Flora discovers how Liverpool Football Club could teach the Italians a thing or two…

All of our team at CX Lab are big sports fans.  For my part, I like nothing better than going to Liverpool to see my team play.   Whilst on holiday in Italy recently, I got tickets for the Turin derby.  Torino versus the mighty Juventus.

How would an Italian footie match compare to the English Premier League?  And what would the customer experience be like?

Riot gear in Turin

The game itself saw Juve stumble to a one goal victory in a deadly dull and slow paced match.  But what fascinated and shocked me was the difference in the fan experience.

As my husband and I approached the stadium, we had to pick our way over broken glass bottles and piles of litter.  Armed combat police surrounded the stadium.  Their jackets bulged with tear gas canisters.   Blacked out police vans with emergency flashing lights on full blast blocked all the roads round the stadium.   At the stadium there weren’t enough entrances.  A large crush of people surrounded each entrance.  We shuffled and jostled to get our ID and paper ticket manually checked before clunking through the turnstile.

Finally we got into the stadium.   But where were our seats?  There were no stewards to help us find where to sit.  There were no programme sellers and no food and drink I needed the toilet… but only two female loos in our entire section of the ground!

We were treated like animals or dangerous people who needed controlling.  The aggressive policing and the unstewarded crowd congestion were a shock. It didn’t feel safe, and that’s one of the basic requirements as a human being.  I certainly did not feel at all like a customer that the football club relies on.

On the plus side, the atmosphere was powerful before the kick off.   The Torino fans were loud and made it sound like a much bigger stadium.

The fan experience at Anfield

Overall, the contrast couldn’t have been greater with the experience I have when I go to watch Liverpool.  And I’m sure the same is true of most Premiership clubs.  The policing is extremely unobtrusive to the point of not even being noticeable. Outside the ground there’s a squad of “Fan Support” stewards  – these friendly folk are numerous and always helpful if we ever have a question.  Getting into the stadium is quick and easy and feels safe: there are plenty of turnstiles and there are rarely more than a handful of people queuing in front of us.  The queue moves fast as all we have to do is scan our membership cards in the turnstile.  There’s no paper ticket.  Inside the stadium stewards help us find our seats.

Consistently, at every match I go to, every staff member I interact with shows they understand why fans are there.   Almost every steward, club shop member, person serving behind the food & drink stands, says “have a great day today”, or “enjoy the match”.  I am made to feel that the club and it’s staff understand that we’ve all paid good money to go for an amazing day out.

Customers or nuisances?

Going to the Italian game reminded me that the attitude of those in charge of customer facing organisations is so important.  How do leaders view the people who buy their products and services?  Are customers seen as a nuisance?  Are customers seen as people who need controlling?  This attitude isn’t unique to Torino football club.  Think of encounters you may have had with some banks, energy suppliers, a grumpy taxi driver, and so on.

The attitude of those leading the company transmits to every front line employee.  Then it transmits to customers.  One of our beliefs, as outlined by our Lab Ethics, is that EX+CX=£.  The way employees are treated (EX stands for employee experience) shapes how employees in turn treat customers.  When both EX and CX are positive, in simple terms, there is a commercial benefit.

For example, the Premier League is undoubtedly a commercial success.

At Liverpool, for every match, the club could sell 20,000 more tickets.  At the ground I see people from all over the world, from every continent, who’ve travelled to see the game.  These people spend money in the city, shopping, staying in hotels, going out to bars and restaurants.  English football stadiums have not changed overnight.  There is still room for improvement.   And some people grumble about a lack of locals inside stadiums (especially Man Utd fans😊).  But there’s no doubting that as a sports event, the customer experience is fantastic at clubs like Liverpool.  Liverpool Football Club provides a fabulous case study for other companies who are in the business of providing events, venues, conferences, and hospitality.

Treasure your customers

My key takeaway from comparing my experiences of Italian and English football is that it makes such a difference when an organisation treasures its fans.   The club, the stewards, the employees all demonstrate such a single minded focus on fans having a wonderful day.  It is a really inspiring example of a well executed customer experience.