Transforming Data to Results
"You have to do the right thing for the good of the customer, regardless of any resistance."
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CRM leaders often assign a godlike status to data, because it can elevate customer satisfaction and customer value to heavenly heights. Yet the long road to CRM's promised land is paved with a heck of a lot of human interaction. That paradox has come to light as Churchill Downs Inc. prepares to run with the information emerging from the E.piphany 6.5 system it's using, now that the first five (of 27) data sources have been successfully loaded. "It's already opening up many new ways of looking at the business," says Atique Shah, vice president of CRM and technology solutions. Shah credits Ascential's Data Sage integration application with making the sometimes thorny extracting, transferring, and loading process a smooth one. Churchill Downs' CRM team uses Clementine to analyze the information that E.piphany produces. Early analysis revealed that the company's existing customer loyalty program might benefit from further segmentation. "The information has shown us that the Twin Spires Club really doesn't have four tiers of customers," Shah says. "In fact, there are nine tiers of customers." Each of those tiers can be marketed to in unique--and consequently, more successful--ways. Installing the technology and processes to generate valuable information marks only the first two thirds of the race. The outcome of the remaining--and most important--stretch hinges on how well Shah and his CRM experts communicate their findings to their business counterparts. That challenge depends on emotions and expectations, as much as it relies on data. "This doesn't come easy," Shah says. "You're about to introduce new ways of doing things. And who are we to say that this is a better way? People can be a little territorial. Sometimes you have to do the right thing for the good of the customer, regardless of any resistance you encounter. Sometimes, you have to let go and say, 'You know what? I don't know everything possible about horse-racing and betting, so I am going to apply this person's objections to my learning and then return with insights that will truly benefit our patrons.' It's a balancing act." To strike the right balance, Shah urges his team to learn as much about the industry, the business, and specific operational needs as possible. He also refuses to let a sometimes overwhelming amount of technical work confine his team. "If we work in a silo all the time and continue to do our work behind closed doors, our overall acceptance by business users will be very limited," Shah says. The process by which the CRM team presents its insights to marketing and other corporate functions also helps cultivate acceptance. The team validates its findings--that there are nine customer segments, for example--and then places the insights into a "very, very easy-to-read document," Shah says. "It's presented as objectively as possible. We're not making any assumptions or offering opinions. And we depend on our business colleagues to help us understand how the data can best be put to use." In addition to improving the precision of the customer loyalty program, the early CRM insights have motivated Churchill Downs to develop an application that enables customers in suites and individual boxes to automatically order food, beverages, and even merchandise (delivered to their home addresses) during races. That capability was originally part of Churchill Downs CEO Tom Meeker's vision for improving customer relationships. Shah says that the data surfacing from E.piphany and Clementine validates a demand for the service. On the journey to CRM success, it also helps to have friends in high places. Austin-based freelance journalist Eric Krell points out that a little insight can go a long, long way
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