How to Offend Friends and Frustrate People: The Liverpool FC Way
Oct. 31, 2023
Liverpool, oh Liverpool. You’re breaking my heart.
Not for the usual reasons, mind you.
On the pitch, things are going quite well (Sunday’s game aside. Sigh.)
Thanks to the summer signings of Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai and Ryan Gravenberch, Liverpool’s midfield has been reinvigorated to the point of being called “one of Europe’s best.” Same goes for the front line. The Athletic has dubbed it “the Famous Five – Europe’s most formidable attack.”
As I write this, Liverpool is sitting in 3rd place. Only 3 points behind the mighty Manchester City. I have every faith in Captain Virgil van Dijk and all “the boys”, as Manager Jürgen Klopp refers to his squad, to keep calm and carry on. Right to the league title.
What I do NOT have faith in is Liverpool’s customer support.
Let me explain.
Last November, I paid for an annual subscription to LFCTV. Said subscription allows you to watch all kinds of videos—interviews, match highlights, “Inside Anfield” shows, training montages, and full games not available on other streaming services.
For a Liverpool-obsessed fan like me, LFCTV is pure heaven. Suffice it to say that I was thoroughly enjoying my LFCTV. Regularly geeking out on all things LFC.
Until I wasn’t.
On September 30 of this year, my subscription abruptly and inexplicably stopped. Exactly one month early.
No worries. Small problem. Easily rectified. Or so I thought.
For two weeks, I tried valiantly to get my subscription reinstated. I failed miserably.
First, I called the club—long distance no less—but all I got for that time and expense was a recorded message directing me to use the “live chat” feature on the club’s website. When I logged on to the live chat to explain my problem, I got a message helpfully informing me that “no specialists are currently available.”
Then I emailed. Seven times. Seven! And while my emails did, at least, elicit replies—from so-called “people” like “Hayley C” and “Carla A”—those replies amounted to a dog’s breakfast.
My problem still isn’t resolved, but here’s the silver lining. Thanks to Liverpool Football Club, we have ourselves an excellent little primer on how NOT to conduct customer service communications.
Here are five big mistakes.
Mistake No. 1: Send rote responses.
Every email from the club started the same way: “Thank you for contacting Liverpool Football Club.” That’s perfectly fine—standard practice even—for the first reply, but after that, not so much. Once I managed to establish contact, I expected to be having an intelligent exchange, a logical back and forth conversation with each message building on, clarifying, adding to the one before it. Alas, this was not the case.
Mistake No. 2: Provide contradictory information.
In their first reply, LFC told me flat out that they had no account under my Gmail address. In a subsequent email they said they had located my annual subscription under my Gmail address. That flip flop didn’t inspire much confidence.
Mistake No. 3: Offer up implausible explanations.
In one email, I was told I’d been locked out of my account because my renewal payment was “overdue.” LFC had tried to process payment on October 1, but my credit card had failed.
The credit part, at least, is true. I had received a new card since subscribing last November. But in my books, “annual” means 12 months, not 11. So, technically, the club should not have been trying to renew my subscription until October 31.
(Perhaps this 11/12ths annual LFCTV thing has something to do with the fact that there are 11 players on a soccer team. It’s long been said that the home crowd is the 12th. I don’t know…I’m clearly grasping at straws here.)
I was also advised that the club had “changed systems last year” and, consequently, they were unable to check past payment history. Come on. This I could understand had I been talking to a small, not-for-profit organization. But LFC is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise—actual value $5.29 billion! It is beyond belief that an organization of Liverpool’s size and stature would blithely “change systems” without capturing valuable customer data.
Mistake No. 4: Ask for the same information multiple times.
More than once, I was asked whether my account might be under a different email address. Answer: no. More than once, I was asked to provide my credit card information. More than once I scanned and sent the requested documents. Annoying, to say the least. And to no avail.
Mistake No. 5: Go AWOL.
The last email I had from LFC was an unsigned message. LFC was “sorry” I was having an issue with my LFCTV subscription. They promised to pass the issue on to their “technical team.” They’d contact me “immediately” as soon as the technical team got back to them.
That was October 18. I’ve heard nothing since. And just like that, my favourite football club abandoned me. So much for You'll Never Walk Alone!
Yes, in the grand scheme of things, my cancelled-early subscription is no big deal. It’s just another one of those nagging little issues that tend to “get my goat.”
But, honestly, if you’re a world-renowned brand—and even if you’re not—you’ve got to care about the little things. Your brand depends on it.
Your brand is not your logo, your tagline or even your unique product or service. It’s something more. It’s the sum total of what people know, think and feel about your product or service.
And that sum total comes from the client or customer’s experience at every single touchpoint. How you answer the phone. Whether you answer the phone. How quickly you respond to emails. What you say in those emails. All of it matters.
From the customer or client’s perspective, every touchpoint should be consistent and “on brand.” In Liverpool’s case, it’s not much good being a great team on the pitch if the back office appears to be a shambles.
Despite all my grumblings, I finally relented, and on November 1, I renewed my LFCTV subscription with my new credit card.
But I’m not done yet. No siree. This dog has a bone clamped firmly between her teeth.
I’m planning to write the club an old-fashioned letter. To be sent in an old-fashioned envelope. By old-fashioned air mail over the pond to Liverpool. With a carbon copy to my favourite manager, Jürgen Klopp.
With any luck, that will get someone’s attention. Hell, maybe LFC will even offer me a job fixing their customer service communications. Wouldn’t that be sweet!
Remember this: Every touchpoint in the customer or client’s experience with your organization matters to your brand. The owners of the strongest brands know they need to pay attention to even the smallest details—they’re the ones that can make or break your reputation.Effective Communication | Writing Tips & Tools