Arsenal Football Club Supporters consultative Forum 2007/2008 Season
Meeting held at 11 am - the Red Zone Saturday 24th November 2007

Attendees (in alphabetical order)
Beattie, John — Arsenal F.C
Borthwick, Ian — Family Enclosure
Breese, Rick — Arsenal Supporters Club (Overseas)
Brindle, Mark — Arsenal Supporters Club Branch
Campbell, Sue — Arsenal F.C.
Clifford, David — Gold Member
Edelman, Keith - Arsenal F.C.
Ellis, Paul — Arsenal Supporters Club (Norfolk)
Ford, Adrian — Arsenal F.C
Frost, Ben — AISA Representative
Gosnell, Peter — Disabled Supporter
Grainger, Nicky — Silver Member
Irwin, John — Gold Member
Kinnear, Angus — Arsenal F.C
Laser, Ronald — Club Level
Manek, Ameesh — Ethnic Minority Representative
Mears, Janet — Over 60 Year-Old
Miles, David — Arsenal F.C.
O’Brien, Michael - Arsenal F.C.
Osipiuk, Rob — Silver Member
Patterson, Dave — Red Member
Roberts, Elliot — Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
Smith, Gill — Arsenal F.C.
Tango. Lee — Red Member
Thater, Rosie — 16 — 21 Year Old Representative
Tolhurst, Dan — Arsenal F.C

Outstanding Issues from the last meeting

The Club is still investigating options around the donation of Club Level returns for Carling Cup games and should have some information at the next forum.

The Club looked into the reported problem of using the same credit/debit card twice when making ticket purchases. The club asked for more information on this from the person who reported and will then look into it further.

The problem with the clock has now finally been fixed, although unfortunately, the scaffolding is still surrounding it. There have been delays because of the method statement from the contactors around the scaffolding — it should be visible to all soon.

There is a page that has gone live regarding Arsenal TV and there is also an article in today’s match programme.

The volume of the PA is now at its maximum level as specified by the Local Authority & planning constraints.

The Club, along with RedAction, is currently looking into the purchase of a bigger drum to be used in the stadium.

The Club has been looking to expand the number of ex-players circulating pre-match at Club level and recently Ray Parlour and Martin Keown have been involved.

The Club’s view is not to have a new shop at the other end of Club Level, the one we currently have is now starting to do really well, following an increase in its’ size. We will constantly review it but we have no current plans.

We have recently increased the prominence of the contact number for overseas fans for the current membership set-up (please see below for new plans in this area) and we’ll make sure that this appears across all our communications platforms.

Presentation on the Proposed New Customer / Supporter Service Centre
We have been working on and developing a new strategy on how fans can access the club for information, ticket purchases etc. It entails a large use of new technologies. There has been a dramatic increase in the volume of in-bound contact from supporters across all media over the last couple of years and this proposed change is our solution to this. A lot of the focus within Arsenal over the last few years has obviously been on delivering the success of the Emirates Stadium and we’re now focusing in on our customer service. We’ve conducted our own research on customer relations over the last six months or so and we’ve also referred to the FAPL research, where we currently rank 10th in overall Customer Service. We aim to be the best both on and off the field in the long term and in terms of customer service we also want to benchmark our customer service across other industries. We’ve looked at how big banks and travel organisations have set up their customer service functions, and also looked at clubs like Everton and Aston Villa who have been highly rated in this area.

Previously, our various customer service points like ticketing, Stadium Tours and travel have been working in silos and to a large extent have existed independently of one another — which is not ideal from a fan perspective. We previously haven’t been able to track the number of missed calls and anecdotally, we are aware that this sometimes has happened and we have had various numbers and email addresses for various ticketing enquiries etc, something which was been confusing and sometimes frustrating for fans. Also the level of customer service varied widely, not because of a lack of will from those who dealt with those enquiries but more to do with workable systems not always being in place.

Our premise is to move away from an organisation structure that works for Arsenal and its’ staff towards a structure that works for our customers. You support the club but you can decide how much you interact with it and we want to create a system that puts what you want first. We don’t want users hanging on the end of the line, not sure if they’ve been put through to the right department or even if they’re going to be answered when on call waiting. We also want to remove the multiple entry points to the club, with users not being sure if they’re approaching the most appropriate place within the club to answer their query effectively. Currently people are writing to various email addresses in the hope that they will get one satisfactory reply. To ensure that this proposed new system works well and that the right technology and training is in place, we are going to employ a Customer Services champion who will start in the New Year.

