Did you watch the Super Bowl this past weekend? Even if your team didn’t play in the Super Bowl, you likely watched the game on TV. And while you had a prime spot to watch it, some people who actually had tickets to the game weren’t so lucky. The day of the event, local officials decided that some temporary seats erected weren’t safe. That left 400 ticket holders without seats to the game.
Of course when something goes wrong like this, organizers are between a rock and a hard place. When people pay over $800 per ticket and don’t get to use them, you will have some very unhappy customers. That said, the NFL did some things right and missed the boat on other ways they handled the situation.
What can we learn from the NFL’s mistakes?
Problem: Poor Communication.
Guest complained that nobody knew where their seats were and that they spent several hours trying to find out where they were supposed to go. When you have a public relations disaster in the making, rule number 1 is to communicate. You have to explain what is happening, why it is happening and what you are doing to rectify the situation. Nothing is as frustrating for an attendee as uncertainty. Sometimes bad news is better than no news at all.
Lesson: Make sure everyone on you team knows how to address the problem and the solution you are offering. Communicate it clearly and quickly to the affected parties.
Problem: Insufficient Attention.
Attendees without a seat were finally brought to a room with a television and they complained that they were treated like second class citizens. Organizers had several hours warning. Enough time to arrange for food and beverage to be brought in, even though I am sure additional screens were in short supply. When you pay more than $800 per ticket, you expect an experience. Treat your attendees to an experience, even if it isn’t the one that they signed up for.
Lesson: Make sure your wronged attendees are treated like VIPs, instantly. Roll out the red carpet and at least offer them some food & beverage. It is amazing what a free drink can do to make people feel better.
Problem: Insufficient Compensation.
While promises of compensation can never make the situation whole again, it will go a long way. The NFL actually did this right. The NFL is offering three times the face value of more than $800 per ticket and is paying all expenses for guests to come to next year’s Super Bowl in Indianapolis. The question is if it is enough? Attendees who follow their team to the Super Bowl pay in most instances much more than the face value of the ticket. Factor in travel and hotel expenses and you are in the hole much more than the $2,400 the NFL is offering. And while an all expense paid trip to next year’s Super Bowl is nice, chances are that your team won’t be playing in the big game next year.
Lesson: Compensate for more than the ticket. Pay travel expenses and give them an opportunity for a free event with you where you can show them how you would like to your seminar to run. Also throw in some bonuses, like a free product or consultation.
The chances are very small that you will ever have to deal with 400 people that you can’t accommodate at your event. And if you do, you should know well in advance and be able to plan for it. However, whenever something goes sideways, have a plan in place to communicate what you will do about the problem. Treat your attendees like VIPs and compensate them for their troubles. When you do these three things, you may just be able to turn an unhappy guest into a raving fan.