Alexa Innovators: Ascot Racecourse

Staff Writer Jan 30, 2023
Alexa Skills

When you think of a 300 year old horse racing track in Berkshire, England steeped in British heritage, futuristic customer experiences may not be the one thing that immediately come to mind. But with Alexa Smart Properties, Ascot Racecourse is providing new customer experiences designed to delight their guests.

Opened in 1711, Ascot Racecourse now sees 600,000 visitors annually. In addition to hosting the highly-anticipated Royal Meeting race and 26 other days of competition each year, Ascot also has an award-winning hospitality program. And now, by integrating Alexa into Ascot’s suites, their team has found a way to up-level the visitor experience and help streamline day-to-day operations.

Achieving a new level of service 

Adding new technology to historic sites like Ascot presents a unique challenge: implementing modern convenience without overshadowing the sense of rich tradition that draws people in. Enabling a user experience that fits in with the experience that people are already used to is key to making this happen.

“For us, Alexa offers a premium feel with touch-points customers are familiar with,” said George R. Vaughan, Head of Technology at Ascot. “That way, it’s never intrusive. Nobody needs to be trained to use it—they can just speak naturally. ”

[See Alexa and Ascot Racecourse in action]

In boxes that seat up to 25 people, this type of immediate familiarity ensures a seamless operation. Rather than calling on an employee for a request, you simply say Alexa, can I order some food? As Vaughan describes, “That request always results in someone getting flagged; it combines the personal touch with the efficiency of Alexa.”

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, Ascot also had to re-think service and find a way to service clients in a safe, lower-contact way. 

“Alexa was a revelation for us,” said Paul Paisis-Oakwell, General Manager of Food and Beverage at Ascot. “It gave us that perfect tool to communicate with people and get food and beverage to them.”

Today, guests can buy merchandise, get a meal, and place bets from the comfort of their suites—all triggered instantly through voice.

A technology investment that pays dividends

In the Ascot team’s experience, more efficient service and a new hospitality interface brought significant business benefits.

“We’ve seen increased food and beverage orders with Alexa, and our average spend is nearly double as compared to a box with no catering,” said Paisis-Oakwell.

Moving forward, the team plans to keep leveraging customer interaction analytics to continually better the customer experience. With partner Audico, a voice concierge platform for hospitality, health, and home, Ascot has a wealth of metrics to improve how they work and develop new innovations for the racecourse. 

Audico and Ascot have worked to create a full-scale back end system to handle content management and adapt to client preferences in real-time.

When a request is made—for example, when someone orders an item for the menu—there’s full visibility into where the ask came from, its status, and whether the order fulfillment is in progress. Over the long term, such data is used to gain insights that help eliminate redundancy and reduce wait times.

[Learn more about the technological systems powering Ascot’s hospitality]

Getting the most out of Alexa Smart Properties 

Currently, the Audico skill for Ascot has around 20 intents. “Some of these cover basic functions, while others mirror things people might think about asking devices naturally,” says Arun Godwin-Patel, CTO and co-founder of Audico. 

From information about upcoming races to historical facts about the grounds, Alexa devices provide information to visitors in new and contextual ways. For example, using the Notifications API, Ascot is able to send messages to their entire fleet of devices, and create an end-to-end voice experience. Ascot leverages this feature to communicate directly with end users, making promotions throughout the day or prompting people to place bets on a race. Working with Audico, Ascot is able to access a rich suite of analytics — such as average response time — that allows them to continually improve the user experience.

“At a place like Ascot, having a sense of tradition is important,” said Vaughan. “And that’s why having Alexa makes so much sense — people are already familiar with it.”

BONUS: Go behind the scenes in this Deep Dive segment of our latest Alexa Innovators episode to learn more about how Ascot created an Alexa voice design, developed backed systems and deployed improved processes to uplevel the guest experience at their racecourse.


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