We will be benchmarking the new system against key performance indicators on topics such as call resolution and missed calls. We will also implement new web-based communication channels to provide answers to time-specific or routine questions, which may not necessitate a call i.e. we are looking at new ways to manage how people access information from and about the club. This web based systems will provide FAQ’s and specific guidance and advice on particular topics (depending on what information the user inputs) — also this web-based communication will allow queries to be directed to the relevant person.

In terms of the technology that will be used, there will be caller recognition processes whereby users can enter their membership number so that centre staff will have your personal information ready to hand when they answer your call and call centre operatives will specialise in certain areas and users will then be routed accordingly. We will have Management Information on key issues such as average call times, volumes of calls and how many are completed successfully.

There will also be a fully documented and centralised complaints system. Every complaint will be handled in the same way and there will be a pre-agreed process on how complaints will be escalated and the timescales that relate to responses.

The customer / supporter service centre will be housed in Highbury House and there will be 35 staff working there, with a maximum of two different numbers for customers to access it. We are hoping to have staff located in the new centre and start on the training, as well as launch the web-forms and start putting the new phone system in place March/April next year — all current numbers will work but these will be phased out over time. We hope the system will be fully operational in the secondhalf of next year and we will be sourcing regular feedback from fans and representatives, as well as ironing-out minor difficulties that will inevitably occur. We expect the system to be fully working within 18 months. This new customer approach will apply to all parts of the Club that interact with fans, even including how security staff and catering staff liaise with fans.

How will the club measure the success of this new system — what benchmarks will be used and will it really take 18 months to get the system fully operational?

The 18 months relates to when we hope to get the system to a world-class level — the system will be operational before then and we hope to get to that level within that timescale. We hope to have both the system and the telephone number in place by March 2008. We’re not just changing the service ethos, we are also changing the technology and systems that will allow us to do that — it won’t happen overnight but we feel fans will start to feel the benefits not long after its implemented — the 18 month timescale is where we hope to be at a very high standard. We will publish the standards that we are aiming for and will be public on how we measure up against them.

What will this one access number be — will it be a 0207 number?

We are trying to find a memorable number — we’re looking for a local rate number that will also allow international access, which is possible with a 0844 pre-fix. The reasons against having a 0207 number are that you’re limited in what you can use e.g. 0844 Arsenal is much easier to remember than a standard 0207 number. Secondly, the cost is not the same (for the user) from whatever part of the country you call from.  We’re looking at the new number being cost neutral to the club — a 0800 number means that the club will pick up the charge for the calls. We are looking for a system that works for all elements of our fan base — we may need to publicise a separate number for our international supporters, but we do want to try and avoid that if possible. Currently, fans who want to buy tickets, arrange travel and buy merchandise can get lost in the labyrinth of numbers and take a long time to get what they want. This system will ultimately allow people to ring one number, do all they want to do in one call and liaise with the same person whilst doing it. There will be full integration of these various elements and the agent can access all the relevant information from one screen. We will also vary the level of staffing at various times and ensure that at busy periods (e.g. ticket sales for big games) staffing and the process will be scaled accordingly. There will be 3/4 supervisors who will deal with more sensitive or difficult and these can be escalated up to the contact centre manager. If necessary, the query may then be forwarded to the relevant member of staff at Arsenal F.C. We will have published timelines for how quickly these issues will be responded to.

What will be the hours of opening?

We are aiming to be open for hours which are best for fans. This will mean being open in the evenings and also, where necessary, being open 7 days a week. We will see what demand is like and respond accordingly (e.g. big fixtures / off season)

How will this system work for Supporters’ Clubs, who may need to contact the relevant staff member directly?

There will be slightly different systems in place for supporters clubs and disabled users — however some of the more routine request for these categories of supporters will be able to be handled by the Customer Support Centre, where staff will have training on the points surrounding these categories of fans. We are aware that in certain cases a direct relationship with the relevant Club employee will still be needed. In the past, queries have come in to the club and various staff have had to leave their other duties and react to these. Having this more integrated system will allow internal Arsenal staff to more closely focus on their core responsibilities.

Acceptable Fan Conduct & Chanting at Games

There has recently been some legal action taken by three fans about chanting at games — how have Arsenal reacted to this?

