Friday, March 24, 2017

It’s time to update the football fan experience



I came to the UK over 20 years ago now to watch football and the experience really hasn’t updated that much since my first trip to watch Liverpool play away at Middlesbrough’s (then) new stadium.

Competition abounds with plenty of innovation from other Entertainment attractions, and from my trips to top flight grounds this season (St Mary’s, The Emirates and in the new Main Stand at Anfield) it’s notable how much even the newer venues feel behind the demands of the modern match attendee.

It’s the new building such as Chelsea are about to do to Stamford Bridge that offers the opportunity to bring the matchday experience up to date.

Many people I know now watch games at home rather than attend them in person for the simple reason that they get a better view of the action.  While many grounds now have big screens, they don’t play the live action or replays (due to some dated regulation) so you can’t get a view of the great goal or the controversial flashpoint until you get home and see the highlights.

That is of course unless you watch a replay on your own handset, and even that is thwarted with pitfalls.

To say that 4G and Wi-Fi coverage at stadiums is appalling would be an understatement.

When challenged it’s usually attributed to the cost and the complexity of the capacity challenge – going from very little usage to heavy load instantaneously.  In other words, exactly the same challenge that those of us working on the London Underground Wi-Fi rollout project successfully tackled, in that case going from zero load to thousands of devices connecting concurrently as the train exits a tunnel.

The cost is also both not that high and can usually be funded by the provider - and with the cost of Premier League tickets now more value does need bundling in.

There are clearly ways to monetise the provision as well.  Taking the example of the fan engagement platform and app rolled out at the Sydney Cricket Ground there’s a wealth of opportunity just waiting to be tapped.

An app based Wi-Fi network at a ground could effectively be a big Intranet and provides a captive audience.  Ticket and merchandise sales, integration of betting partners, exclusive content and even live matchday coverage and highlights (which if they can only be viewed from the Intranet would not impact the lucrative rights deals) are just some examples.

Holes could be punched through firewalls to social media services and Brands could even pay a fee (for example, to have their sites accessed) or offer fan exclusives from the in-ground network.

When talking about updating a matchday experience many will refer to the 1990s era US model of small screens at every seat – which is expensive to run and maintain - and from my visit to Ice Hockey last year while I was there it’s also notable that nobody uses them.  Fans have a far better, easier to use, personalised and much more powerful experience in the phone in their pocket.  It also doesn’t have the responsiveness of an aircraft in seat screen!

It’s also time that football had a much more grown up approach to alcohol provision in the ground.  While I understand the reasons that bans were put in place in the past, the type of person attending football games has changed markedly since and there’s nothing wrong with having a beer while watching the game as the same fans who are in the ground do when they go to rugby or cricket – and I don’t see trouble when I go to those.

Football grounds have a mandated safety officer who can always make the call to close bars on the day if problems do occur, or even to ban them completely if there is a game upcoming where trouble is expected.

Not only is revenue being missed out on, it’s also depriving grownups from how they want to enjoy a game and will do at home where many prefer to watch it instead.  And let’s face it, everyone knows that many of what Roy Keane famously dubbed the “prawn sandwich brigade” are not drinking coffee in their Starbuck’s cups during the game.

I can think of countless other examples on how to bring what is a somewhat dated Customer Experience to life and it just needs some decent journey design, picking up best practice from elsewhere and an adult conversation with football bodies and regulators (plus a determination to execute a great experience) to make it happen.

I’d love it to feel like 2020 not 1996 when I make my first visit to see J├╝rgen Klopp’s Premier League Champions win at New Stamford Bridge.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Enough with the NPS surveys!




How likely would you be to recommend [our widget] to a friend, family member or colleague?

Please use a 0-10 scale, where 0 means “I’m not at all likely to recommend” and 10 means “I’m extremely likely to recommend”

You’ve probably seen this question – or a variant of it – many times over after you’ve made a purchase, interacted with a Brand or are even an existing customer of a service. 

It’s called NPS® - or Net Promoter Score® - and is the most widely used measure of customer experience in the business world.

The question above is a specific measure of Product customer satisfaction but there are all kinds of similar measures such as transactional questions to measure how a specific staff member has done in meeting your needs as a consumer.

Measuring and analysing the feedback from your input is what keeps some of us in widgets.

It results in lots of shiny looking presentations, comparisons to other brands and industries, acts as a key input to decision making and is used to measure performance of individuals, products and Brands as a whole – including when it comes to their rewards.

As with any other measure, the output is only as good as the quality of the inputs – and for some time I’ve thought that the quality of the inputs has been really variable - due to the problem of over surveying.

