What do the European Super League failure, vaccine passports, and businesses trying to dodge taking political sides have in common. They are all part of three news stories that, believe it or not, give you insight into improving your Customer Experience.
There are many news stories that don’t seem to be about Customer Experience, but, upon second glance, really are. Each of these stories highlights some of the consequences of not being deliberate enough about the details of your Customer Experience. We discussed these stories in a recent podcast, starting with the European Super League.
Story #1: The European Super League Creates a Super Big Backlash
The European Super League collapsed in less than a week. The Super League, for those of you that don’t follow soccer, sought to create a new way for the biggest, most successful European soccer clubs to compete in head-to-head matches more often. As a comparison, it would be like if all the big-market NFL teams played only each other every week in addition to the regular NFL season where they also played the small-market teams.
However, soccer fans did not approve of this plan. They protested in the streets. They didn’t want the Super League, thank you very much, and the Super League failed—in a little over two days. Interestingly, there was an absolute and unanimous condemnation of the Super League. Even the government came out against it.
This super failure of the Super League demonstrates the critical nature of understanding your customers. The Super League failed because the league management and team owners did not understand their fans. The owners and league managers misread the popularity of the big clubs as the real draw to the soccer matches. The owners of the teams thought the fans wanted to see their favorite soccer teams play the other popular and successful soccer teams, exclusively, because it would be the best possible soccer match. Fans think otherwise, hence the backlash.
Moreover, you should understand the culture where your customers live. Many English soccer fans value tradition. In the UK, soccer fans want to see the best clubs play, not just the biggest. If a small team is better than a big team like Arsenal, let’s say, then fans want the smaller team to move up in the rankings, and Arsenal to move down. As (the only) Luton Town Football Club fan, I can tell you that the little clubs that don’t have the fan base or the resources of a club like Arsenal are not likely to win and move up, but it’s nice to know they could.
Story #2: The Latest on Vaccine Passports and Other Pandemic Opportunities
Vaccine passports, both in the UK and the US, are gaining more credibility. We did a podcast on Vaccine Passports not so long ago right when the concept was just getting started. The idea is that if you have documentation proving that you’ve got the vaccine, you could have these privileges.
As more and more people have the vaccine, we are seeing some of the COVID-19 restrictions lift for those individuals, whether that’s the ability to attend a live taping of a TV show, travel to a foreign country, or the right to go to public space without a mask. The question on everyone’s mind is how do you know if the person is telling the truth about their vaccinated status?
Another interesting part to me is that while there is some evidence that something like a vaccine passport is gaining speed in some areas, there’s also major pushback against the idea in others. Florida and Alabama have passed laws making vaccine passports illegal. It means that companies, stores, and live event venues would not be allowed to request verification of vaccination.
However, this issue isn’t the only one facing society coming out of the pandemic. There are shortages of some raw materials that we didn’t expect, like roofing materials, and it is affecting the Customer Experience. I am having a roof replaced on my house in Florida, and we have to wait three months to get started because the contractor doesn’t have the stuff. Also, there are backlogs in health care. For example, in the UK, loads of people are trying to get into the dentist, but can’t get an appointment because the National Health Service (NHS) is fully booked. In Florida, elective surgeries, like knee replacements and the equivalent, are booking three months out or more.
These circumstances create opportunities. For example, verifying people’s vaccination could send the signal to your customers that you value their safety while in your experience. At least, it would send that signal to some people. Others might get the signal that you are operating with a different value set than they have, and it is time for them to find an organization that is more in line with their thinking. It’s hard to give much advice on how to handle vaccine passports other than it’s best to figure out what your best customers want and go with that option.
There is also opportunity due to an increased demand. For example, it is a good time to sell healthcare insurance in the UK because people would likely rather pay to go somewhere now than wait for an appointment with the NHS.
Also, when demand is high and supply is low, the price often rises on goods and services. Moreover, some customers would pay a premium to “jump the line” to get roofing materials before other customers. (Not me; I can wait.) Increasing the price would be one way to capitalize on the shortage. However, most customers don’t like that idea and increasing prices in times of scarcity smacks of price gouging, which doesn’t do anything good for your Customer Experience.
