SAP Center in San Jose, California

Sharks Should Focus More on Fan Experience

On my way home from the San Jose Sharks game Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche, I thought about the SAP Center’s lack of quality service.

No, I didn’t vent all of my frustrations in the conversation with my Uber driver. However, this driver mentioned that she was unsatisfied with the Sharks’ in-game experience, which was the main reason why she hasn’t attended a live game in a long time.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one who barely goes to Sharks games. I know tons of locals who don’t attend Sharks games. Sure, the team hired two in-arena hosts, Jon Root and Kaleigh Krish, along with an ice crew, but apparently that’s not enough.

Hockey is clearly not the most popular sport on the West Coast, but the Sharks need to improve on some things to improve the overall experience for fans, employees, media members and luxury suite guests.

Wi-fi connectivity is the top priority because it helps ensure interaction, giving people a sense of belonging. Everyone expects a fast, reliable and secure connection. Many people will leave arenas by the end of the first period if they can’t connect to the Internet. Better wi-fi also would allow people to use their mobile apps created by professional sports teams. People can find parking spots, purchase seat upgrades, locate seats, order food and beverages and view exclusive content from their smartphone with just one click.

Long lines can feel like a hassle when all you’re buying is a soda bottle, popcorn bucket or personal pizza. Nobody should have to wait that long for a small purchase. Many event venues have already rolled out the mobile point-of-service system, so they can have vendors selling food, beverages and merchandise pretty much anywhere in the venue without fans having to leave their seats. This will free up space in the venue to help things run more smoothly.

Technology is a significant part of the in-game experience, especially in a high-tech industry like the Silicon Valley. The ability to network is crucial in today’s world. Pictures and videos can be shared on social media in an instant. Word-of-mouth marketing can help increase customer loyalty and possibly lure people into the team itself.

Food is another topic for consideration. The SAP Center doesn’t have a wide selection of items. The usual burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, hot dogs, nachos and salad are sold in the concourse. The exact same items are served in the Comerica Bank Club & The Grill for the high-end guests along with a few ethnic entrees such as curry rice bowls, teriyaki wings and polish sausage.

However, not everyone is a carnivore and pretty much the only vegetarian item is the loaded baked potato sans bacon. Sporting events are not known for healthy cuisine, but vegetarian and vegan options should be offered for those who are health conscious or practice a certain religion. If the Sharks want to sell more food, there needs to be a greater selection of food and drink options. Otherwise, fans are going to eat at a nearby restaurant or bar before the puck drop.

Technology and food go hand in hand. The future success of NHL games requires strong wi-fi and delicious menu items. A decorated, renovated atmosphere can only do so much. The fans want to feel more comfortable in a slightly chilly arena as they cheer on their team. Whether it’s a Monday afternoon or a Friday night, customer service is the first step to ensuring happy customers and repeat business.