Here’s my e-mail surveys folder:

While some of these are Brands seeking online reviews (many of which are keen for positive reports to go onto sites like TripAdvisor - but want you to get in touch with them direct and not publicise the issue if you’ve had a problem), they’re all measuring their Customer Experience.

Not only are there so many of them, they could improve their execution:

  • Don’t ask for your experience of a product (and not the sale process) as you close the sale at checkout – i.e. the product hasn’t even arrived, let alone the consumer being able to evaluate it
  • Less multiple reminders and over reminders (food establishments seem particularly bad at these)
  • Some don’t offer the ability to opt out – resulting in very poor quality inputs and brands being marked as Spammers
  • Be wary of incentivising positive reports and social media sharing – it skews results
  • Cut down the overly long surveys with too many questions – resulting in people clicking on the same number for each ranking question asked and not giving sufficient consideration to the verbatim feedback provided

Can we also do something about the scheduling of surveys as an industry?

In general there are a very small number of specialist agencies who undertake this research on the behalf of Brands so why don’t we start using a scheduling model of only sending each recipient X (4?) number of messages per month across an agency’s entire client base? (The agencies could manage without causing any DPA impacts)

This would result in better measurement, more meaningful feedback (the words are more important than the numbers), better consideration of Brands and less unsubscribes and spam reports.

After all, if Customer Experience professionals as consumers themselves tire of entering feedback then maybe it’s time for change.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The weather in Sloo

Finally Google have announced a launch date of June for their Google Home assistant in the UK, and having had one since Christmas I’m looking forward to the additional functionality that will hopefully come with it.

As my first digital assistant, I’ve been really impressed with it as a device – although it does have its quirks and more integration with data Google already has access to will make it much more useful and integral to my life.

There are staples that everyone will try when they get a new assistant, such as asking it to tell me a joke (they’re generally so cringeworthy that I’m not sure even my Dad would approve of some of them) or to sing me a song:


The audio is actually really good for such a relatively compact device, and when working from home I’ve frequently found myself listening to Spotify just using the Google Home speaker rather than casting to my Chromecast so I can use the sound bar – which it’s actually really simple to do by the way:




When you consider that this action has included telling Chromecast to switch the HDMI channel on my TV, load up Spotify, search for a particular playlist and playout the music I find this both really convenient and impressive for a few seconds worth of computing.

There are definitely weaknesses though, which if they are addressed with upcoming releases then it will be a much more useful assistant to me.

Firstly, as it was purchased in the US my phone needs to be set to US-English to be able to setup Google Home (or "Princess Google Home" as it’s called both in our house and in the app thanks to the voice), which messes up all kinds of other apps due to incorrect date formats for example.
Presumably as part of the UK launch they’ll also be tackling the weird pronunciation of some of the UK place names, such as the town in which my girlfriend works:






There’s definitely a need for multi user account access to make the most of the calendar and other functionality, and pleased that this seems to be coming. When I have one calendar for personal events, one for my work activities and my girlfriend also has one, the Google Calendar integration is so far useless to us (so we have disabled it).

In addition, the way that you need to address it as "OK Google" or "Hey Google" is odd, I think we’d just like to talk to ours as "Princess" :)

The really big need though is integration with the same public transport data that Google Maps has access to:




More natural language learning is needed yet, as we found when we tried to stop a playing of Narcos on Netflix this weekend:




However, it’s a cracking piece of tech and has brought out the (very poorly hidden) inner geek in me, as my favourite implementation is how I’ve managed to integrate it with my other Christmas present (Samsung SmartThings) for home control purposes:


Now I wonder what the weather IS like in Sloo today?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The great switching dilemma (or, just how do you keep customers in a switchers’ market?)

While I’ve been enjoying a bit of a career break and working through the bucket list, I’ve also steadily been making my life ‘to do’ list a little bit shorter – which included such tasks as switching energy supplier to save a bit of money (every little helps as someone once said).

After all, to me my energy supply has been nothing but a financial outgoing – other than my lights going on when I want them to (which is actually an achievement given some of the electrics in my flat!) it meant nothing else to me, regardless of what the supplier (E.on in my case) might be investing in renewable energy, green targets, corporate responsibility or any other activities (regardless of their value as a responsible business).

No, my interaction with them was this leaving my bank account every month:

Which I have always personally thought was a hefty chunk of change for a small two bedroom flat.
So I went onto a price comparison site (the one with the robot, although am still gutted they didn’t send me one when I used it) and had a look around what was available in terms of alternatives:

No, I hadn’t heard of them either – but as it was just a billing relationship to me, I thought “why not just go with them” [as you can see, is a fairly hefty saving] and I kicked off my switching of supplier by entering a few details on the site and soon had an e-mail from the provider stating I was confirmed as having changed supplier and that it would all go through around 6 weeks later.