Another option is to ration. While people are not usually happy about rationing, it is usually less unpleasant than raising the price. So, if it were my roofing business, I would likely take the same course as mine, rationing over price-gouging.
It would be best to also recognize that rapid economic growth also creates opportunities for relationship building. By managing customers’ expectations and excellent communication, you can show your customers you are trustworthy. Moreover, these are two areas that some organizations overlook. You have the opportunity to be the exception by addressing them.
Story #3: Taking a political stand for your business
As a swing state, Georgia politics have been a hotbed of activity and turmoil in the past few years. One of the implications is that businesses cannot stay neutral. The political climate pulled brands into taking political stances that companies wanted no part taking.
For example, Delta was drawn into the kerfuffle over the recently passed Georgia voting laws, which the opposition said restricted in some ways the ability for people to vote. The Atlanta-based company endured pressure from the movement that opposed these laws to come out against them on behalf of Delta’s employees, so Delta did. Unfortunately, this stance upset the proponents of the new laws, who also fly with and work for the airline. It was quite a headache for their CEO and the organization as a whole.
This story demonstrates the reality today that it is increasingly difficult to stay out of politics, as an organization. If it is unavoidable, I would advise organizations to determine what’s important to your customers. Determine also what’s important to you as a company in terms of your culture and what you can credibly claim. In other words, if you are a petroleum company, avoid green issues, even if they are important to your customers because it isn’t credible and it will do more harm to your brand than good. Stick with what you can stand behind. Moreover, if you make a stand, hold your ground. If you flip-flop, then you damage your reputation for customers also.
Whatever stance you’re taking, it would be best to also consider your employees. If you’re implementing something that 70 percent of your employees disagree with, then you will have a problem there, too. Note where your majority is and frame your position as best you can to keep the support of as many customers and employees as you can.
Most attributes of products and services have flexibility around the framing. Consider the difference between the messaging of the Prius vs. Tesla. They both have electric car fleets. However, the positioning and the framing of those attributes are completely different. Prius has an environmental-friendly framing around conserving gas, whereas Tesla’s is of style, technological innovation, and performance. Each of these frames will resonate with specific groups more than another.
Finally, we offer this final piece of advice regarding the lessons we can learn from these stories: don’t leave these areas up to chance. Be deliberate in your moves. Organizations should be more strategic about these details and bake them into the company culture more than they do today.
These three topics came up in the news, and on the face of it, you don’t think it applies to the Customer Experience. But it does when you step back and think about it. Each of these stories shows us a different essential aspect of Customer Experience design and management.
The question is are you going to learn from these mistakes or be the future subject of one of these headlines yourself?
To hear more about this idea in more detail, listen to the complete podcast here.
Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX
Panja, Tariq; Smith, Rory. “How the Super League Fell Apart.” www.nytimes.com. 22 April 2021. Updated 3 June 2021. Web. 7 June 2021. < https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/22/sports/soccer/super-league-soccer.html>.
Siregar, Cady. “What is the Super League? European club breakaway tournament format & teams explained.” Goal.com. 21 April 2021. Web. 7 June 2021. < https://www.goal.com/en-us/news/what-is-super-league-european-club-breakaway-tournament/1579xlo7z4uaq1vk0jnkxvzl5c>.
Josephs, Leslie. “Covid vaccine passports: Everything we know so far.” Cnbc.com. 22 May 2021. Web. 7 June 2021. < https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/22/covid-vaccine-passports-everything-we-know-so-far.html>.
Kelleher, Suzanne Rowan. “Delta Air Lines CEO Now Says Georgia Election Law is ‘Wrong’ And ‘Based On A Lie.” Forbes.com. 31 March 2021. Web. 10 June 2021. < https://www.forbes.com/sites/suzannerowankelleher/2021/03/31/flip-flop-delta-air-lines-ceo-now-says-georgia-election-law-is-wrong-and-based-on-a-lie/?sh=54525c126a47>>