Wednesday, January 12, 2011


John Pricci this morning talks about customer service being important in racing, and he cites some of the things Gulfstream Park did this meet in helping that cause. I have a slightly different take on it, kind of like I explored below.

I don't believe racing has to do as much with customer service as it does with CRM - Customer Relationship Management.

CRM, defined by Wikipedia below is this:

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a widely-implemented strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service.[1] Customer relationship management describes a company-wide business strategy including customer-interface departments as well as other departments.[2]

If a person comes to your racetrack to watch the races and have some decent food, it is more customer service. Keeneland is a good example, as are various Ontario harness tracks in small towns.

For bettors, those who may play daily or frequent your track to bet, it is much more than that. They are clients, not unlike a client of a lawyer, marketing firm, or financial advisor. Those clients need more than a seat and a good burger, they need to be cultivated. Here are a few examples:

If you were a Pharma sales rep, and a client who buys $100k worth of product from you each month suddenly does not place an order, you are on the phone with that person asking why, and addressing their needs.

If a client of a financial advisor asks for fewer and fewer trades in a month, and is not as responsive, something might be up, so you call.

If you are a horse trainer and your client, who usually have ten owners to buy yearlings in September, but hasn't been in contact, you are opening the lines of communication.

In all those instances, CRM is employed. The Pharma sales rep might learn that another company stole his business because they were not offering a certain set of drugs. He can report that to corporate and they can start studying what people are demanding and map the future.

The financial advisor might learn that this person got $5 trades at an online broker and was doing it him/herself. He might make a plan to still manage the persons retirement savings and offer some free advice on hot stocks.

The horse trainer might learn that the yearling game is not for this customer, but adding him to a partnership, or offering to claim a horse instead might do the trick.

It's all about communication, fostering the customer, addressing needs and cultivating him or her to come back, or spend more time and money with you.

In racing, this does not seem to occur. Our customers do not seem to be cultivated.
A couple examples:

About five years ago a friend left a racetrack where he played serious money via their "player card". He bet over $200,000 a year for years, but he just stopped. He found an ADW that would give him better rates, so he switched. He did not even receive a call from the track asking why he left. He is betting 10 times as much now.

I spoke with Jeff Platt (of Jcapper and HANA) recently and he told a story about the post parades at one track. The pony and rider was blocking the horse's view in post parades and customers were complaining to him. Could he ask them to change their post parade so the 90%+ people who are betting the track via simo can see the horses better to make a good betting decision? He called and spoke to them - the answer was no, the horsemen did not want to change.

We have a long way to go to be that pharma rep, trainer or financial advisor because I believe we lack proper CRM skills in our business.


Lisa Johnson said...

While I agree that much needs to be done in the area of customer service, I believe a couple of your examples don't really fit here.

Horse racing is such a unique and diverse group, the general public including the 'high rollers' are not one-on-one with anyone for the most part at any given racetrack. There is no sales rep calling up a customer. There is no financial advisor directing a client. Period.

Management in horse racing can be a difficult nut to crack. The story of the blogger trying to get the track to get the horsemen to put their racehorses on the other side of the ponies doesn't surprise me. Horsemen hate change. Horses are NOT machines that can just be instructed to do this or that. Now.

While there may be a hand full of horses at any track at any given time that wouldn't bat an eye at having to join the pony on the left of him, MOST would. And chaos could ensue. Unless you have any experience ponying horses, you don't get a vote here. Back in the 70s, leading the racehorses on the left for a brief PART of the post parade was standard for a lot of tracks. It got changed, I would bet, because it's difficult and can end up easily in a wreck. You lead horses on foot on THEIR left. Always. For them to be on the other side of the 'leader' is unusual. And because the pony people don't develop a strong arm on the left, it can and HAS become dangerous.

The camera operators could/should get more aggressive in their shots--the best part of the warmup is away from the grandstand anyway as far as the bettor is concerned. No, the horsemen are not going to change that, and that's not surprising.

As far as your gambler friend's story, I will take it with a grain of salt that there are gamblers that brag and many more who never mention a dollar amount either win or lose. There are embellishers and there are braggarts, as well as silent winners who keep it close to the vest.

I know that high rollers DO exist of course. But how many of them (high rollers or big gamblers) personally KNOW any people in management of any track--and how many of the management people KNOW when they are showing up, how much they bet, have their phone numbers????? C'mon. Not like there is a giant Rolodex in some office so marketing can check in with the bettors. Not a very valid point at all. Granted there are smaller venues where the President or GM of any track could/might know regular attendees. But how many of them exchange phone numbers? Highly unlikely. I'd find it incredibly rare.

It's not that there isn't a ton of implements necessary to attract new and preserve old fans, we know that. There is no handbook on how to apply marketing to this very unique business where the fans are all the "buyers" of the same product and there are so many facets to the "sellers" of the same product under the same roof. Tell me where that happens elsewhere and maybe we should look at their marketing plan.

Anonymous said...


How do other tracks show horses on their TV screens then? I see some go one way, and some another, but I can see the horse.

It's not like we are curing the problems in the middle east here. How about some common sense?


Anonymous said...


I do look into my minds-eye to the SWAC in Montreal you were a panelist. There was a semi-serious bettor who told the CPMA,assorted track execs and OHHA gentlemen that he tried to fund an account but was told he could not because of where he lived. Everyone passed the buck and said 'that's the way it is'. He later discovered online poker and bet horses at the exchange. What was even more incredulous was (later) on another panel (I can't remember who it was) where he was cited for not contributing to Canadian racing through his betting!

CRM and racing = we have none (it appears)


Chris McConnell said...

As a consultant to the pari-mutuel and gaming industry, I beleive that there is alot of room in the industry to improve their bottom line with "just doing things right".

Whether its track management or marketing...mutuels should be letting the guys upstairs know when they have a consistant money player.

Just a simple introduction and exchange of business cards or emails...just start it and do it consistantly.

In these times, tracks MUST make use of treating customers as the business. You can have the best track and best horses, but if you don't take care of the client, it's over.

And I am not talking about giving away the farm either...its all about developing a customer client, whether someone new, a casual fan or serious handicapper...there are steps that can easily be taken to increase their frequency, recency and dollarization.

Chris McConnell, is a recoginized expert in parimutuel ADW, online, mobile and track wagering and in racino wagering and player retention.

Jeff said...


I do not think the intention is to switch sides with the lead pony. The horses just need to be paraded towards the clubhouse turn rather than the grandstand turn.

Would it really be that difficult for the tracks & horsemen to accomplish that minor change?


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