Racing Post Saga – Update from Customer Service Manager

As you know, dear reader, it is my intention to present issues on the blog in a fair manner, even though I cannot promise not to bring personal bias to my reporting. As a blog owner, that is my wont.

Having already posted on the things I personally dislike about the site, which now extends to embarrassingly long load times (God help you if you're using dial up!), it is only fair that I offer some balance.

As you know from my previous post, I wrote to the Racing Post to express my dismay at the new design. I was quite pleasantly surprised then to get a call from Will Pepper, Customer Services Manager at Racing Post, to discuss the content of my email.

Will was refreshingly honest, and explained that they were currently dealing with a queue of around 300 emails to their feedback email address. I'd actually mailed them on their help@ email address, so who knows what the combined volume is?! I'd guess in the region of 500 odd comments to date.

It is unsurprising of course, because of the lack of communication of the changes that were being made. Or at least the apparent lack of communication.

As Will explained, the racingpost.com site has been running this new design in 'beta' (i.e. advanced user testing mode) for three weeks. Fine, if you even knew that site existed. Personally, I've had the .co.uk site as my homepage for over a year, and so completely missed this - as I suspect most other longer term and regular site users did.

Moreover, Will told me that there had been a clear statement on the .co.uk homepage for the last ten days or so. That statement was 'below the fold' (an internet design term for anything that you cannot see when you load a web page, and where the user has to scroll down to view), so was also missed by me.

As someone who rarely ventures beyond the top left corner (where the cards and results used to be), anything beneath the viewable area was off my radar.

So there was some communication ostensibly, but communication is only effective if it is heard. If I stand here and shout to you, you are highly unlikely to hear me. But I can say that I told you.

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Is that good enough? No, of course not. It is mere lip service, literally and metaphorically, to hide a significant change to people's interaction. And, as I've already registered, people do not like change.

On a more positive note, and somewhat reassuringly, Will has confirmed that Racing Post have a clear remit to address the main concerns of site users, and will be introducing resolutions to the bigger / more common problems over time. He didn't go so far as to suggest a time frame for this, but did assure me that my personal gripes (absent sex of horse and racecard load time) were known and considered major enough to be in an early release.

I asked about the possibility of continuing to run the two sites in parallel until all of the 'snagging list' had been addressed, and Will told me that this had been specifically discussed, and had been specifically discounted as an option. Whilst I can understand the rationale for doing that, unless performance improves enormously in the next day or so, I wonder if the head guys will be left with any alternative.

From a personal perspective, I don't mind change. It's necessary, especially in a fast moving 'world' like the internet. But you HAVE to manage people's expectations clearly, and address their fears / concerns in a palpable way. Thus far, Racing Post have failed in the main to do this.

It is to be hoped that the key problems are resolved soonest, and that we will get our collective head around what will ultimately prove a perfectly adequate site. Whether people warm to the additional content remains to be seen. I assume that this content is provided as a result of in-depth research of the market, and much feedback from the likes of you, dear reader, and me.

But, as a former editor of Shares magazine and a good friend of mine once noted, "We don't do market research - our Board decide what goes in the mag". That's one of the key reasons why my friend is a former editor, and why that magazine has seen a major drop in circulation.

Matt

14 replies
  1. Anonymous says:

    I read with great interest your comments on the botched up, Cocked-up, Ballsed-Up mess made to the Racing Post site:

    They have stolen much of the information I used for my race horse betting and replaced it with hard to find glitter and glamour in place of my much loved little corners of RACING POST:

    Damn those idiots who tear into things without any serious challange to their cranium: I have swung over to SPORTING LIFE and will stay there untill those dullards and racing Popinjays at Racing Post come to their senses, if they have any senses to come to:

    God spare us from Star Trek Racing Editors

  2. Anonymous says:

    Matt,
    Well done with the letter complaining about the new Racing Post site – I couldn’t agree more. To change it overnight without any warning is appalling bad manners.
    One thing that annoys me about it that you haven’t mentioned is that it needs IE7. I tried IE 7 when it first came out and it was a total disaster – it just didn’t work. Maybe its improved since then but I avoid it like the plague and will be sticking to IE6 for as long as possible.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hello Matt

    The new Racing Post site is crap. I’ve spoken to someone at the RP and she states that there is no going back. I can’t even log in at the moment. I’ve been given a number 01635-577650. On connecting (customer services) you get a message saying they are open 8-4. Hello, the time is 1045hrs. When i phoned back to RP all they would say is “i bet it’s a complaint about the web site” duh yeeees. “Sorry nothing we can do came the reply. I’ll take your number and get them to ring you back” ….I won’t be holding my breath. Have you tried http://www.turftrax.com it’s better than nothing, and only costs £5 per Month.

    Regards

  4. Anonymous says:

    Matt,

    I agree with you completely.

    I have just spent 40 mins trying to access the site. I have written to their feedback address but have an idea of the sort of reply I will get.

    The site is completely unusable. I have 2 years of all weather ratings which I now need to extract. Having said that I did foresee something like this so I should have done something earlier.

    Its funny that although you cannot obtain the form pages you always get the adverts to load. Solving these problems couldn’t possibly be as simple as putting the racing information first could it?

