Teaming Up To Tackle Phone Headaches

Glenn Jackson, Managing Director at Moneypenny, explains how football clubs can benefit from telephone answering support…

Bill Shankly famously once said “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Well for football clubs, answering their phones may not be a matter of life and death, but it could be the difference between winning the final of the customer service and operational efficiency cup or being knocked out in the group stages. (Not a very catchy competition title, but you get the point).

Football is big business and whether you are a Premier League side or a non-league sleeping giant, managing your telephone calls well is extremely important.

From keeping fans and stakeholders happy to maximising revenue and making sure that the club is as efficient and cost-effective as possible, there is a long list of reasons why more and more football clubs are choosing to use an outsource provider to manage their phone lines.

Moneypenny bird logo cmyk

This is definitely a trend that we’re seeing at Moneypenny. We work with football clubs of all sizes to ensure that they not only capture every single incoming call, but also deliver the very best service into the bargain.

Moneypenny is the UK’s market leader in telephone answering with a base in the UK and New Zealand. In total we have almost 400 staff who handle around nine million calls a year for over 7,000 businesses, including start-ups right through to international corporations.

So how does the service work? There are three main options – real people taking calls, clever technology or a bespoke combination of the two.

For example, where football clubs have previously had multiple incoming lines and struggled to manage the peaks and troughs of call volume, we’ve introduced Digital Receptionist. This offers a world-first in voice recognition accuracy and enables clubs to customise how they handle different types of enquiries; so certain calls, say for general match/club information can be automated, while others such as VIP contacts, family/friends, press enquiries, urgent issues are handled by a dedicated Moneypenny Receptionist who knows their client’s business inside out and answers calls seamlessly as though based in-house either on an overspill or fully outsourced basis.

This could be the perfect solution for some of the Conference teams who have recently drawn a Premier League side in the next round of the FA Cup. Imagine how busy their phone lines are going to be when FA Cup fever sets in and fans clamour to get tickets. With the best will in the world, it’s simply not possible for many smaller clubs or non-league teams who don’t operate at full capacity to keep up with demand of this nature.

Likewise, one Premier League side I spoke to recently needed support for their receptionist who was taking dozens of calls about ticket sales enquiries when that call should have be going through to a different number. This was tying her time up and therefore reducing the efficiency of the club. But, by using our automated technology, they realised they’d be able to eliminate this and direct callers straight through to the correct department.

There are other benefits to using an outsourced telephone answering service too. This includes the peace of mind in knowing that you have a robust telephone answering/business continuity plan in place in case of emergencies. For example, a telecoms failure, factors affecting their premises as well as for day-to-day operational issues preventing staff from taking calls such as sickness, holidays, adverse weather or unplanned absences. Having an outsourced partner right beside you means all calls are covered whatever the situation.

This is exactly why Wrexham FC called us in 2011. At that time, Wrexham Supporters’ Trust had taken over the running of the Club, and all inbound phone calls were handled by a phone system that had four ISDN 2 channels. This allowed a maximum of three inbound calls to be received at any one time as one channel was reserved for outbound calls. A number of analogue lines and direct dial lines were also located at the football ground and its training ground at Colliers Park. All too often, it wasn’t enough and club supporters and other callers were getting frustrated with frequent engaged tones.

At this point, the club decided to call us. Initially they were looking for short-term support; however, we suggested that they introduce our Digital Receptionist technology. This enabled them to tailor how they handled different types of calls. Now, callers ring one number and hear a greeting asking them to say the name of the department they wish to speak to.

Busy times such as high profile games which generate increased call volumes – like their upcoming match against Stoke – are no longer an issue for the club either as our receptionists are on hand to offer support should they be needed to answer any overspill calls. They’ve even set up a new match day information line for supporters which automatically kicks in, thereby taking the pressure off the ticket office. As a result, the club’s Chief Executive Officer, Don Bircham tells us that the club is delivering greater efficiencies and vastly improved customer service, as well as saving in excess of £1,000 a year as compared to their old system.

Overall it’s an easy decision for an increasing number of football clubs. A streamlined approach to call handling with a professional partner makes for a win-win of improved operational efficiency, happy fans and stakeholders, never missing a call, and in most cases making notable cost savings.

Tax Avoidance – A Question of Morality?

First it was Jimmy Carr and the comedians, then it was Starbucks, Amazon & Google and now Premier League football clubs have been reported to be avoiding paying corporation tax. The public up roar and the media interest has led many to believe that avoiding tax is criminal, however it is not and it is important to make a clear distinction between tax evasion and tax avoidance

Tax evasion is in quite simply unlawful and can expose the taxpayer to penalties. Examples include giving inaccurate information or describing a transaction as something different from what it really is. It is basically a form of deception.

Tax Avoidance however has developed over a number of years in to what we have today in artificial schemes by which a sequence of transactions is undertaken for the sole purpose of mitigating a tax burden much like what has been reported in the media.

I have taken a quote from the judge in the tax case Duke of Westminster 35 that perhaps sums it up the best “A taxpayer may have a choice between two or more alternative methods of achieving a desired result. He is entitled to select the method, if lawful which avoids altogether or reduces the tax he would pay on another alternative. He is not to be taxed on the basis that a more normal method would attract a heavier tax burden. The selection of a tax effective method is called tax avoidance”

It is hard to stomach that Premier League Clubs such as Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United paid no tax on a combined surplus of £70m. The Independent reported that more than £150m of profits were made by Premier League clubs yet only £3m in corporation tax was paid an effective rate of 2% tax. You may ask yourself how the clubs are managing to do this.

Legally and with effective use of the accounting system Premier League football clubs have been able to reduce their corporation tax by offsetting profits against prior year losses. Furthermore the reduction in corporation tax from 28 down to 24 per cent has seen tax bills lower further. Clubs are also able to make great use of player transfer fees as these can be written off over the period of a player contract this could lead to an amount of deferred tax. This is slightly different to the tax avoidance which has been implemented by the likes of Starbucks however it goes to show the ease of a company to avoid paying corporation tax in full.

The question for many is not whether it is illegal it is a question or morality is it right that these profitable football clubs should be paying very little or no corporation tax. My view is simple. It is not the clubs fault; it is the fault of the government and HMRC are they making it too easy for companies to avoid tax? UK Tax legislation is extremely vast and complicated; there is many a loop hole which has been taken advantage of. Tax avoidance is legal and as long as it is legal companies (including football clubs) will be doing all they can to pay as little corporation tax as possible and let’s not forgot these football clubs do pay other taxes such as PAYE and National Insurance.

The government and HMRC need to have a thorough review of corporation tax and how this is structured. It has been reported that in tomorrow’s autumn statement the Chancellor will be announcing a large clamp down on tax avoidance. Reports of naming and shaming tax dodgers could be seen as one way to stop a few from avoiding tax but this leads to the question does bring the integrity of our tax system into light. I think we need to work closely with HMRC, provide larger resources in totally reforming the corporation tax system and dare I say it even abolishing it completely!

Mitch Young

Follow me on my blog or on Twitter @MitchTheTaxMan