That’s it – it really was that simple.  Ridiculously easy.  In fact, E.on even prompted me to take a look around by telling me that my current deal was expiring:

Now I have no doubt that they are required to send this by their regulator Ofgem, and that there is no way that they would have stirred me up to look around like this if there was any way that they could have avoided highlighted it to me – but I am also minded of what would have made me stay?

This has got to be a retention challenge for anyone in a gaining supplier led switchers’ market such as energy or personal banking and from experience the only real way to limit it has got to be to play back the value of what you already have as a customer (aka value reinforcement) before the event of them even thinking about moving on.

Make no mistakes – that’s really hard in an environment when you don’t get the opportunity to speak to the customer to prevent their churn before they move on, but at the same time learnings can be taken from markets that require the consumer to speak to their supplier before they can leave (or at least make it much easier to leave if they do have a conversation).

In my experience in cable, a few of us got our heads together (data gurus, marketeers and Customer Experience people) to come up with a concept focused on churn prevention that we called ‘Brilliance as Standard’.

It’s actually a really simple and relatively easy to implement solution as long as you have the data to back it up and the persistence to stick with it in messaging over a period of time.

BAS was based on what consumers talk about themselves with regards to your products or services as to what the most important non price related things are to them – i.e. the reasons that they stay with you, spend more money with you and don’t leave to head off to your competitors.

In our case it was the inherent advantages of the network and the way it had been invested in (i.e. the fastest available broadband around), the fact that we were the only provider that bundled in premium football sports channels (for top tier customers) and that a customer got free service & repairs if things did break (competitors often charging to replace telly boxes for example) – the stuff that consumers told us were the most important to them, that are their differentiators and that they based their provider decisions on.

It all came from NPS® verbatim comments and clever key word analysis, and really was effective in helping limit churn requests at sensitive times such as when prices went up – and was embedded in all communications you’d receive as an existing customer.  In fact many of the messages even resonated for new punters, hence you still see them occasionally popping up on billboards and in TV adverts around the place.

So, taking this lesson on board, I have been thinking of how my energy company might have limited their churn impact when they don’t get to discuss with the departing customer (i.e. preventing it in the first place).

I don’t have access to their NPS data (presuming that they use Net Promoter Score), but extrapolating what consumers are like I wonder if a combination of factors like this might have helped if it was highlighted at every touchpoint I had with the company:
  • Investment in energy efficiency – i.e. “we have spent £XYZ million in insulating customer homes”
  • Dedication to renewable ‘green’ energy agenda – how have met targets, how innovating etc
  • Smart metering investment and forecasted consumer benefits (financial, ease of energy management, more data and information for homes etc)
  • Location of call centres – if all in the UK it makes a big difference in consumer perception (regardless of the realities of life in many cases)
  • Key sponsorships – The Football League seemingly being the key one in this case
  • Any other key corporate responsibility messages?
Would any of this made the difference for me?  If highlighted over a period of 2-3 years at all key touchpoints (online, my bill, in advertisements, on billboards, by their customer service agents when I spoke to them – never forget the power of what your people say to your customers) I think there’s every chance that they might have – or if not, they may have with others, which has got to be worth a punt in a market where switching is so easy.

In my case I’m as happy as a happy thing though, as I’m saving even more than I expected:

Now let’s see what they can tell me about what else they do before I decide whether to switch again next year.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

England and ODI cricket – what is it that you want?

As I sit here writing this, England are heading towards being 3-0 down in the one day series against India while Andrew Strauss peddles his usual line that Ravi Bopara is the answer to everything (given how little bottle he shows at the top level, I’d hate to think what the question is) and David Gower lines up the excuses for yet another inept performance in what has looked a whitewash since the squad was picked.

And I wonder for myself what does English one day cricket want and where does it go from here?

Well it’s certainly not to win the World Cup, despite the laughable claims that those ‘inside’ cricket (and therefore entitled to an opinion, unlike those such as me who just pays all their salaries through going to games and Sky Sports subscriptions) have been peddling for weeks and weeks.

You’re not going to win the World Cup playing one day cricket in 1986 like England still does.
In fact I’ll be surprised if England gets past Bangladesh to make it out of their group in Australia and my native New Zealand in next year’s tournament, let alone avoids getting trounced 7-0 in Sri Lanka.  At present it only seems that rain will prevent that.