    They are putting style ahead of substance in an effort to justify charging for formerly free content. I think their only hope now is to charge us to bring the old site back. I did suggest this to them so I expect a hefty consultancy fee if they do so.

    Regards

    Thoroughly Post Off from Doncaster

  5. jennyb says:

    Hi Matt,
    I am trying to complain to the racing post but as I cannot access the site any longer I cannot access their complaint email addy!! Can you post it on here? I can’t comment on the changes to the site either as I can’t access it!! I tried to visit yesterday and was met with an instruction to download internet explorer 7. I tried to do that but soon discovered this would not be possible as the operating systems on both my computers will not support it. You have to have windows vista or xp. Anything older and you are now excluded from being able to access the new RP website!! Have they not considered this? Am I going to upgrade my operating systems from ME and 98? Am I heck! I am going to switch from RP to sporting life!

  6. Matt Bisogno says:

    Hi Jenny (and anyone else struggling with having to download IE7),

    I cannot do anything about the fact that the new RP site isn’t working at all now (so far as I can tell), but I can tell you that there are other browsers besides Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

    Firefox was working for me with RP this morning, so I assume that is ok. You can download it free by entering ‘firefox’ into google.

    It’s better than IE in my opinion too. 🙂

    The saga continues…

    Matt

  7. phil says:

    this racing post is taking the piss of late its far far to slow will take me about 6hours to do a days racing at this rate 🙁

  8. Cliff Thurston says:

    Hi Matt,

    As a fellow website owner I both agree with your views and sympathise with the Racing Post, however as you’ve pointed out it is about communication and delivery.

    I recently had a similar experience with an internet marketing site (although I’ll not name names) and despite being as big as they come in terms of internet companies, they too had an unprecidented fowl up in executing a huge product launch, leaving lots of prospective customers frustrated, disillusioned and annoyed.

    Most times, as long as you can communicate the issue/problem your prospect/customer doesn’t mind, but very often being over-ruled by the boardroom is not the way to go.

    I tend to get the hard copy of the Racing Post myself, although having gotten your feed I went over to the site and it is certainly a little baffling from the navigation point of view.

    Well spotted Matt.

    regards,

    Cliff

  9. Anonymous says:

    Well Matt,
    I knew it! Even before all the Racing Post hype about the new web site it was obvious that it would not benefit punters or exchange bettors one jot. Days before the Monday launch I laid odds at 10/11 that it would turn into a dog’s breakfast, as is now well documented and therefore proven by dissatisfied users on your blog. The reason I knew this? I am of the older generation, and have for years endured the geeks and fast tracked nincompoops responible for this ‘New Improved RP Website’, they come usually complete with cool pony tails, mind-jarring ‘managementspeak’, ubiquitous incoming mobile ‘phone calls from their equally obnoxious friends and business associates also full of ‘good ideas’, and, ‘able to think outside the box’, etc., and full of what our Yankee cousins term B.S.. They are often endowed with beards, sandals, and hideous fashion sense; with a here today and gone tomorrow mindset and C.V. These charlatans are the main reason that our country, GREAT BRITAIN, has disappeared so far down the tubes in such a short time. The organisation that I worked for for more than 40 years that embodied all of this? Why,the NHS of course, and note where that has travelled to over the past 40 years. It is of no surprise to me that the RP has gone down the same route.

    Bear in mind that the ‘Sporting Life’ website is not a true alternative to the RP one. It is a part of the Trinity Mirror stable,(itself a part of the former infamous Maxwell media empire) who also own the RP. Not that long ago the RP was reportedly seeking a buyer, trying to unload the title from its portfolio. This cock-up smacks of an accountancy decision. You know the ones. They who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

    Now wait for the release of charges to view the new, cocked-up, website. Trust me, they are on their way. In the interim, do as I do and buy the hard copy RP until a true alternative is found. That was the intention of the RP board anyway in order to boost profits, ever since they made the on-line version free. Profits not punters, of that I am certain, old Maxwell habits die hard.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The Racing Post was sold out of the Trinity Mirror Group, to an Irish company (FL Partners), in October 2007.

  11. Ernie says:

    Well I wont be using it. I still have IE6 and will continue to use it for at least another year.
    There are around 150 million websites on the internet and this is the only one I found that requires me to use IE7 !!

  12. Gerald says:

    Isn’t it terrible!?
    Now the crappy site isn’t available completely!
    I can read: “website down for scheduled maintenance. Sorry for any inconvenience”
    The biggest scandal in british racing!!!

  13. General winegum says:

    Give it a few weeks to sort out the inevitable teething problems – and we’ll all be saying “My what a terrific site, much better than the old one” 🙂

  14. Gerald says:

    You are an optimist!?
    They are not able to make their work!
    Now the site is available again, BUT: Although I use IE7 the site told me to update TO IE7 ???
    OK, have already had the google chrome browser installed an the site appears…
    I’d like to take a look at the rp f/c but after 3 races I have to login to go further.
    AND THE LOGIN DOESNT WORK!
    “We would like to apologise to customers who have been having trouble logging into racingpost.com.

    The Racing Post IT team are working on this issue and hope to resolve the technical problems in the near future.

    Thankyou for your patience and understanding.”

    OK, lets wait for near future. racing will start in 1 hour. Maybe this is near enough???

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