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From the Founder's Desk: Why Customers Don't Come First in This Industry

Fergal Quinn was a great businessman. He founded the Irish supermarket chain “Superquinn” in 1970. Forty one years later, he sold it to Musgraves for €400 million in 2011. In 1990, Fergal wrote a book called “Crowning the Customer: How To Become Customer-Driven”. It was one of the first “business books” that I ever read but it had a big impact on me!

Essentially the book is all about making the customer the priority. In the book, Fergal goes out of his way to give examples of how Superquinn transformed their business by improving the service to their customers. While the book might be a bit outdated now, the key message in the book is the same nowadays i.e. the customer comes first.

Why is it then, that customers don’t come first in the industry of sports facility management? I am specifically talking about the countless companies all over the world that provide sports facility management services and software. From speaking to these companies customers i.e. the venues with sports facilities, the overriding feedback is one of frustration and anger.

This frustration and anger stems from having to typically wait days to get a response to an email or being put on hold and waiting for ages on the phone. Standard practice in the industry is to issue a “support ticket” to email enquiries. While this is normal, generally the support ticket gets consumed into the abyss and the customer is lucky if they get a response anytime soon.

My personal opinion is that old habits die hard in the industry. A lot of the established companies have been around for a long time. At the time, they were the only ones doing sports facility management. There weren’t many competitors and they got complacent. Their opinion was that customers could wait for support, it wasn’t a priority. But there’s nothing like a bit of competition to drive up standards and performance.

I believe that the customer should come first in every industry. At a minimum, companies should offer live chat to their customers. This feature is a game changer when it comes to customer support. It’s instant and it forces the customer to be more succinct when describing their problems or requirements. In SportsKey, we have found it an invaluable tool in helping us improve the support we provide to our customers.

One of our five core values is “the customer comes first”. We pride ourselves on our customer service. We and many of the new companies entering the industry are helping to drive up the standards and raise the bar in the industry. There is no doubt, customer service is improving but there is still a long way to go.

We know that by constantly looking for those 1% improvements in our customer services, we will have happier customers, which will ultimately help us in our mission of helping 20 million people play sport by 2024. Keep an eye out for improving customer service standards, it’s happening!

Yours in sport,

Craig Bewley

_____________ CEO SPORTSKEY


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