Here are a couple more answers to questions I’ve been sent by supporters.
1. How would you ensure all fans feel they have a voice and are listened to, other than sending out a survey?
I do think regular surveys would be beneficial, both for the club and for the Trust. If they repeat the same questions over time, we will be able to gauge how feelings and perceptions are shifting. At the moment, many of our decisions seem to be based on hunch and intuition. Having statistics and genuine ‘customer feedback’ would help put decision-making on a much firmer footing.
But you’re right: surveys alone aren’t enough to make people feel listened to. We need to be responsive to any approaches by supporters, be proactive about letting supporters know how they can feed through their questions and suggestions, and be as accessible as possible. There are many ways we can help achieve that, including:
having different types of meetings, such as the informal gathering that was held in Wimbledon town centre recently, so that members and the Trust board can mingle and exchange views and hear about emerging ‘hot topics’;
exploring ‘live streaming’ our SGMs and AGMs on YouTube – always accepting that some confidential sections may have to be done ‘off air’ – this would be particularly useful in terms of making supporters who live away from southwest London/Surrey feel informed;
following the success of yesterday’s 9yrs Podcast interviews, maybe holding regular Q&A sessions with board members where fans can send in their live questions – this would help accountability and give supporters a chance to raise issues;
holding ‘surgeries’ where board members make themselves available via, for example, Google Hangouts or equivalent so that supporters can raise issues directly;
starting official consultations earlier than we currently do with an informal ‘brainstorming’ session amongst the membership – there seems to be a tendency at the moment for the board to sketch out their initial thoughts and then present these to the membership but I think it would be useful to start things on a less formal basis – this would help ensure that we cover everything that supporters want to be covered, rather than what the board think should be covered;
having more of a Trust presence on social media, especially Facebook – love it or hate it, social media is the forum through which many supporters now interact.
But we also need to be approachable ‘in the flesh’, which is why during this election I’ve been hanging around before matches near the Dons Trust kiosk wearing a name badge so that people know who I am. There’s a risk in assuming that key figures at the club are ‘known’ and are therefore approachable. The reality, I suspect, is that a surprisingly large number of supporters don’t know who’s who and therefore don’t know who they can approach to speak to in the flesh. Matchday visibility and approachability needs to remain key.
2. What do you think is the quickest and best way to reconnect with disgruntled fans?
I’m afraid this is going to be a bit of a ‘cop out’ answer: to be honest, I’m not sure there is a quick way. The disgruntlement that some supporters say they feel seems to have been building up over a number of years, so I’m not sure a single action or set of decisions will immediately achieve a turnaround.
Really, I think the answer lies in the first question above: how to make everyone feel listened to and engaged. That won’t happen overnight, it’ll take time, but it can be done.
In the meantime, we should do everything we can to try and improve the matchday experience within the limitations that we face at Kingsmeadow. Where issues do arise, we should be quick to explain why and to say what measures are being taken to try and address them. Seeming to ignore fans who say they feel disgruntled only leads to more disgruntlement, feeding a vicious circle.