‘We’re not being greedy with our Christmas list for Santa’

From ticketing fixes to discounted food and drink, there's plenty on WHUST's wishlist as Chris Wheal explains

All we want for Christmas is for the West Ham ticket office to work as it should. But instead of writing to Santa, the West Ham United Supporters’ Trust sent our Christmas wish-list to the club.  

We’ve called it our ticketing manifesto. If implemented, it would give all Hammers fans a Happy New Year. If Santa has been watching, he’ll know that the ticket office has not been good all year.

The initial launch of NFC (near-field communication) tickets was done with an impolite abruptness that upset many.   The club initially refused to permit any other form of ticketing unless a spectator had pre-registered an accessibility issue. That was naughty. The U-turn was so fast it made Liz Truss’ prime ministership look lengthy.

As the early Europa games approached, many who had purchased tickets in advance for the entire first stage were waiting for their tickets to arrive long after the seven-day cut-off the club had announced. The club missed several more deadlines, then insisted all tickets had gone out when its ticketing server needed a reboot.

Then there were several issues with overseas fixtures. The initial cause of the delays were down to local police and security requirements, but the club managed to make it worse through poor communication and timing. As had happened before, the club sent out emails at the end of the working day and then shut up shop, while supporters tried to get in touch urgently.

We have made clear to the club that if the ticketing office sends out emails on Friday at 5pm, it needs to have staff available until 10pm that night and over the weekend. Our ticket manifesto includes a range of customer service standards like this. We want urgent matters dealt with within two hours in most cases and no more than four hours. And we think even the least urgent queries should be dealt with within five working days — not 40 days, as has happened this year.

When it works, the ticket office is great. Some charming people answer calls within four rings, then deal with matters quickly and authoritatively and fix issues within minutes. But the next call can leave you hanging on for 20 minutes or more or the line just going dead.

Communication is a big part of our ticketing manifesto. The word appears in five of our subheadings:

  • Certainty of communication — do what you say you are going to do
  • Accessibility of communication — use the written word, speech, video, diagrams, graphics, images as well as in-person help so people can engage in their preferred way of communicating
  • Privacy of communication — no more Information Commissioner’s Office Investigations over data losses
  • Timing of communication — test new technologies and messages on WHUST volunteers to iron out problems and fix bugs before launching on the wider support — and have a back-up plan
  • Omnichannel communications — a supporter ought to be able to communicate via SMS, WhatsApp, phoning, email and turning up in person and it should be seamless, regardless of the channel used for each message.

But these are the stocking fillers. We have some big items for the club’s elves to build. We want a proper membership system, with member discounts and exclusive deals. Why should a one-off visitor only attending to tick it off their visit-London list, who leaves at half-time, pay the same for a beer as loyal fans?

We want to be able to bring guests and attend member-only events (lunches, dinners, meet the players/manager/coach/CEO). We also think there might be special classes of membership or discounts. One fan might be a ‘pie and pint’ member, another looking for ‘real ale’, while a family might want a deal covering mum, dad and three kids.

There ought to be shorter, faster queues and discounted prices for loyal fans. WHUST wants club cash to be added to the NFC tickets and members able to top that up to buy their special deal using their ticket, which automatically triggers the discount. And we want that in real pounds and pence not in some la-la land cryptocurrency.

This may all sound pie in the sky, but Fortress, which provides the NFC technology, says cash, and this kind of data, can be added to the NFC ticket. Delaware, which runs the concessions, says it can easily integrate that into its point-of-sale machines (card readers). Presenting your NFC could easily knock 15% off the list price and pay it instantly. All it takes is the club wanting to do it.

We are demanding a fairer allocation system for away match tickets and an easier way for those unable to attend a game to pass on their ticket. Too often fans who would have brought a friend or relative but can’t buy a ticket nearby, turn up to find seats around them empty.

We don’t think we’re being greedy. And, like any Christmas list, if we get it all, we’ll ask for more next year. Whatever’s on your Christmas list, WHUST hopes you get it. Have a merry Christmas and let’s hope the Hammers have a great New Year.

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