How the Seahawks Management Team Listens to the World’s Loudest Fans

Danny Schreiber
Danny Schreiber / January 9, 2014

Seattle Seahawks fans are the loudest in the world. Really, they are. A packed CenturyLink Field of over 68,000 fans on December 2 set a Guinness World Record for crowd noise, clocking in at 137.6 decibels. That’s equivalent to a jet engine on takeoff. Yes, that loud.

At that volume, there’s no doubt the fans’ passion for the game is heard by opposing team players, coaches and fans. And by the Seahawks management team, as well. But for that latter group, this is the one time a week the fans are rock-concert loud. Daily, they hear fan feedback by reading a report that lands in their email inbox.

“We send a nightly report to all of our directors and VPs to share fan feedback,” said Kenton Olson, director of digital media and emerging media for the Seahawks and Sounders FC (two teams with the same ownership group).

The report is utilized by both teams and is a product of three pieces of software working together—Wufoo to collect feedback, Zendesk to organize responses and MySQL to summarize them—and one to connect them: Zapier, an app automation platform.

We spoke to Kenton to learn his step-by-step process, but before we share those steps, it’s important to first look at why the directors and vice presidents of the two teams take time daily to read fan feedback reports.

The Fan Voice Matters

Seahawks and Sounders

Without their fans, the Seahawks wouldn't have secured the new noise record. It’s obvious, of course, but it’s not taken for granted in Seattle. The fan’s contribution to their team’s success is represented on T-shirts, flags, signs and other paraphernalia that reads “12th MAN.”

“Seahawks fans might cheer from the sidelines, but on the field they give the Seahawks a 12 on 11 advantage every play for every yard,” the Seahawks website boasts. “The impact of their loud and relentless support have become a Northwest tradition.”

Also part of the Northwest sports culture is one of the Sounders FC guiding principles, “democracy in sports.” What does that mean? Literally, the fan has a vote. Every four years, season ticket holders have the power to remove the general manager of the football club. Last time votes were tallied, over 95 percent of the ticket holders voted to keep the general manager.

Listening to fans has been a high priority from the start—it was fans, not management, that determined the team name. Fans vote and participate in other ways, too. There’s a fan and management organization called the Alliance Council that regularly meets to be involved in club decisions.

"We learned through the ‘name the team vote’ that our fans are passionate, active and want to be involved in this democratic process,” majority owner Joe Roth said in an article on the team’s website.

How to Set Up Daily Customer Feedback Reports

So how does team management hear from fans outside of the stadium and Alliance Council meetings? The process begins with a web form, ends with MySQL and is automated using Zapier.

Here’s the process Kenton uses to send daily fan feedback reports:

1. Collect Customer Feedback in Support Desk Software

Seahawks form
Kenton uses form software Wufoo to create a simple four-question feedback form—name, email, feedback category and explanation—and embed it on the Seahawks’ website. He chose the form software versus the form tool his support desk software offers because of his familiarity with the former.

To do the same, use this Zapier integration to connect the two apps:

The Sounders FC customer support team relies on Zendesk to log and respond to submissions. If you use a different offering, don’t worry, Zapier supports other popular help desk software such as Help Scout, Desk and UserVoice.

2. Export Feedback to MySQL Database

At this step, the process gets technical. You can pull in your developer for a one-time set up, or if you're non-technical and don't work with a developer, skip to the Bonus section.

It's now time to send the Zendesk tickets to a MySQL database where they can be turned into a daily report. To do this, Kenton uses the Zapier integration below—each time a new ticket is logged in Zendesk, it’s automatically added as a new line in the Seahawks and Sounders FC MySQL database.

3. Run a Daily Report

With the MySQL report populated daily with fan feedback, the last step is to create and automate the report. To do this, Kenton has set up a PHP script that each night packages the day's new Zendesk tickets into an email that's sent to directors and VPs. The report itself is nothing fancy, Kenton said, but it accomplishes the important task of keeping the management team in the know.

Bonus: The Non-Tech Way to Run Daily Reports

If you want to implement this in your own organization but don't posses the skills to set up a MySQL database or PHP script, here are two alternatives to try:

Set up a Daily Wufoo Report: Wufoo offers a daily report option, but going this route will take away first sending form entries to your help desk software to make sure they're addressed. If you go this route, make sure you have that connection in place, too, an integration Zapier can help you achieve.

Send Entries to Google Spreadsheet, Send Daily Email with Link to Spreadsheet: This is very non-tech and quick to set up, however, it doesn't offer the smoothest user experience as users will be required to scroll down the spreadsheet to see the past day's submissions. That said, it's a very reliable method putting data into a familiar format for business owners. Here are the Zapier integrations to set this up:

If you've set up daily reports without the use of development skills, please share your method in the comments below!

The Seahawks' Swiss Army Knife

Seahulk

When the Seahawks or Sounders FC need to connect two web services together to complete a process, they turn to Zapier.

“We look at (Zapier) as our Swiss Army Knife with all the different platforms that we’re on,” Kenton said. “We make things talk to each other and do all kinds of different things.”

Connecting Zendesk and MySQL to create daily reports, he said, makes those two products work together in a meaningful way.

The Seahawks draw more than 66,000 fans per game, and the Sounders FC, who play in the same stadium, aren’t far behind with nearly 50,000 fans per game.

Thanks to Zapier, they’re able to keep listening to those fans after they exit CenturyLink Field.

Credits: Fan photos by Philip Robertson via Flickr. Sign photo by John Bollwitt via Flickr

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