As the calender inches closer to the start of the pro football season, neither the owners nor the players want to budge on their financially centered demands. Eventually, both sides may swallow some of their greed and concede to compromise, but for now, they are doing irreparable harm to the fan base– their ultimate end use customer.
It’s Different This Time
This lockout situation is different from any other that has existed in the history of professional sports. Why? Because there is no way to get away from it. In the past, labor wars were a public matter, and certainly polarizing, but you could look away if you wished. It wasn’t in front of your face all day every day. This time, unlike past work stoppages in sports, the fans are empowered to let their voices be heard, and they will be loud.
The NFL Is Big Business
The NFL makes $9 billion dollars a year and the owners and players both want more of the pie. The NFL just hit its highest peak in the last two years with the two highest rated Super Bowls and most seen shows in the history of television and makes enough money to be considered the 4th arm of our U.S. Government. But all this phenomenal success could not have happened without passionate fans who were gaining satisfaction with their customer experience. After all, aren’t we the ones who buy the tickets, purchase parking passes, shop for merchandise, and spend a large time of our lives supporting something that we love?
But Not Bigger Than Their Fans
The reality is that it’s hard enough for most of us to provide for our families and do the best we can to keep our heads above water while enduring one of the worst economies since the Great Depression. It angers us who don’t get paid millions to play a kid’s game or billions to own an NFL franchise, to be disregarded in a sport for which we are so committed. If the NFL, it’s owners, and players believe they are above the fray and have more pull than any other sports, they will most likely find out they are wrong.
Lessons from Customer Experience Management
The NFL should remember that every interaction with us, their customer, creates an experience. Today, if you are a sports fan that listens to sports radio, reads sports web sites, or utilizes social media as a way to keep up with your sports information, you will not be able to escape having both sides perpetrate their propaganda onto your consciousness. What is the day-in, day-out ‘customer experience’ the NFL is delivering now? It’s certainly not the same positive experience we were previously accustomed to.
What’s At Risk?
The NFL has the potential to erode the customer satisfaction pyramid. By prolonging the lockout they will change the rabid pro football advocate into a customer that could very well lack loyalty and satisfaction. Ask baseball enthusiasts how their lockout affected their sport when they locked out, which ironically helped confirm that the NFL was truly America’s favorite pastime. Fans will move on to another sport and the bitterness will turn into ambivalence and the NFL may not lose all of its popularity, but it will take a long time, if ever, to get back to their current state.