Monday, April 22, 2024

When should customer experience not be your priority?

John-Paul Drake

If you follow me, you’ll know I love my motorsport. It’s my passion outside of the business and my family.

By Drakes Director John-Paul Drake. 

Racing focuses my mind. All I see when I’m behind that steering wheel are the twists and turns of the track (and the occasional rear end of a competitor). It’s a labour of love and what I do for me. It takes dedication to be able to race, especially when you factor in the time spent away from the family in pursuit of this passion.

Covid-19 saw our season cut short, and this year’s season also sees a reduced number of rounds as motorsport, like so many other events around the world, fumbles through trying to find the new normal. I’m fortunate to be in a country where travel is unrestricted (give or take the odd lockdown) and we can go back to doing the things we love.

A standard race meet usually involves us hitting the track for three practice sessions, a qualifying session and three races. My team, Jam Motorsport, are the new kids on the block, and make it easy for me to be able to just rock up and race. They take care of all aspects of my racing – from preparing my car (including transporting it to the race meet), to organising my registrations, and right down to what I eat every day. I turn up at the track, strap in and race. The heavy lifting is done for me.

At the last round, it was Mother Nature who got in our way. Our second race was scheduled for a 9.05am start, but poor weather and low visibility meant that Race 2 was cancelled. Discussions with the teams and course marshals ensued, and we were told that we could race at a rescheduled time slot of 5pm that day, two hours after our last scheduled race, and when most of the drivers and pit crew were already booked to fly back home.

Jam Motorsport decided not to race. With six drivers on the team, this meant that a third of the pack wouldn’t race. The other teams followed suit. There was little consultation with the drivers – the ones who pay thousands of dollars to participate. The cost of rebooking flights was immaterial when compared with the cost of getting everything to the track.

This annoyed me.

Me, the paying customer. I was annoyed because I wasn’t given the option to decide whether I stayed on. At Drakes, the customer comes first, always. It’s a mentality that I’ve lived and breathed over my 30-year career, and I’ve come to the realisation that I’ve tried to apply this philosophy everywhere I go.

I’ve become a nightmare, an entitled customer. I’m Karen.

Now that the buzz of that round is behind me, I can reflect more calmly. Jam Motorsport weighed up its options: the cost of keeping the pit crew back to pack up (in the dark), booking new flights and extra accommodation, potentially delaying work for other clients during the week, and the welfare of their crew after an already gruelling weekend. Like all amateur sports, motorsport is largely supported by people who volunteer their time in addition to holding full-time jobs. Our pit crew is no different. All of these impractical changes, to keep their customers happy.

In business, I’ve always said that my biggest asset is my team. I’ve rewritten dad’s rule of ‘the customer comes first’. It can’t be at the expense of the wellbeing of my team.

In this case, Jam Motorsport made the decision that best protected its team, and I’m 100 per cent behind this, even when it means that, as a customer, I leave slightly disappointed.

It’s up to the individual business to decide whether the customer should always come first. How do you decide who comes first? See below to let me know.

LinkedIn: @johnpauldrake

Facebook: @JPDrakeAU


YouTube: jp drake

Instagram: @shake.and.drake

Podcast: /DucksDontGetColdFeet


DrakesAbout John-Paul Drake

John-Paul Drake has retail in his blood. Starting out as the trolley boy and shelf stacker 30 years ago in the family business, his passion for retail is solidified as the Director of Drakes. A staunch believer in supporting local, he isn’t afraid to call it like he sees it. 

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