Ricardo Trade, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Operations at FIFA World Cup (FWC) Qatar, 2022, speaks about how his team leveraged data and analytics to create a seamless experience for 3.4 million fans in a phygital world
FIFA World Cup (FWC) Qatar, 2022 created several records; the event bagged maximum fan engagement both online and offline. A cumulative 3.4 million football fans attended this event, i.e. 1.2 million more fans than those who attended FWC in Russia in 2018, plus average occupancy across stadiums during the games at 96.33 per cent. Around 5 billion people engaged with the FWC Qatar 2022 and followed tournament content across various platforms and devices. According to Nielsen, there were 93.6 million posts on social media across all the platforms, with a 262 billion cumulative reach and 5.95 billion engagements.
Martechvibe spoke to Ricardo Trade, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Operations, to learn more about how the organisation team spelt out this successful CX magic at the World Cup.
CX Journey Starts Before Tournament
Trade, who played a crucial role in organising the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil, said that since his home country would be hosting the Pan American and Parapan American Games in 2027, delivering optimal fan experience has taken centre stage at all sports events in Brazil. Trade added that earlier organisers considered optimising CX just on the day of the tournament,
now mapping out the whole fan journey before the actual match day and even after the match is over and integrating the same with the city experience has become part of the new CX strategy for sports events.
Identifying Fan Personas
Narrating how his organising team designed the fan experience or CX for World Cup in Qatar, he said his team first identified customer or fan personas based on their key characteristics and behaviours, their needs and expectations. Identification was the crucial first step for planning the next steps of the customer journey. His team ensured seamless services when fans decided to attend the FWC following an internet search, bought a ticket, found accommodation and arrived in Qatar and later at the stadium. Trade added that there were thousands of digital and physical service touchpoints.
Integrating CX Plans of All Departments
Several departments needed to integrate their plans to ensure the fans would have a great experience, “Each department was responsible for at least one point of contact/service delivered within the fan journey. Ticketing, for example, oversaw the searching phase and the information services related to selling tickets. Transport focused on how fans will go to the stadiums and move around the city. Spectator Services focused on the services delivered within the venue during a match day, such as wayfinding, information, ticket validation, accessibility, lost and found and others. Also, clean and waste, food and beverage, security.”
With 172 goals, Qatar 2022 became the highest-scoring FIFA World Cup in history, eclipsing the highest total of 171 in 1998 and 2014. The successful organisation of this compact World Cup earned praise from former England captain David Beckham. Beckham praised the quality of Qatar’s fan experience at the 2022 World Cup. Beckham said it was a privilege to watch the supporters get excited and have fun at the tournaments in Qatar.
Monitoring Social Media
While sharing the metrics that helped organisers measure the success of the experience, Trade’s team monitored social media, followed fans’ comments and interactions to find patterns and used them to improve performance during the next matches. They then compared that database with the results of different matches at the same venues. He added, “We conducted cross-analysis to understand if a bad experience is linked to a bad performance of a fan’s favourite team. To ascertain the same, the team used on-ground research, transactional satisfaction scores and even the NPS (net promoter score) to measure the client experience.”
Qatar FWC 2022 had a dedicated team for data analytics to analyse customer data that they received through the purchase of tickets, entry into the country, mobility and accommodation details. Trade says that this team worked round the clock to extract insights to facilitate the general management of the tournament to help the organising team make decisions and adjust and optimise their operation.
Trade said Hayya Card was the key to centralising and unifying that data. The card was initially issued as a general permit for attendees of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. With this card, football fans could enter Qatar and attend World Cup matches for the tournament. The card also provided several benefits, including free public transport for ticket holders on matchday, among other privileges.
In addition to the use of CRM and SMS service, his team used crowd management tools inside the stadiums, and with the support of CCTV Cameras, crowd management was easier. Tech tools made ticketing management more manageable, and the team could check numbers in 15 minutes. The organisers could determine the number of kids or fans with special needs attending the tournament at one click.
Similarly, there were separate tools for the lost and found system and communication process. For ease of management, the venue team and city management ensured accessible information sharing for effective crowd movement. Apart from these, his team used planning tools like smart sheets, project management, risk management, policies and procedures.
Handling CX Challenges
The organising team quickly resolved any challenges faced by fans, even when the ticketing system crashed on the eve of the first and second day. FIFA quickly found a swift solution and communicated with all the ticket holders via SMS and email, offering alternatives for accessing the stadium and mitigating further damage. Trade said, “fans were able to generate physical tickets by visiting centres near the stadiums.” Organisers asked fans to head to the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center in the West Bay section of Doha, where they received printed tickets. He added, “Balancing security and safety operations with a seamless, comfortable and smooth customer experience can be a big challenge for every mega event. Most fans are excellent and follow the rules, but there are always a few exceptions that can endanger everyone’s safety.” To rule out the possibility of people having no tickets trying to sneak inside the stadiums during sold-out matches, the entry operations at some stadiums had tight security and multiple ticket checkpoints at various locations, including arrival points to the stadium entrances. Unfortunately, this impacted the experience of fans having valid tickets. He said that in a few cases, there were incidents of a few trying to enter through other gates and sit in better seats and the same created issues, so multiple ticket checks were implemented at the Gates and also in the seating area to avoid further problems. The effective communications through various channels – social media and at the stadiums- helped inform fans of the event policies.
Effectively Tackling Crisis Situations
While speaking about the preparedness of his team to handle any adversities, Trade said, “We have to be prepared for safety reasons. We carried out simulation exercises before the event to ensure that we can deal with the crisis, risk management, prevention, mitigation and contingency plans.” The organising team had plans for dealing with complaints and communicating with the fans to manage their expectations beforehand. This communication alignment was necessary to mitigate the reactions caused by the crisis, seeking transparency and sharing relevant information immediately through CRM, apps, websites, social media, and official communication channels.
Ensuring a seamless customer experience is essential for the success of big-ticket sports events like FWC, as a frictionless experience encourages new fans to attend such events and turns the ones who have already participated into loyal ones. To ensure the same, organisers must treat fans well, meet fans’ baseline expectations, and deliver the wow factor.
Ricardo Trade will be a keynote speaker at CX NXT – the Customer Experience summit in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which will take place on 14 and 15 March 2023 at voco, Riyadh.