Hockey fans clamoring for information about NHL Seattle season tickets are getting some help of the digital kind.
The team has partnered with Satisfi Labs, a leading artificial intelligence knowledge management platform, to answer questions related to upcoming seat selection on general season tickets expected next year. While the “virtual assistant’’ chatbot designed by the company isn’t answering the biggest question of all — how much those seats will cost — it offers information on the selection process timeline, how depositors will be contacted and what payment plans are available.
“A platform like ours is perfect at tackling anything where there’s a lot of customer engagement and (needed) education,’’ said Bill Bailey, chief revenue officer for New York-based Satisfi, which began working a year ago with the Seahawks and also counts the Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo as clients. “So, right now they’re talking about how to choose their seats or engage their deposit, or begin their journey from just deposits to more engagement with the team.’’
The team first collected more than 32,000 deposits of $500 and $1,000 from fans back on March 1, 2018 and began seat selection last month for roughly 2,100 club-level tickets not previously set aside for sponsors or suite holders.
Two weeks ago, the club began hosting about 40 depositors per day inside their season-ticket preview center where they could choose seats based on availability and location. Those attending the sessions say the team requested they pay an additional $1,000 per seat in deposit money to maintain their spot on the priority list and told them payment for the 2021-22 season is to begin next April.
Club season tickets require a minimum three-year commitment ranging from $12,540 to $15,620 for the first season with slight increases the next two. The team has told depositors they can pay in full or choose interest-free quarterly and monthly plans broken out equally from April 1, 2020 until September 2021.
They’ve also been told they must use a team-partnered secondary-market ticketing platform to resell their seats.
The new Satisfi software doesn’t go into as much detail yet as the team has yet to release pricing on general season tickets other than saying some will start as low as $2,200 per season. But clicking a “Chat with Us’’ button on the NHL Seattle website takes users to the virtual assistant run by Satisfi and provides more basic information: Like how general season-ticket selection should begin by “spring of 2020’’ — which is in line with the April 2020 date some depositors reported being told while attending club-selection appointments.
Other questions answered include the method of payment, whether fans will be required to visit the preview center before buying seats and whether friends with two different priority numbers can pick seats that are together.
Bailey said the company typically programs about 150 answers to questions within the software provided its nationwide stable of clients and that multiple subtopic answers can be added as well. The software helps teams with time and workload, given it can reply to multiple questions at once without employees needing to get on the phone or send emails to deliver the same answers multiple times per day.
NHL Seattle senior vice president (digital and fan experience) Todd Humphrey said fans are also more likely to use the virtual assistant than pick up the phone or send an email to the team. The virtual assistant went live on NHL Seattle’s site in late September, with ticketing information added last month.
“Satisfi chat sessions are 35 times the number of emails received, and 17 times the phone calls, which shows that Seattle fans are 17 times more likely to chat with us using Satisfi than to pick up the phone and call,’’ Humphrey said. “And that number is increasing week by week.’’
Bailey said his company’s metrics increasingly show fans prefer “chatting’’ with a computer algorithm than an actual human.
“What’s changing is, fans, they want to engage the way they want to engage,’’ Bailey said. “You can’t push them anymore with technology. If I want to chat with you at 2 a.m., then I need to be able to find the answer. So, we have a lot of connections into that answer.’’
Going forward, NHL Seattle will expand the technology to platforms beyond its website and engage on additional topics besides mostly ticketing. And for traditionalists worried about computers taking over everything, take heart: The biggest fan question beyond season ticket cost — what the new team’s name will be — is still almost certainly to be answered by humans next January ahead of any bots leaking the news.