Thursday, 1 December 2016

Will the New PASS System Pass the Tests of Ease of Access and Enhancing the Owner Experience?


Regular readers of the blog will know that I have been campaigning over a number of years for radical improvement of the owner experience in terms of the way in which owners collect complimentary badges and enter the racecourse. At times I have been very critical of the old-fashioned way in which Owners & Trainers desks sometimes operate (no computers, when they do have computers there’s no internet access, if they do have access there’s no broadband, loads of paperwork and print-outs on which they can never find your name, long queues of owners irritated by endless delays, further irritation by people who are clearly trying to blag their way into the racecourse with no entitlement to badges, almost accusatory interrogation about who you are and proving your identity, etc.), while other elements of my campaign have argued for the adoption of customer relationship management (CRM) approaches where through technology and smart cards, different types of owner receive different types of benefits based on their contribution to racing through ownership. Basically the more you spend on owning racehorses, the better the benefits.

My ideal would be that everyone in the UK who is an owner in a racehorse (no matter what size the share) would have a smart ID badge that automatically contains information about their ownership and entitlement to badges and benefits. The more shares / horses you own, the better the quality of lounges and hospitality arrangements you can access. This would parallel the decades-old airline model of first-class and business-class lounges. Apparently in Australia this type of arrangement is already operative, with the benefits based around tiers of points. Although I have no first-hand experience of the scheme, it has apparently proved very motivating with owners investing in more shares in horses to lift themselves into the next tier of enhanced owner facilities. It wouldn’t necessarily need to be through a badge – it could just as easily be via a smart phone. Alas, this ideal still seems to be an awfully long way off for British, and indeed European, racing.

But some encouraging changes are under way, and a fair bit of innovation is coming into racing over the next twelve months which ought to enhance the owner experience. Let’s hope that all of this will be successful, particularly the way in which it is implemented. Again, regular blog readers will know how critical I was of Weatherbys Bank when they “upgraded” online banking. They are still sorting out that disaster.

In the UK, the Privilege Access Swipe System (PASS) card was introduced over 20 years ago by racecourses to manage exclusive complimentary access for owners to courses. From 1st November this Autumn, new gold PASS cards have been provided by the Racecourse Association (RCA), with some ambitious goals. They have been designed “to ensure quick and easy access to racecourses”; to “revolutionise your pre-arrival and entry experience”, giving you “the chance to personalise your raceday experience from start to finish”, and “this modern and mobile system allows better communication between you and racecourses, ensuring a personal touch to the raceday experience”.

The new PASS card is to be used whenever a registered owner has a runner, and also to gain entry via the Racecourse Badge Scheme for Owners (RBSO), which allows ROA members who are registered owners to gain complimentary access to over 1,300 race fixtures per year as long as they have 50% of a horse (or shares equivalent to that). Details are on www.rcapass.com and there is also an online concierge system to check allocation of tickets, pre-assign tickets to guests and discover information about special arrangements.

All of this sounds absolutely fantastic, as long as it works in practice for all the different types of owner, and particularly those in partnerships and syndicates. The major challenge for those who organise such shared ownership arrangements, and particularly for National Hunt where there are still 24-hour declarations, is that there is not a lot of time to liaise with all the owners and receive their instructions in terms of who will be attending and their requirements for additional badges for any guests, as well as confirming eligibility for lunches. Under the old system, which is now being replaced, the reliance was on telephone calls, faxes or emails to courses. Sometimes, with some courses, this worked well, but with others it didn’t. Whenever I have gone racing I have always taken a printed copy of the correspondence with me to sort out the errors and mistakes, and prove that we had given the course clear instructions. That shows how often the system broke down.

I had hoped to report by now on how well the new PASS system is working. I have tried to use it on two trips to the track, but on the first occasion they wanted to stay with the old system and on the second “the system was down” and computer said no. Not the most encouraging start! On the implementation timescale that the RCA has mapped out, they are convinced that the system should be “firmly established” from 1st January. We will have to wait and see. If any of you experience any problems at all with the new system, please let me know and I will do an update on how the new system is working in the New Year. For the sake of racing, I do hope that the RCA learnt from the Weatherbys debacle, and that the new system has been properly trialled and guaranteed to work really effectively. All crossed!


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