provides a scalable solution. This gives fans the confidence that the information they’re receiving is the most up-to-date, making a team’s website the go-to source of information.

It’s no question that the traditional game day experience fans are used to is completely different than the one they recieve while attending games during the COVID pandemic. However, using conversational AI can help educate fans on new game day protocols to keep everyone safe and ensure that fans can still have an enjoyable day and make treasured memories. Being proactive and upfront with the new policy changes will help ease anxiety and set expectations. Fans need to feel comfortable about the overall experience before and during their visit, so facilitating efficient communication across multiple channels is essential. 

While some leagues and venues have limited their capacity and placed vaccine sections in areas of stadiums, the goal is still to create an environment with as little physical contact as possible, and maintain points of engagement while ensuring everyone feels safe. Being able to leverage technology in a way that enables venues to have staff-free guidance is a win. This 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.

This season has seen fans gradually return across Major League Baseball as COVID-19 restrictions ease. What opportunities and challenges has this presented for Satisfi?

Major League Baseball has used the lack of spectators last year to hone in on technology that will make for a better experience for fans. Through Satisfi Labs’ platform, we have seen a significant increase in questions around digital ticketing access at MLB stadiums upon return, which has translated to these stadiums adopting a more contactless environment. Even with limited capacity, F&B requests as a category are up 3x compared to 2019, and beer questions are in the top five most-asked question categories across the league. This is a result of teams prioritising our F&B finder, which is being used as a way to help fans more quickly find concessions while limiting contact with staff and dwelling time on the concourse. 

Satisfi has also held a partnership with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since 2016. Given the signing of Tom Brady and the subsequent Super Bowl win, how much has the partnership evolved over the past year?

This season, with the excitement surrounding the new signing and the world experiencing a pandemic, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers expanded access of their assistant onto the web and Apple Business Chat (ABC). With a large marketing push towards the virtual assistant from the team, they have been able to decrease physical points of contact between customers and venue staff while increasing their responsiveness to customers. They’ve been able to provide them with timely feedback throughout the season, while also staying connected with their at-home fans. 

Our Interactive Answer Engine, which powers the Bucs’ virtual assistant, was able to be easily deployed across the web and Apple Business Chat in addition to enhancing their mobile app. The experience allows fans to communicate directly with the Bucs across their preferred platform. The Bucs marketed the virtual assistant at every home game to encourage fans to use it as a reference and as a means to keep fans safe by cutting down on physical contact with staff. By driving awareness and traffic through an email campaign, the Bucs were able to manage the effective communication of the new game-day experience and safely welcomed fans back. Additionally, the virtual assistants’ knowledge was quickly expanded based on a community of sports client learnings. New knowledge included new entrance policies, healthy and safety protocols, and at-home viewing access information.  

Satisfi launched a free COVID-19 Assistant for clients at the start of the pandemic. What were the main features of this and what was the response from clients/fans?

Using the COVID-19 Assistant, clients will be able to rapidly adjust their answers in real-time by using the self-serve Answer Editor. Additionally, Satisfi Labs has developed Knowtify, a new alert feature, allowing customers to request updates when specific information changes at a location. Knowtify will help prepare locations for future re-openings as customers will be able to request venues to let them know about schedule changes, ticket sales, etc.

Satisfi holds partnerships with teams across the NFL, NBA and MLB, how, if at all, do the services you provide differ from sport to sport?

Our platform is built on shared knowledge which we call the “network effect”. Within each industry, our AI learns from questions over time and shares that knowledge to each client. Within sports, each client has an Answer Engine that has learnings across the platform including pro-sports, league, and event knowledge.  The differences in each Answer Engine is based on specific team and league content such as player stats, venue information, or employee knowledge.

Are there any plans for Satisfi Labs to partner with any non-US leagues or teams in the future?

Last September we signed Tottenham Hotspur Football Club as a client and recently we closed a deal with the Leeds United Football Club. We hope to continue that momentum and build a bigger brand presence across the UK.

More generally, what do you feel are the main challenges facing stadia, arenas and sports organisations in the COVID-19 era?

Safety – This is a huge evolving concern and policies regarding vaccinations are becoming a challenge for stadiums and venues.

Personalisation – How are teams creating a one-on-one experience for fans, visitors and newcomers to stadiums.

Increasing Profitability – Through reaching fans via the technology they’re already comfortable using with Apple Business Chat and Alexa, fans can chat with their favourite sports teams to lock in tickets, and ask questions to better understand the new game-day experience.

How can Satisfi help to meet these challenges?

Now more than ever, fans want an all-encompassing experience that blurs the lines between hospitality and sport. Our answer engine can help provide comfortability and security throughout the stadium/venue, and give fans personalised information to help craft more meaningful experiences. 

Satisfi Labs is a sponsor of this year’s TheStadiumBusiness Summit, which will take place at Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester on November 30 and December 1. Click here to meet them.

Main Image: Devin Morris/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

Graphics supplied by Satisfi Labs