In the end, a 365, 24/7 connection is what we strive for and fans want to know you have their back.
Vice President of Fan Experience
The interview with Jeff Munneke was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the Vice President of Fan Experience for the Minnesota Timberwolves/Lynx. What does a typical day look like for you?
I know it sounds cliché but literally I get to wake up every day doing something I love to do…engaging with our staff and fans to create extraordinary memories in Target Center for each Timberwolves and Lynx home game.
Daily, it must be about the people and modeling a customer journey through each touchpoint in your venue. We like to start with the thought process of taking care of the people who ultimately take care of your guests. We must hire the right people with a mindset to serve, onboard through our service platforms (1 Program), then train, remind, follow up and reward for great service behaviors.
Our Fan Experience staff is responsible for being the first people you will interface with when you are hired to ensure we are creating that warm environment internally and externally.
In between, we are looking for every way to engage our fans creating opportunities to react quickly to feedback in surveys, focus groups, incoming email and phone calls as well as proactively putting ourselves out there through social media as a place where you can get answers to questions or more importantly another option to build relationships with us.
As a former college basketball player, people always say you have a dream job because you love basketball…I do love basketball but the dream part of the job is the incredible amount of relationships we have with our fans.
How do you embrace and attract the millennial audience at the Minnesota Timberwolves/Lynx? How does the fan experience department cater to different generations?
You constantly must be innovative, nimble and look to engage your audience in different ways. Our platform is one where we try to personalize every relationship. Ask them what is the best way to communicate…do they prefer face-to-face meetings, email, text, social media?
I do believe true relationships are created in face-to-face opportunities so I prefer driving the engagement in that direction but also understand that in a very busy world that is not as easy as it used to be.
In the end, a 365, 24/7 connection is what we strive for and fans want to know you have their back. You may have a guest that loves the inside workings of the basketball operations side, another fan may entertain and it would be important to know who his/her top 3-4 relationships would be that they entertain (we would try to do something nice on their behalf).
Or maybe someone brings their kids to games where we would do something cool for their kids like a pre-game bench sit…
You’re the last original Timberwolves employee still working for the organization, how have you transformed and improved fan experience over the years? What initiatives are you most proud of?
Going on 33 years…I am still using my staff photo from 6-7 years ago to make me look youthful. 😊
When I was running the sales areas, we had a concept that we should let our sales crew commit their energy to find new business and add an arm of service professionals that would work alongside the ticket sales rep in forging deeper relationships with each account.
Along with Seattle (OKC), we were the first two teams to go down the path of a sales team AND a service team (We both called it Fan Relations which is now today our Membership team) which is how the majority of teams now are structured.
Secondly, I love our top-down commitment to Fan Experience. Our CEO, Ethan Casson and CRO, Ryan Tanke are helping our organizations and building partners, driving a service culture and hold each of us accountable to get great results and satisfaction for our fans which creates repeat business in a really crowded marketplace.
Every VP needs a team they work with to help execute the over-arching strategy of the department – when you form a team, what do you look for?
Love this question.
It’s simply energy and enthusiasm. We cannot afford to lose one guest because of an attitude of indifference. We may lose a fan because they move or their personal situation has changed but it’s unacceptable to lose a fan because of our attitude, body language or our words.
Often, it is a gut-feeling during the interview process but being a GREAT listener, empathetic, having high energy and great body language will typically advance someone through the process.
What are some of the technologies that you are keeping an eye on that you think, once we get live-action back, will enhance the fan experience and continue to engage your audience?
We have been at the forefront of technology through our VP of Business Intelligence Laura Meyer. One of the first teams to go to an all-digital ticketing format and spearheading our business objectives and strategies that include the next wave of technology through our mobile app.
Before COVID-19, we were experimenting with food and beverage options through our app and kiosks to increase the speed of transactions and shorten the wait in concession lines. We have a 90% adoption rate to our app so when we return from COVID-19, we are primed to drive through what will most likely be reduced physical contact with our guests.
In addition, we will have to hire, onboard and train different…we are studying some best practices through online training but also think that may give us even more contact with our staff to ensure and motivate our service platforms.
Hayley's Final Thoughts
Jeff Munneke has been with the Minnesota Timberwolves since June 1988! Back then, the T-Wolves were planning for their inaugural season after the NBA announced that basketball would return to the Twin Cities in 1989. Throughout the years, Jeff has transformed and improved the services that make the fan experience an extraordinary one. As the Vice President of Fan Experience for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx, Jeff is responsible for creating lifelong memories in each interaction. Doing such is what keeps Jeff in Minnesota: creating incredible relationships with Timberwolves and Lynx fans — after all, this is what he always looked for in his dream job! Although COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the NBA/WNBA, Jeff has been hard at work, coming up with new ideas to improve the fan experience in different ways given the circumstances. Being the forward-thinker that Jeff is, I can’t wait to see what he does when the sports industry is up-and-running again.