When the Fans Hate You

I went to the home opening game for the Toronto Blue Jays a few days ago, and experienced something interesting. A player who had formerly played for Toronto was at the game playing for the Chicago White Socks – Alex Rios. He came to bat 5 times during the course of the game, and each time, he was booed by a significant number of fans.

The stadium was full, with about 46,000 fans in attendance. When Alex came to bat, they all shouted at him. As a Canadian, the level of emotion driving at Alex astounded me – where were the stereotypical pleasant Canadians hiding during these outbursts? Why were the fans so bothered by Alex’s presence on the opposing team? Playing baseball in the Major Leagues is a profession, not a hobby, so why would anyone expect team loyalty from the players?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized this is like developing a product in business, and your customers all shouting at you that they hate the product. In business, this is a good thing – your customers care enough to complain. In fact, if your customers are not complaining, you have to wonder if perhaps you’re connecting to them at all. Silent customers don’t help you improve your product – it’s the one’s who complain that get the new features they want added.

Much like what was happening to Alex Rios. Sure, the fans felt betrayed that he left “their” team. But the reason that they booed so loudly was because they never had wanted him to leave – deep down, they wish he still played for Toronto. (I’m sure there are fans who will disagree with my assessment. If you’re one of them, please answer the question as to why you booed so loudly if you’re happy he left Toronto.)

In my business, I’ve had customers complain, and customers quietly accept whatever I tell them. Honestly speaking, the one’s who complain usually end up with better service – because they tell me what they want or need! If all my customers were vocal in their satisfaction with my work, they would all get better service. But I can only fix what my customers tell me about (okay, that’s a bit extreme, but you get the gist of my point).