Thursday, April 25, 2013

Football management and ethics

What I know about football as a sport could be written on the back of a small postage stamp but I do take a passing interest in the business side. However, over the last few days it has been impossible to ignore the news in relation to the on pitch actions of Liverpool player Louis Suárez, biting a player from the opposing team during the match last weekend.

It astounds me that there has been so much defence of his actions from Liverpool FC. Whilst he presumably is a good player who helps them achieve their goal of winning games in my view his actions are indefensible. 

In a business situation any employee (which is what Suárez is, albeit a very well paid one) who did something similar would almost certainly be instantly dismissed and probably charged with a criminal action which would make the chance of future employment very difficult, this would probably be absolutely deserved. The fact that this is a repeat offence would make this even more deserved. Apart from anything else, the offender would be dismissed to demonstrate to all the employees that such behaviour is unacceptable. However, Suárez and Liverpool FC are saying the 10 match ban imposed by the FA is unfair and undeserved - Liverpool FC saying it was "shocked and disappointed at the severity". Apparently Suárez may even leave the UK and take up an offer from a club elsewhere in the world. 

The 10 match ban is from the English football association. Surely FIFA, the international body, should use their position to show that this type of behaviour is unacceptable within the game they regulate. If the club he plays for (Liverpool FC) are not prepared to take the action which would happen to any employee of an organisation in the EU for doing what Suárez did, then in my view FIFA should ban Suárez internationally for a period long enough to show him and any other player now and in the future that this is unacceptable behaviour. That would demonstrate that footballers are not above the ethical standards expected in life, no matter how good they are.

Does anyone think that footballers should be given exemptions from normal behaviour? It is no doubt all about the money for Liverpool FC, but an analogy from the business world would be supermarkets saying that having horse meat included in beef products is OK because the food is still good and they make more money that way.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Who is most important - car park priority

When visiting offices with car parks there is often an indication of the importance of visitors (very often customer) by where reserved spaces are for them. Nearly everywhere I have been recently has had the visitor spaces nearest the door, indicating that the organisation sees visitors as important and wants to make it easy for them. Some have no priority, giving all staff the same level of importance as visitors, this is ok because it shows staff are important to the organisation.

Of course, in some organisations the directors think they are he most important and reserve themselves the spaces closest to the door - I don't think that is ideal as a message to either visitors or employees. However, the priorities I noticed in a car park this morning are even worse. I had to visit my local doctors surgery, fortunately something I very rarely do, and noticed that not only do the doctors think themselves more important  than their patients (their customers) and other staff but actually above disabled people. The doctors have the spaces closest to the door, even closer than the disabled spaces and those for other staff. Able bodied patients have the furthest to walk. I do find the positioning of the disabled spaces in relation to the doctors ones quite concerning, but at least I know how important I'm not to them!

Or am I just being over-sensitive? Let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Another corporate reputation and bottom line hit!

Another organisation has had its corporate reputation hit today, this time by something which should and could have been easily avoided. TalkTalk have been fined £750,000 by Ofcom for making an excessive number of abandoned and silent calls. This is about the calls we have almost all received - the phone rings but there is no one there when we answer it.

A person receiving such as call is generally not able to see who made the call. The calls typically come from withheld or unavailable numbers meaning that caller display and 1471 won't show who has called. The implication of this is that prior to the fine and associated publicity it would be unlikely that anyone would associate the calls directly with TalkTalk. Their problem now, however, is that people receiving silent calls may well think of TalkTalk and wonder they are responsible. This means that there is an ongoing corporate reputation problem for TalkTalk due to previous activity even though they claim to have stopped it.

That final point is interesting too, the only response I have seen from TalkTalk is to say that they are no longer using the two call centres involved, blaming them for the issue. The wording did not accept any responsibility on the part of TalkTalk, just a comment about standards from suppliers. There is no comment on either the TalkTalk customer or corporate websites at the time of posting this blog which is poor crisis and reputation management from TalkTalk - how difficult is it to write a public apology?

What is clear from this is how important it is not just to ensure that an organisation's own operations comply with all legal requirements and expected ethical practices, but that this extends to suppliers and the wider supply chain as any problems reflect the corporate reputation of the headline organisation - TalkTalk in this instance.

Further details are available from the BBC here and from Which? here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Can you tell the difference?

Apparently one in five Which? members have bought an own-label product thinking they were picking up the branded product. Is this something you have done? The investigation could certainly lead manufacturer brands to consider if the own-brand products are "passing off", undermining their reputation. The retailers questioned about this claim that they are selling products in the same colour as the main brands as it helps customers with recognition, making shopping easier as they can find the products they want. But if people then purchase a product by mistake has it really helped them? 

It is an interesting area for brand marketers, and the marketers within the retailers. A few years ago I went to a talk by the then Marketing Director of one of the major UK supermarkets, he essentially said that his job was to undermine the marketing efforts of the major brands to get people buying their own-brand products instead. Effectively this means that the retailers are in competition with their major suppliers of course. 

It seems the brands need to do a better job of ensuring customers can recognise the genuine products and buy them if that is what they want, but I do hope they don't go down any legal route to protect themselves as that can be negative for their reputation. Any thoughts?

The original story can be seen here