Leave them Smiling

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Written by JG Pasterjak

From the Oct. 2016 issue

Posted in Columns

Whether you’re selling cargo shorts, or putting on a rock concert, or staging an autocross, it’s all about customer service. Treat your customers well and they will come back and your business or club will thrive.

When it comes to customer service, though, lots of sports car clubs have a lot to learn. And If there’s one point you take away from this column, please let it be this: Just because you’ve always done something one way doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do it.

I’m going to provide a few examples of specific things that clubs can do to make their events run smoother, but this is by no means a definitive list. The good news is that there are lots of excellent guides out there by people and organizations with known positive track records. Seek them out. Consume them.

Tip 1: Everyone hates drivers meetings.

You know how long the drivers meeting at the SCCA Solo Nationals takes? Here’s a hint: It’s one of the largest participant motorsports events in the world, with more than a thousand drivers from hundreds of clubs all over the country competing.

The drivers meeting lasts precisely zero minutes. If that is the standard for the signature event of our scene, there’s no earthly reason that a drivers meeting at a local community college with just 40 entrants needs to last half an hour. It’s a drivers meeting, not open mic night at Unkle YukYuk’s. Give people the info they need, then get the hell on with the day.

Better yet, print the info they need on a big board that they can read while they wait in the registration line–or on a piece of paper you hand to them when they check in.

Got novices? Give them the drivers meeting info while an experienced driver walks the course with them. Bottom line: If you start your day by wasting people’s time, they won’t come back.

Tip 2: Design your courses properly.

Can you send a car out on course every 20 seconds? If the answer is no, you’re screwing it up. Now, admittedly, some sites have realistic limitations on course design, but some clubs also refuse to design efficient courses.

Courses that cross over themselves, or feature multiple laps, or are otherwise designed in a way that that 20-second intervals are not possible are a sure path to a long and boring day with lots of unhappy competitors. In general, most autocrossers would rather have more runs on a shorter course than fewer runs (and more wait time) on a longer course.

Tip 3: Allow for flexibility.

Not everyone can commit to a 7 a.m.–5 p.m. endeavor on a Saturday or Sunday, and in these modern times of microwave ovens and Pokémon Go, there’s no reason they need to. Most clubs register people online these days, so it’s a pretty simple matter to allow for check-in and tech at flexible times throughout the day.

Tip 4: Research how other people do it.

If the event chairman of your autocross club has never been to an SCCA National Tour, someone has made a huge mistake. Club funds absolutely can and should be used to send event directors to visit other clubs, attend high-level events, or otherwise train the people in charge of making your events successful in techniques that will actually yield success.

Tip 5: Be nice.

Yes, I have to include this one, because I’ve seen the opposite more times than I’d like to admit. Does someone have a problem at your event? Try and solve it. “But they’re being an asswagon,” you say. Fine. Let them, and still try and solve their problem in a courteous and professional way.

You know what’s worse than someone being an asswagon? Two people being asswagons. Before you know it, you can have an asswagon train heading straight for Jerkville, and no one has a good time there.

Hopefully there’s some help here for some of you. I’m fortunate to be able to run with lots of great clubs in the Southeast, and I’m even more fortunate that I’ve gotten to experience many levels of greatness all over the country and beyond.

Still, no program is so perfect that it’s above review. In reality, the best programs are the ones where the officials constantly ask, “What can we be doing better?”

Because remember, autocrossing isn’t the only thing people can choose to do on a weekend. There’s lots of choices, and lots of Pokémon to catch. Give folks a reason to choose you.

This article is from an old issue of Grassroots Motorsports. Get all the latest how-tos and stories for just $20 a year. Subscribe now.

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Reader comments:

MattW
MattW New Reader
Dec. 27, 2016 1:51 p.m.

Interesting stuff. FWIW, I like #1. I've been to plenty of motorcycle trackdays where the riders meeting turns into a shopping network commercials where everybody between the photo org. to the tire vendor does their sales pitch.

It's cute at first but when it turns into a 45 minute informational it gets pretty annoying and makes people 1) Not wanna attend riders meeting. 2) Not actually pay attention at the riders meeting.

Not sure why my post is bold.

iceracer
iceracer PowerDork
Dec. 27, 2016 2:02 p.m.

Our ice race drivers meeting last less than five minutes. Welcome

Track info

Todays schedule.

Quick talk from chief flagger

An additional short meeting for first timers.

Start practice

NEALSMO
NEALSMO UltraDork
Dec. 27, 2016 3:05 p.m.

"asswagon"..that's all the input I have

sprcpr
sprcpr New Reader
Dec. 28, 2016 6:50 p.m.

Having run registration as well as scoring and timing I agree with everything here. I would like to add a couple of points. The club should designate members to act greeters for new people that show up. Look at course design. Is your course clear? I drove several hours one time to another event and spent the day getting lost on the course. They had their own way of laying out a course with very few cones. It was impossible to follow for me and was a horrible experience. On top of that the group was very unfriendly. They were clearly a closed group and didn't want new or outside people. Not a recipe for growth. Think about the best video games. Easy to play, hard to master. I've always thought an event should follow that model.

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