As a Club, we abhor any racist or discriminatory chanting at games. There are particular issues relating to the chants at games against Spurs — there are certain terms that the Spurs fans refer to themselves as and Arsenal fans sometimes also use these terms. We have introduced a text service whereby fans can anonymously text details of troublesome fans, with stewards being trained to deal with the issues that may arise. Fans will need to provide as much information as they can, including seat numbers where possible. We need to manage this area carefully and sensibly. Stewards sometimes find it difficult in identifying individual fans that are using unacceptable language and we hope this new initiative will help. We are aware that we have the one of the most diverse group of supporters in the country and for example have one of the highest numbers of females coming to our games. We as a club don’t believe we have a major problem in this area, but of course we will deal with issues as they are made aware to us. If we find any examples of unacceptable language then we will ban fans — we are currently in the process of banning one at the moment and we as a club have banned the most fans in the premier league. In terms of arrests, to put this issue into a wider context, we had one fan arrested for the whole of last season.

Fans are aware that chants that were acceptable 30/40 years ago are not acceptable now — fans are also aware that they also have a responsibility in policing these issues, along with the club making announcements at games and articles in match day programs. There is also a responsibility on parents to set examples to younger fans, especially in the family enclosure — these are the fans of the future and if there is an educational process aimed at younger fans then the relatively small problem we have now will be even less significant in the future. This education should cover all types of discrimination and the club could work with Junior Gunners in explaining the background of some of the chanting.

We are aiming to put articles in programmes, however, we don’t think that this should be focused on particular games e.g. Spurs — as this approaches the problem in the wrong way. There is also the problem of particular ex-players coming to Emirates Stadium playing for their new team and not having a warm welcome. We will aim to educate our fans of all ages about these issues and work with groups such as RedAction.

There will be chants aimed at certain players (e.g. Ashley Cole) but we as fans should be positively chanting for our new left-back Gael Clichy and an interview with the player before the relevant game will be useful in this.

That is something that we can explore and we are aware that chants evolve and react to circumstances over time. A lot of chanting is witty and humorous — we want to focus on the unacceptable chanting — not removing chanting and singing from stadiums entirely. We as a club need to document what measures we are taking to tackle this issue, both at the Emirates stadium and for our fans when they travel to away matches. We are ultimately responsible for the behaviour of our fans at away games.

Why are fans not allowed to bring flags to the stadium? It seems a minority of fans are dictating policy on this.

We as a Club came to that decision as it was getting to a point where some fans were being physically threatened if they continued to display them at games — we understand there are wider issues with this and that some fans are upset at our decision, but we have a responsibility to ensure the safety and welfare of all our fans whilst they are at games. People sometimes channel their political issues through the avenue of a football club and our ultimate goal is to ensure that no one is physically injured at one of our games. It maybe that over time this situation changes and we can then look at our decision again. The new text system referred to above will also help in identifying those people who have made the threats.

Why are there no club flags around the stadium?

This is something we will look at again and we take the point that initially, the stadium was maybe not “personalised” enough — we have been giving the stadium more colour over time and this is something we will continue to do. For example, we are looking at new ideas for the concourse areas

Any other business

Has the Club considered an end-of-season fans’ day? Some other high profile clubs do it and it is a good way of maintaining relationships with fans and it is a good way for the Club to raise money for their chosen charity.

William Gallas is setting a good example for the other players in taking part in events such as an on-line question and answer session. We are looking at an end of season event, maybe including supporters’ clubs and other fan groups — the one this year maybe not be as wide ranging as fans would like but we will be looking at something on a larger scale for the end of next season. We may change the format of the member’s day so that it is a bit more interactive in future.

Other clubs put a strong on emphasis on having ex-players available for groups of overseas supporters — can Arsenal do more on this?

We have done some work on this, but the players these groups would like tend to be expensive and not always available. An example of when we have focused on overseas fans would be when Niall Quinn went to Thailand and played for our partner team there and this was extremely successful. We’ll have another look at this, both to build our commercial and supporter base.

How is the ticket exchange system working? It does seem a bit complicated at the moment and difficult for fans to use.

When we launched it we did say it wasn’t the final version and it was always intended to be a soft launch. We’re aware of the improvements that need to be made to it and we will improve the interface that fans use to locate and return their tickets and increase its publicity to improve the supply of tickets available via this system.

The meeting finished at 12.45pm.

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
23 Jul 2008