Saturday, June 27, 2009

For want of a nail…

Remember the rhyme about how little things can have big consequences?

For Want of a Nail

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Source: Wikipedia

Well, I got a great example of that in the mail this week.

My sister and I have tickets to the Rogers Cup ATP tennis tournament in Montreal in August – we’ll be haunting the grounds of Stade Uniprix (formerly Jarry Park Stadium) for two days of the tournament, like we did centuries ago when we were ballgirls for the Canadian nationals at the Rideau Tennis Club in Ottawa.

We ordered our tickets online, and they came in the mail a couple of weeks ago. Then this week, I got another, totally unexpected envelope from Rogers Cup in the mail: metro tickets to get us to and from our matches.

“Great PR,” I thought – “a freebie, great involvement of a government sponsor, opportunity for the tournament to promote its sustainability initiatives – everyone looks good and the customer is delighted. Must blog about it.” I filed the metro tickets away with the event tickets.

Then this week, I saw a tweet about someone having gotten metro tickets from the Rogers Cup… but for the wrong days. So I checked mine and… lo and behold… mine aren’t right either!

I can only imagine what a logistical nightmare this is going to be for the organizers. They can just re-issue metro tickets for the right days (which could double the cost); or they can do a big internal communication initiative to ensure Société de transport de Montréal employees accept the tickets for any day of the tournament, with an external communication initiative to ensure everyone knows they can use the tickets for any day. Or they might come up with some other solution (though they wouldn’t be well-advised to ask customers to send the original metro tickets back). No matter how you slice it, it’s going to be expensive, both in time and money – likely both for Tennis Canada and the Société de transport de Montréal.

Of course, this will have no effect on how much my sister and I enjoy cheering Roger and Rafa on (Nadal’s injuries and Federer’s impending fatherhood permitting), but it does make what should have been a great gesture somewhat of a pain for the customer, and an enormous hassle for organizers (not to mention that it reflects poorly on the organization overall).

In event planning, you do your best to check, double-check and triple-check everything. Unfortunately, every once in a while, some little detail like this gets by you… and to paraphrase Vincent Gardenia’s character in Moonstruck, that is a long, bad, expensive day.


I left a voice mail with tournament organizers on Saturday, and got a call back today (within one business day). The fellow said they'd had "big problems" with the metro ticket initiative, but that they would just send out new tickets for the right dates. Potentially an expensive, but definitely the most customer-friendly way to manage it. Nice job.

1 comment:

  1. Well, it appears that this issue has been managed in a satisfactory way. Just for the fun of it, here are my thoughts on the situation.

    I'm in complete agreement that supplying the transit passes is a fantastic PR venture for both the tournament and the City of Montreal, a great idea that highlights both organizations dedication to customer service and sustainability. However, the unfortunate error in dates could end up overshadowing the gesture.

    In an effort to handle the situation in the simplist, most affordable and sustainable way, I recommend taking a page from Winnipeg Transit and the Blue Bombers. On Bomber game days, anyone with a event ticket has free passes on all transit busses.

    Using the event passes as a complimentary transit pass would save the City from having to reprint the tickets, saving both money, resources and the environment. It also saves visitors from having to wait for another ticket and ensure that other incidences are prevented. (These incidences could include visitors bringing the wrong tickets, forgotting tickets, tickets not being replaced, mismailed tickets, etc.) Another mistake or incident would have harmful effects on the City and, by association, the event.

    Using the existing passes prevents any other incidences from occuring and shows that both organizations are most concerned about the visitor's overall experience.

    The message can be communicated on the event website, the City's website, and the ticket vendor's website. First point of contact at call centres at all organizations involved would also be able to clear communicate the key messages. I suggest sending out a direct email or a traditional letter to share this information and key messages with people directly involved. Key messages include:
    1. We're very sorry for the confusion and complications,
    2. We want to solve it in the easiest way for our patrons while maintaining our concern on environmental sustainability, and
    3. The event passes will be accepted as transit passes for the duration of the tournament.

    However, there may be logistical challenges with this plan. For instance, if barcodes and scanners are used as part of Montreal's transit system.

    I know this incident will remind me to triple and quadruple check all dates, times and customer mailings, even if they are not directly the responsibility of my organization. (Melanie, you've now provided another reason to support my compulsive over-management, particularly of events and customer promotions).

    However, I think the bigger lesson is that once a give-away or promotion is presented to a client, it becomes a part of their package. If an issue arises, there doesn't appear to be a difference between the event tickets that were purchased by the client and the transit tickets that were a thoughtful and suitable PR gesture.