With the FIFA World Cup Final almost upon us and with England’s early exit, it seemed an appropriate time to reflect on what it’s like being a football fan during major competitions.

I reflected on various different thoughts such as:

  • why do England, with the odd exception (eg 1966, 1990, 1996 – feel free to add any you think I’ve missed), always under-perform?
  • why do I fill myself with hope and set high expectations despite the above?

In mulling these over in my head, it struck me that there are a number of common themes in the journey of being a football fan and that of being a customer, namely Loyalty, Expectation & Service Delivery.


From a football perspective – or any sport for that matter – loyalty is massive; indeed club football relies on loyalty and markets directly to this. Clearly when following any national team patriotism will ultimately be the deciding factor, but at club level supporters have a choice to make and in most cases will stick this choice.

Loyalty comes easily  in football.

This differs in the business world where it could be argued that loyalty is much more important. Without loyalty a business can stumble from one customer interaction to the next. With loyalty businesses can thrive as they get repeat business and their loyal customers recommend your goods/services.

With customers, you have to earn loyalty.


Now there are lots of different things that can influence someone’s expectations. Some of which can and will set high expectations, some of which will set low expectations. From a personal perspective, whenever I go to watch Stoke City play, my expectations are generally high – it could be argued that loyalty and hope ‘cloud’ my expectations in that we may be playing a bigger, more successful team but I’d hope/dream that we get a result – my expectations are set by what I want, not necessarily by antecedent experiences.

Customers expectations, however, can be influenced by any number of different things including news coverage of brands, social media, friends/family, past experiences, life stage etc. All these will paint a virtual picture for the customer and what they expect of a brand.

Service Delivery

This aspect is ultimately where a fan’s/customer’s expectations are set reinforced or possibly dashed. This is possibly where the biggest difference between football and business occurs.

In football, whilst your team may have a bad game and might loose you will still be loyal. If they play well and win it reinforces what you thought.

For businesses, the service delivery is absolutely critical. If they fail to meet expectations it’s highly likely that the customer will not use your product/service again – they will also make it their mission to tell people about it. Get it right and you will build advocates – but not necessarily immediately, this could take time.

In the FIFA World Cup, I had high(ish) expectations of England – well, I at least expected us to get past the group stage. The service delivery however was poor, but my loyalty remains intact.

In the World Cup of Customer Experience, service delivery has to be right every time as this will change (or reinforce)  customers’ expectations which in turn will drive loyalty.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, Argentina/Netherlands/Germany/Brazil* will win the World Cup.

*Delete as appropriate.