Not for the first time over the last few years, an incredibly poor case of User Experience from the Leeds United ticket office prevented a number of supporters from purchasing match tickets.
Monday morning came, and for a good few thousand supporters, there was hope that come 10.30am they would be able to purchase tickets for the away fixture at Fulham on March 7th 2017.
I was one of those (sorry boss), navigating to the site at around 10.20am ready to purchase 3 tickets for this fixture. To be expected, I was shown the usual "the ticket office is closed until the next selling period" which I still find strange. It is understandable to not open the site up to users attempting to buy tickets that are about to go on sale, however the whole online shop shows this for all users, even if you are going on there to purchase an item from the store, such as a shirt, golf tees or whatever other ridiculous branded items football clubs will attempt to sell to you. If someone attempting to do this isn't aware that a game is about to go on sale, you're essentially turning away business for the first hour and a half of the day.
Finally, 10:30 arrived and I was placed in one of the world's most despicable sights: a virtual queue. Now, given the events that were about to transpire, I do understand the reasoning for a virtual queue, however I will still never accept its use. The whole point of purchasing anything online is of course to avoid queues.
I was given an expected wait time of two minutes, not bad at all I thought. However, this was just the beginning of my problems. Five minutes passed and eventually I was on the website, navigating to away games, selecting three tickets and clicking Add to Basket. Wonderful, I thought, dig the shirt and scarf out, research pubs and start planning where to meet friends on the way to the game.
That idea was to be short-lived however, as clicking Add to Basket did, well, nothing. I, along with many others, were simply left to stare at our screens while a loading wheel spun and spun, and spun some more. "Waiting for www.lufc.talent-sport.co.uk" was the message displayed in the bottom left hand corner of my Chrome browser. Opening up the network console revealed that the "add to basket" function was simply set to Pending, before timing out after 10.7 minutes, taking me to the basket, and telling me there were no items in the basket. Very frustrating.
Deciding not to be deterred, I tried again, going back to the Fulham product, clicking Add to Basket, and waiting impatiently again. This time, however, I was logged out of the store after ten minutes and placed back into the queue with a 45 minute wait, sigh.
While waiting, I thought I would check Twitter to see if anyone else was having the same problem. It's safe to say that I was not the only supporter doing so. One only needs to read the responses to this tweet to see how many people were facing issues.
Talking of Twitter, Leeds United has a Twitter account that reports on matches and club news, along with a dedicated tickets account to cover supporter queries regarding tickets. Both of these remained quiet throughout the entire process until finally, the site appeared to crumble and displayed the following: While five minutes later, and forty-five minutes after all of these issues had begun, the @lufctickets account finally tweeted the following:
Due to essential maintenance work being carried out on our ticketing system, no games are on sale. Apologies for the inconvenience. #LUFC— LUFC Tickets (@LUFCTickets) February 20, 2017
A quickly worded tweet, not providing any further information and leaving supporters in limbo as to whether they would be able to get tickets or not, when the site would be back up and running, and if there were still even any tickets available.
With all of the above in mind, I was able to head to Fulham's website, and within four minutes of visiting, had purchased my tickets in the "neutral" end of Craven Cottage, next to the away supporters.
Leeds United ticket demand is nothing new. The Leeds United ticket office website struggling to cope with demand, is unfortunately nothing new also. It is something that has gone on for years now and it's certainly time something was done about it. While I understand the demand is high and therefore server demand will be incredibly high too, it's hardly something that is to be unexpected. For years now, Leeds have taken plenty of supporters on the road, so much so that there is always a rush to purchase these tickets when they first go on sale, and a ticket provider should always be prepared for this, particularly when there are dedicated on sale days. If you know your traffic levels, you should be prepared and resourceful enough to deal with these traffic levels.
With the above in mind, communication should almost certainly be improved too. Leaving supports, or customers, depending on how you want to look at it, in the lurch is never a good idea and an update should certainly have been provided sooner. Particularly given that I know a number of supporters who simply went to Fulham's website and purchased through there thanks to a painless experience.
In this case, I understand that it is (almost) a Monopoly. If you want tickets to a Leeds United game, you buy them from the Leeds United website. However, this does not excuse the poor CX that is provided by the Leeds United website, and the website provider Advanced Ticketing. Were this not a monopoly, and working in analytics I have seen this on countless occasions, users will simply go elsewhere to purchase what they need to, and NEVER return.
It is safe to say that there aren't many positives to take from this experience. Four hours after this had all started, Leeds eventually announced that they would go back on sale the following day, however neglecting to update those who had purchased tickets if they were in fact successful, or providing any further information on what the issue was or how they would prevent it happening in future.
Unfortunately, even if improvements aren't made, Leeds United will still get my business, until there becomes a viable purchasing alternative. However, if that day were to come, then it's likely that the site would be finally able to cope with the traffic, because there wouldn't be any.