Ebony Hattix, box office manager, Memphis Grizzlies / FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tenn. (Photo courtesy Memphis Grizzlies / FedEx Forum)
Out front on change
Ebony Hattix has been in the thick of a critical transition in ticketing technology at FedEx Forum.
The 15-year-old arena, home to the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, went fully mobile last season for Grizzlies season-ticket holders after becoming only the second NBA team to make the conversion from hard tickets to digital tickets in 2014.
Like any new technology, there’s a learning curve for both the operator and the customer. For Hattix, the arena’s box office manager for the past two years, it means coming out from behind the ticket windows to help fans navigate the process of scanning their mobile tickets.
Hattix embraced the opportunity, according to her direct boss, Garth Webster, the Grizzlies’ longtime vice president of ticketing.
“In that first year, we had a few outages and Ebony’s out in front of the public,” Webster said. “She leaves the box office and is out there with me to walk them through it. We got a lot of letters praising her for that. In the box office world, after years of constantly being hammered by customers — it can wear on people and sometimes their patience is thin. But she’s fantastic with customers, and that helps.”
Internally, Hattix smoothed over a potential conflict after Webster went outside the Grizzlies’ organization to hire a new box office manager.
Hattix came from BancorpSouth Arena & Conference Center in Tupelo, Miss., where she was assistant director of ticketing. There was pushback internally from some employees that wanted the job and she was proactive in resolving the situation, Webster said.
“She came in right away and told these guys, ‘I want you to learn, because I may not be here forever, or something could happen to me and I want you to be here so you can support me if necessary, and I’ll be here to support you,’” he said. “She’s a great communicator.”
As part of going mobile last year, Hattix helped lead the effort to educate the five-person box office crew and the Grizzlies’ 60 ticket sales and service representatives. Five years ago, when the team first converted to digital tickets, the sales staff was not included in the training process. It was a mistake, resulting in mixed messages for fans calling to ask where their hard tickets were, Webster said.
“There was tons of frustration,” he said. “This time around, Ebony and a few others initiated hands-on training with every sales and service rep. She handled all the ushers, talked everybody through it and the advantages and how much easier it is.”
Hattix spent five years at BancorpSouth Arena & Conference Center, sandwiched between two stints working for the Tupelo Housing Authority. Her job experience extends to working as a front desk clerk at two hotel chains and filling the role of office manager at a furniture store.
Coming out of college, Hattix worked for The Walt Disney Co. in Downtown Disney near Walt Disney World in Florida. Her duties as a hostess and cashier at Cap’n Jack’s restaurant helped set the tone for the importance of customer service at a company many teams use as the model for interacting with their fans.
“Dealing with people is one of the greatest things you can possibly do, and when you learn how to create that magic and exceed that expectation for someone, it gives you a sense of achievement,” Hattix said. “In the ticketing industry, it’s the same thing. To engage with our guests and help them along the way … it’s worth it.”
For Hattix, the future could include expanded responsibilities in facility operations. As a member of the International Association of Venue Managers, she has completed the group’s two-year venue management program. The continuing education initiative covers event management, marketing and advertising, crowd management and guest experience.
“If you stop learning, you stop growing,” Hattix said. “It’s nice to know the operations side.”
“Ebony is a rising star in this business,” said Todd Hunt, BancorpSouth Arena & Conference Center’s executive director. “She has great spirit and energy and somebody we really counted on for a lot of things. She will be a general manager, sooner rather than later.”