Thursday, June 7, 2007

Champions League

My son Ben and I were in Athens for the soccer. It was the Champions League final, and there is nothing like a world class sporting event to get the juices flowing. We were hosted by Nick Drake, who heads up Adidas Rugby, and caught up with a lot of old friends from around Europe, including the indomitable Andrea Formica, Head of Marketing at Toyota Europe, a staunch Milan fan. Was Ben happy or what! The game was a superb chess match with the result going down to the wire. If Benitez had brought on Crouch immediately after half-time, and moved Gerrard into central mid-field, who knows what might have happened. It was also great to see Paolo Maldini, who will be 39-years old this month, still standing. Maldini collected the cup as his father had several years before. His young son looks like he can play too.

The Olympic Stadium in Athens is a terrific venue for a big game, although the police had their hands full when 15,000 Liverpool fans turned up without tickets. The authorities had mistakenly let many fans with forged tickets onto the ground, creating some unrest (to say the least) amongst those who had real tickets and were denied entry. Liverpool received only 17,000 tickets for the game with 30,000+ going to neutrals/corporates. This is completely unsatisfactory. The sport urgently needs to find a way to balance commercial realities with the passions of grassroot fans.

Ben and I finally made it to bed at 3:00am and had to get up at 6:00am for an EasyJet flight home to London. We arrived at the airport only to be shepherded into a “holding pen”. I now know how New Zealand sheep feel before slaughter. On top of that, there were 4,000 red-shirted Liverpool fans, many of whom had slept at the airport all night, surrounding us as we struggled to get on the charter flight. No food, no refreshments, no toilets and a reminder of how the real world operates. Two hours later we finally made it to the plane only to find no crew - their bus hadn’t picked them up! So we lost our spot with air traffic control. Then it was revealed that we had seven people on board with no boarding passes and bound for Liverpool, Dublin and Glasgow. This was not so flash because the plane was heading for London Gatwick! When we finally relocated the magnificent seven, we were two and a half hours late and had been up for five hours. As we finally took off for our four hour flight, we were then told the plane had no food on board. But such is our love of sport – it was worth every second.


Susan956 said...

How many times have I watched a televised sporting event and observed that many of the corporate 'boxes' were largely empty...

Your narrative is certainly a tale of both poor service realities as well as optimism!

It reminded me of recent experiences with retailers and service received if you phone and ask if stock is available. Retailer 1 did not answer the phone at any stage over 3 days (I rang 7 times). I then rang the 'buy from home' service and was told I could not buy sale catalogue items from them. Say what? (Neither the catalogue NOR their web site said anything along these lines). I did not understand the logic. Moved on...

I then rang two stores in a different item category (both major retailers and competitors). One was willing to go and look if the item was actually on the shelf (after seeing if it was on the computer system). One was not.

In a third item category I rang 3 stores and received complaints from all 3 people who answered the phone about how run off their feet they were and that they could not possibly tell me whether an item was available and what price it was. I waited to see if any of the 3 would offer to perhaps ring me back when they DID have a chance to look (which would have been acceptable to me). One wound up doing that and did follow up but spoke in such a hurry it was like grabbing words spoken in a wind storm.

Where has gracious phone service gone?

I am seeing a widening gap these days between store (stated) philosophy and actual service. Too few people on the floor and inadequate attention to online/EMAIL enquiries. Phone habits are shoddy and retailers need to occasionally phone their own stores and see what kind of service is being delivered.

I have never lived in London or New York but I hear of stores where people KNOW product; know their cheeses or baking goods or yarns or preserves or BOOKS.. I long for that. In All Creatures Great and Small there is a story of a shopkeeper who has a small sweet shop..a load of jars..and he could locate JUST the right sweet to suit you.

I would like a total revamp of service and product knowledge. It's time.

I also take the time now to ring a manager and praise good service from a shop assistant where I receive it. Amid the negative let's work to locate the positive and give it it's due credit. :)

Susan956 said...

By the way, ever seen the UK show "Airport"? Watch that a few times and you would either not fly EasyJet or simply be prepared for problems :)