Month 6: A team of thoroughbreds is moving Churchill Downs closer to a winning finish.
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Churchill Downs' Atique Shah is not an easy man to corral. The best time to catch up with the vice president of CRM and technology solutions is after 7 p.m., when his day of back-to-back meetings subsides. His dizzying pace is paying off at the halfway mark of year one of Churchill Downs' enterprisewide CRM initiative. At this milestone we review with Shah the project's progress and prospects--and the influence his team has on all of it.
What's new since we spoke last month?
We finalized a contract with Interactive Wagering Platform to develop a new customer service module that will be an industry first. The agreement lets us develop one-to-one marketing kiosks in the [race track] suites and other areas. Customers will be able to swipe their cards in the kiosk, which will thank them for their loyalty and steer them toward appropriate options--ordering food, placing bets, purchasing merchandise--based on their preferences.
We've also nearly completed loading our latest data source, Equibase, the industry-owned database of racing information and performance statistics. And we're working with other organizations to develop industry standards around security and customer service. The joint effort includes the Jockey Club, the Thoroughbred Racing Association, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, three tote [wagering system] providers, and two other horse track organizations, Magma and New York Racing Association.
Remind us of the project's year-one goals.
We're creating and developing the necessary customer understanding to enhance the business. Once we have that understanding we want to recognize our most valuable customers at every possible opportunity, and reward their loyalty whenever possible. Our job is to introduce new technology and systems to enable that deeper and broader customer understanding to occur. We also will help the business execute on the key analytics and learning that the systems deliver.
What were the largest obstacles you encountered?
On the second day that our team met, everybody joked about data access problems and how they would never happen to us. Well, that turned out to be a major hurdle. The acquisition of hardware and the selection of a hosting location for the hardware have been tougher than expected, too. Any large implementation requires human integration as much as it needs systems integration. And the humans are always asked to make sacrifices.
What stands out about your team as a whole?
I greatly appreciate how bold everyone on the team has been by participating in this project. They left homes in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and other parts of the country to come to Louisville to work on something special. We have tackled all of the challenges as a unified team with one goal: making CRM a success for this organization and all of its tracks.
Which individual performances stand out?
Our CRM solutions architect, John Bushman, has worked through unexpected challenges, put in long hours, and consistently assumed lead roles. He's delivering the analytical platform component of the E.piphany suite. Above all, he has been extremely quick to learn how to think as both a developer and a database marketer. He is very quick to understand what type of data is needed, where it comes from, why is it important, and how should we present it so that the business guys can execute on it in the future. And Kelly Murphy, our manager of e-communications and channel strategy, has demonstrated a tremendous amount of energy, passion, and expertise.
How do you feel about your odds of first-year success?
The future looks extremely good. We are stable, the development efforts are on target, and we are under budget. I'm proud to be working next to a group of professionals that have shown me what true CRM is all about.
Journalist Eric Krell recognizes that his chance for success is a long shot
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