To understand where the ODI game (and T20 to a lesser extent) goes here for England, you first need to examine what is wrong with it, and that is four main issues:

(i)                Scheduling
(ii)              Conditions
(iii)             Tactics
(iv)             Selection

Scheduling

The test match game is the priority for England (unlike other countries, where the limited over stuff is as important – if not more so) given the attendances and the staggering ticket prices they charge, so the peak times for weather and crowds are where the tests land in the calendar.

One day cricket is treated as preparation for tests.

One day games end up as an afterthought in the calendar, squeezed in after lucrative test series with key players rested (and not allowed to turn out for their counties, where they could be gaining further experience at the time when the T20 is being played in the optimal limited overs conditions, in front of big crowds and for lucrative financial reward), the public and the media giving them less attention and a general attitude by all that they don’t really matter.

England players don’t have the experience (apart from when they go overseas or in tournaments and get their ritual hammerings) of games when the pressure is on for selection, from the media and the public and in the optimal conditions with the results really mattering.

Realistically this isn’t going to change – the ECB, Sky Sports, the players and the sponsors make their money out of test cricket, and we’ve learned from the IPL (which matters to Indian and many international players way more than test matches do) that you don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

Can anything be done to help though in the schedule?

Bringing back some real competition when one day games are played would be a nice start – and a tri-series really helps with that.  I don’t see why that can’t fit into the schedule either, as two sides tour each year for test series.  Next year that’s New Zealand and Australia, so play a three way series between the two test series and tailor the prize money accordingly to make it more relevant.

Another idea I remember from growing up in NZ is what used to happen when test matches ended early (and let’s face it, having watched NZ play for 30 years I have plenty of experience of that!) … which was to schedule a one day international on days 4 or 5 (or whatever), ensuring that revenue comes in (helping with the “chief executives’ pitches” issue no doubt) and that games get played in optimal conditions amongst competitive sides.  I recall well how angry the side that had badly lost the test match often was, turning in a really aggressive one day performance.

In this day and age cricketers are professional and it shouldn’t be hard to make this happen if the administrators show an actual will to do it rather than put obstacles in the way.

Yes you can pull players out of day 2 or 3 in a championship game if needed or even (shock, horror) give someone new a go to give them experience of international short game cricket.

Conditions

This is very much linked to the point above,  but England don’t play games of one day cricket at home (outside of tournaments) in the same conditions that teams in other countries do – in hot weather (when the ball seldom swings) or on hard and fast pitches.

Hence when they go to India and South Africa for limited overs cricket, or even Australia and New Zealand, the conditions are foreign and the opposition are expert at playing in them as second nature … and England loses accordingly.  Usually badly.

I do also need to address an important point here to counter the utter drivel spoken by Knight and Botham on Sky about the World Cup conditions.  They’re the worst of the lot, but the commentators as a whole compare the current England schedule with what happened when they played, rather than what the rest of the world are doing.

This insular attitude means that they really have missed the point when talking about conditions, and their musings really add no value whatsoever.

Let’s examine England’s World Cup fixtures:

Feb 14
vs Australia
MCG, Melbourne
Feb 20
vs New Zealand
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Feb 23
vs Scotland
Hagley Oval, Christchurch
Mar 1
vs Sri Lanka
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Mar 9
vs Bangladesh
Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
Mar 13
vs Afghanistan
SCG, Sydney

It’s not really worth going into the next round of games (as England has little chance of getting past Bangladesh into fourth place), but if they did they would then have a quarter final again at the ‘Cake Tin’ in Wellington.

Examining the grounds and the conditions in New Zealand, you have 1 game at a totally new ground for international cricket in Christchurch (Lancaster Park having been condemned by the earthquake) and a pair at the ‘Cake Tin’, which is now used for one day cricket rather than the Basin Reserve.  And will be on a drop in pitch.  None of which the commentators have any playing experience of themselves.

Spouting on about what is likely to happen in the games as if they were played at the Basin and Lancaster Park using old pitches and in the 1980s just adds no value whatsoever and, at worst, will add to a mindset of poor preparation for England.

In this day and age of sports science, it shouldn’t be beyond the ECB and the counties to prepare hard and fast pitches (even if they are drop ins, which I don’t get why nobody in English cricket will countenance – I can only assume it’s insular arrogance) on which a par score is 325-350.

If they don’t get prepared, counties shouldn’t get the games.  There really is no value in appeasing everyone.

Sure it won’t sort out playing games at odd times of year, but combined with sorting the schedule as above should put England well on the way to playing limited overs cricket in the current century.

Tactics

Being a NZ cricket fan (we don’t call ourselves the “Black Craps” for nothing), I’m used to us having to be more than the sum of our parts in one day cricket when we have lesser talent than other countries – and that’s down to captaincy and leadership.

