Construction Zone: AQHA working to get back on track
If you’ve perused the comments on any AQHA post, you might have seen some less-than-happy comments, or you might have even posted a few of these comments yourself, but the growing pains that AQHA is going through this spring will be worth the end product, says AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines. The Association with 250,000 members has been updating its late 70s technology and, upon launching the first week in March, experienced glitches that resulted in delayed registration, transfers, and DNA testing, as well as an influx of calls that backed up call-back list.
Transfers are receiving an initial review within a week of being entered into the system, and the call-back list is nearly back on track, with calls being returned in 24-72 hours, often less, and as late as 6:30 to 7 p.m. to get back to members.
“All we can do right now is get our systems back to a convenient, user-friendly level and change the customer experience,” said Huffhines. “We’re investing heavily in overtime, interim people, investing in spending countless hours tuning the system. We don’t want to get paperwork out that’s inaccurate. Right now, we’re doing the best we can do, keeping our heads down, and getting the system to work more efficiently.”
Phone calls will likely remain high for some time, with 2,200 to 2,500 calls coming in per day, but using AQHA’s contact us form is also an option. At the launch of the new system, AQHA was returning 30 percent of paperwork in what they considered a timely manner. By last week, that figure had climbed to 50 percent, and they are hoping for 100 percent of paperwork returned in a timely manner very soon. The updated system, in its second phase, will add a dashboard to the website listing each of the horses, the status of registration and more. This phase addresses returning paperwork within a week of receipt or if submitted electronically, within 24 hours, ideally.
“There is a lot of detail required from the breeder to register a foal, such as the proper birth date, name, DNA if the animal is embryo transfer or AI’d, five-panel testing, genetic abnormality and sending photos in,” Huffhines said. “We want to make that easy. In the next phase, once we get stabilized, we designed something that will be web-based that can be augmented on a hand-held device.”
By next year’s seasonal rush registering babies, Huffhines is hopeful that AQHA will be in a far better place with everyone receiving what they need in a timely manner.
“It’s hard work, we’re not meeting our own expectations,” Huffhines said. “We hate the fact we aren’t getting work out as quickly as we’d like.”
He equates AQHA’s current situation to road construction, where for a few weeks or months, travel is slowed to single lane, but traffic will pick up again, he said, and the roads will be better, smoother, and wider.
If a document needs to be returned in an urgent manner, such as paperwork needed by the weekend, Huffhines recommends calling or emailing to notify the Association of the needs. Overall, those at AQHA have been grateful for members’ patience.
“Most people we talk to on the phone are very kind once we tell them what’s happening. We know it’s not ideal, but we’re throwing all our resources at it,” he said. “Our business is data, and I’m excited where we’re heading with some of the things they can expect happening online.”
The old technology was created essentially for two sports within AQHA, showing and race records. The updated technology will be able to handle AQHA’s nearly 150 classes.
While Jim Hunt, a South Dakota AQHA representative and member of the Stud Book and Registration Committee, as well as a former director of the Ranch Committee, on the Animal Welfare Committee, judge for the Best Remuda Award, and much more, is hopeful that the growing pains will be well worth the gain, he is downtrodden about one aspect of the new, more-efficient system.
“I’ve gotten a lot of calls from members, and the biggest complaint is when they call into the head office, they can’t get a person,” Hunt said. “When you take away personal contacts, with who you’ve developed a relationship, they know your breeding program, that’s frustrating. They’re trying to change too quick too fast.”
Hunt, a breeder himself, spent many years in the banking industry, witnessing a large modernization from face-to-face relations and walking in the door to drive through or drive-up ATMs and even online banking. He is hopeful that the end results of AQHA’s new system will be much the same as modern banking practices and accepted the same as well.
“The banking system really has become efficient; you can go on your computer and see what’s in your account,” he said. “I think the same mentality was behind the new system. Registrations can be done in a day; transfers can be done in a day. Everything can be done online. The idea is to become faster, more efficient.” F