Monday, May 28, 2018
The Program is a Customer Touchpoint Too

It's ten minutes to post and you're putting those critical finishing touches on that Pick 4 ticket you diligently constructed hours earlier. You are slightly aware of the couple next to you as they squint at the infield tote and then stare blankly at their program. They murmur to each other and glance your way. You are now acutely aware of them. You think to yourself, "Is it going to happen again"? It can't, not now, you don't have time. But it does happen. They sidle a bit closer to you. You freeze. You become short of breath. And then like a knife in the back... "Excuse me, but what do all these numbers mean?"

Oriental_Wasp_-_FaceAt this moment, you have three options. 1) Spend the next hour with them explaining how to read past performances and introducing the pari-mutuel betting system. 2) Spend a few minutes quickly describing win odds and win, place, and show wagers. 3) Pretend that you've just been stung by a wasp and run away.

Personally, I have always selected option #2. I want these people to have fun, maybe win a few bucks, and come back again. So I help them out a little with the very basics. Their nods indicate they understand but I have my doubts. They thank me and I walk away smugly thinking I've single-handedly created two lifelong fans. In reality they probably remained confused and intimidated. Hopefully, at least, the mutuel clerk was pleasant and patient. Scratch that last thought.

Is there a better way? How can the newcomer's experience be enhanced?

What about a visually-based race program that keeps numerics to an absolute bare minimum. The only numbers really needed are the entry numbers. Morning line be damned.

Make the horses the stars. Include a head shot of each horse. Include a head shot of the jockey. Add a short, entertaining narrative that describes the career of each horse and its chances today. No horse racing jargon. Add something personal about the equine... favorite snack, disposition, personality quirk. Make it fun to read. And make it in color.

Add a visual and easy-to-understand map of the tote. Explain the various bet options in simple terms.

That's all the newcomer really needs. There is no hurry. They will graduate to more sophisticated material in due time.

Don't laugh. These things will fly off the racks at a place like Saratoga and make nifty souvenirs.

Too expensive to produce? What is the cost of the newcomer leaving the track thinking "I don't know, that was kind of fun but it's really complicated."

In the meantime, watch out for those wasps.