I talk to Ironman Asia Pacific CEO Geoff Meyer about the customer experience with Ironman and have a few scoops along the way.

Literally, during the Ironman Port Macquarie this year Geoff Meyer the CEO of Ironman Asia Pacific took time out of his busy day to have a chat with me and allowed me to ask the questions we all wanted asked. Here is the first part of that conversation...because I type so slowly.

Geoff began by talking about how USM got up and running with the job of managing Ironman races.

GM: “It was basically, here is the portfolio, off you go and run it. So we basically started from scratch. And we were running the whole Ironman Portfolio on top of our multisport portfolio, Noosa, Mooloolaba, The Herald Sun Tour, we had to drop a lot of events and let the QLD Gatorade series go as we just didn’t have time for it and we concentrated on Ironman. We are very privileged to do that, I’m an old Ironman, I’ve been around since 1986 and I’ve done several Forster’s and New Zealand so I’m very passionate about Ironman. But last year was tough, to take on so many events from scratch and run them, I think we did an outstanding job in actually getting it across the line. But I think now you can really see the big improvements, if you look at Melbourne this year it was a lot better, at this event (Port) the new swim start which I think has worked really well , it is a lot better. There is always room for improvement but I think we are really kicking some good goals. We have always run world class events; Noosa I think is still the pinnacle, the benchmark so to speak for triathlon and we are trying to make Ironman bigger and better all the time.

Roxii: From an age group competitor point of view, one of the things that is usually not in dispute is the quality of the event from start line to finish line, where punters do have some issues is with the “other stuff”.

GM: Yeah, and I think we are improving on that, we are about to launch a whole series of new things. We have only ben on board for the last two years and I think we have done an amazing job in that time, but I get it hat we are not probably as personal as we were in the old days of USM, but we are controlling the whole Asia-Pacific region now we are running all those events, some still licensed, but we have just opened up a new office in Malaysia and our team just looked after the recent Putrajaya 70.3 which was fantastic so we are well into Asia. We are now controlling 50,000 entries, so it’s hard to have the personal touch all the time. But I think our guys 95% of the time get it right, yeah there is the 5% that don and this is where we ned to put systems and structures in place that don’t allow for those issues o happen.

I know one of them will be “Pee-Pee”, I saw that and I’ve already emailed him yesterday morning, and that is one of the things that we need to do better. Our guys get bombarded by email after email, and a lot of them have good reasons and a lot have terrible reasons and our staff are trying to judge which is which. You will be pleased to know we are putting in a loyalty system, now that we have the database system that works and we can have everyone’s history in it we can know who has done 15, 20 or 10 Ironman’s. We will be launching that system were those people who have been with us for a long time will have privileges, so they will have priority entry, registration queues for themselves, and situations like “Pee- Pee” where he is a 15 time Ironman and has had a bad accident, that should instantly red flag him as a loyal customer, and he needs to be looked after.

Roxii: ...as opposed to a first timer who has bitten off more than they can chew and are looking for a way out.

GM: Exactly and it is difficult and it all comes down to budgets, I mean you have spent the money, but when you have loyal customers you need to be looking after them and that’s what we are heading towards.

Roxii: One of the claims that pops up occasional is that entries, even right up to race week, are resold should someone pull out.

GM: Never, we have never resold an entry. We sell, to a level that we know we have capacity for. Then we also have our charity allocation, our sponsor allocation and our travel allocations on top of that, which is that gap but we have never resold.

Roxii: Can you see though from a competitor point of view though how the whole “refund policy” as it stands at the moment is poorly received?

GM: Yes, and I’ll give you and exclusive, I shouldn’t but I will, in the coming weeks we will be announcing our transfer policy, so that if you are doing Ironman Melbourne or Ironman Australia and something has gone wrong you can transfer out of that event and into another event of that same calendar year that is still open, same with the 70.3’s you can transfer up, you can transfer down but all the details will be launched fairly soon. I always love the Transitions threads “Why do we hate Ironman so much, here is nothing hat ever comes up except for the refund policy. This gives you another option, you can still take a refund, you can transfer up, transfer down, you can transfer into Malaysia, yeah there will be some conditions but I think it will resolve a lot of the refund issues.