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Aligning customer experience and marketing at NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder

The Chief Customer Officer Council (CCO Council) named Pete Winemiller, SVP of guest relations for the Oklahoma City Thunder, as the 2013 Chief Customer Officer (CCO) of the Year. The council bestows the award annually to a CCO, in title or responsibility, who exceeds in “improving customer relationships, driving profitable customer behavior, creating a customer-centric culture, and helping other customer executives to achieve similar results,” says Curtis Bingham, founder and executive director of the CCO Council.

“I am honored to represent our organization in receiving this acknowledgment,” says Winemiller. “This recognition speaks to our mission of providing the very best guest service so we can build, enhance, and sustain a fan-oriented organization. Our organization’s marketing strategy…emphasizes placing a high value on our fans as part of our team.”

Aspiring to be the “most fan-centric organization in professional sports,” Winemiller led the Thunder to victory and helped the team score the number one spot for ESPN Magazine‘s Ultimate Fan Rankings this past year, Bingham notes.

“Pete’s accomplishment is unique because unlike other product-centric companies, he has no control of the quality of the ‘product’—that is, the outcome of the game,” Bingham says. “It certainly helps to win, but win or lose, the fan experience is still paramount to Pete.”

Winemiller says his game-winning strategy revolves around gaining repeat customers and maintaining a championship attitude in the stands with or without a leading score. “I’m confident we would not receive this award without the dedication of our entire franchise, to include our outstanding frontline staff, who set out to be fan-centric at every customer touch point,” he says.

“Successfully managing the customer experience creates real connections with our community of fans, which becomes part of our overall identity,” Winemiller adds. “When a guest’s experience matches the core values of our organization’s marketing strategy…it reinforces the marketing message we convey to our customers through all media.”

That approach—marketing that focuses on the customer experience, and an on-site experience that delivers on those promises—can be a significant differentiator.

“The most powerful force for future business success is not the product, the service or the technology—it’s the customer.  It is important to note that ‘customer experience is the new black,’ and everyone is jumping on the bandwagon,” adds Bingham. “To be successful, organizations around the world must raise the notion of customer-centricity to a valued corporate discipline that results in dramatic sustainable growth.”

In fact, creating a unique customer experience is one winning tactic that can’t be traded to another team, Bingham says.

“Products and services are becoming commodities, easily duplicated by competitors,” he says. “The only sustainable competitive advantage left is the company’s ability to intimately understand customer needs, wants, and desires and better fulfill these than any other competitor.”

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