In Alastair Cook, England has the most tactically inept captain I’ve ever seen.

I’ve been saying this since he took over from (the decidedly average himself) Andrew Strauss in terms of his field placings, his use of bowlers, his declarations (in tests) and his general use of tactics.

England have always been formulaic in one day cricket, but under Cook it’s at its lowest ebb.

I find myself sitting on the sofa more than once when England play the limited overs game shouting at the TV (or when I go in person):

FOR GOD’S SAKE, TRY SOMETHING!

I was brought up on one day cricket as (in reality) invented by World Series Cricket, in which all kinds of tactical innovations were tried, and was a big part of me falling in love with the game.

In those days you’d see all the kinds of things that England need to be doing now, plus other things that recent rule changes open up.

England needs to be doing the things that the innovative Kiwi skippers like Brendon McCullum and, before him, Stephen Fleming (the best captain I’ve seen) and Martin Crowe (the inventor of what is now T20 cricket) do like:
  • Taking the batting power play at a different time - If the opposition is on top, take it before the 36th over and disrupt their rhythm.
  • Vary the batting order – I remember how Australia using Craig McDermott and Shane Warne at 3 or 4 occasionally utterly threw the opposition.  Putting Jos Buttler in at 3 when all else has failed at least would make MS Dhoni think on his feet (which is not his strength, just as it isn’t for his counterpart).
  • Be innovative with the use of bowlers.  Crowe was of course the master of this when he opened with Dipak Patel in the 1992 World Cup (ironically the last time England innovated in this form of the game), but England use the same bowlers at the same time of each innings.  Always.  If it’s not working, give bowlers one over spells, bowl a spinner in the power play, bowl a quick completely out in the middle of the innings and dry up the runs occasionally (etc etc etc).
  • Ditto on field placings.  Remember how the two short leg side fielders to Graham Gooch totally threw his confidence through distraction if not technique as well?   Why not just give it a go?  Do something different!
Brendon McCullum clearly has a rule he lives by as the captain – if you’re good enough to get into the side, you’re expected to be good enough (i.e. accountable) to win games without the captain protecting you with defensive tactics (as seen by his really aggressive declarations in tests, expecting his bowlers to win the game).

McCullum’s mindset: Attack, attack, attack.

The setting of targets for runs at the end of each over (as Graeme Swann has said that England do) is a clear symptom of their formulaic nature.

They have the wrong captain (in all forms of the game) and maybe even the wrong coach – but if nothing else they need a fresh approach on both fronts.

Eoin Morgan (for want of a better option) needs to be made permanent skipper of the one day sides now and a specialist one day coach (or tactician) appointed.  The first line on the job description for the latter would be for me:

“Must not be English.”

Selection

It’s time to stop being (unsuccessfully) conservative and start being aggressive.

Fundamentally one day cricket now is as close to tests as Rugby is to Rugby League, and England now need to pick their sides accordingly.

No other side in the world would pick three ‘anchor’ batsman.  In fact most others wouldn’t have more than one, if that.

England continuously drops bowlers when the batsmen fail, but it’s time to have proper specialist sides for one day cricket and tests, and to paraphrase Tom Moody this week, start with being dynamic and go from there.
Three (if not four) of Cook, Bell, Root and Ballance need to be excluded from the side – and much as I would pick KP myself (and haven’t paid to see England play this season because of them not picking their best players), people talk about the young trio of Hales, Roy and Vince.  I’ve not seen much of them, but they’re young and if they have the ability get them in the side and keep them there.

Personally I’d keep Root in myself, as he has the ability to vary his game and play in different ways – the hallmark of the modern international cricketer.

When it comes to bowlers, the priority for England will always be to get their test attack right – and hence (given the priority of tests) they don’t have the luxury of a Malinga or a Shaun Tait who will only play the shorter form of the game.

So when it comes to pacemen, England need to rotate their best talent and to use one day cricket as a testing ground for the players of the future in the longer form of the game.  Pick them young, tell them to bowl as fast as they can and knock batsmen over in the opposition (best way of defending is to attack and all that).

In terms of a slow bowling option, the funniest thing I heard in days was Jack Bannister on TalkSport saying that James Tredwell was one of the top limited overs bowlers in the world.

Yes, he actually said that.

This is a bowler scarcely good enough to play first class cricket, who got destroyed by the Australians in the one day series down under when he was found out – and, despite being an honest toiler (I have nothing personal against him), is nowhere near on the same level as Herath, Lyon, Mendis, Ashwin, Ajmal, Narine and … well, you get the point.

Whether Moeen or Rashid is the right solution I don’t know, but if you’re going to specialise then Rashid is probably worth persevering with.