The recently concluded BITAC® Casino Resorts provided an in-depth look at technology with a panel discussion that touched on everything from cyber security to effectively mining big data, in addition to determining the right level of commitment to technology.
During the “Tapping Into Technology” session, the executives talked about finding the balance between too much technology and not enough. Steve Murphy, executive consultant, Hospitality & Gaming Consulting, commented. “In prior early days when you went to the hotel you were always seeing new technology; newer than what you had at your home. We started designing the in-room experience at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas at the same time CityCenter was being built, so there was some collaboration going on about how much is too much?” he said.
Murphy continued, “One of the things that we were looking at with The Cosmopolitan was the more we can centralize our data and learn about our guest from our guest loyalty programs we would be able to historically understand [things like] what you like your room temperature set at? Do you like your curtains open? That possibility was out there and we were exploring that, but then you get to the point of the learning curve. What age group are you really catering to? How long is it going to take someone to learn from the TV or from a device on how to control the in-room experience? So we were balancing that and we’re still struggling with that to this day,” he said.
James Nickerson, VP, WhiteSand Gaming, added his thoughts. “It’s a difficult [question], there is an internal debate. There was a major resort in Atlantic City just couple of years ago and they could not sell rooms at opening because the in-room technology didn’t work. Even the CEO acknowledged ‘if I can’t go into a hotel and turn on a TV—which I do first thing—I can’t sell a room.’ So I do think it’s a balance and I think you don’t have to be that old to say ‘enough is enough, I’ll just open the curtains or I’ll take the bill under the door and that’s fine for me,’” he said.
Edie Lowe, SVP, tracNcare, talked about some of the factors properties should consider when making major purchasing decisions. “When you’re looking at a big provider, you got to wonder are you going to get the same customer service level that you would get from a smaller operator?…You want to match up with a bigger partner who has your same goals in mind and will treat you like a top-tier customer, more so than that big guy that, if you’ve only got one or two properties, you may be in their cue for weeks before they ever return a call,” she noted.
Murphy underscored the point. “You can go to the larger organization. That was great when I was with MGM and Hyatt, the response I would get was great. But we all know and hate this feeling when something’s going bump in the night at three in the morning, who’s going to answer my phone call? Because I’ve got properties down and I need help. I’ve escalated already and my staff can’t fix this so I need that partner. It’s very hard when you don’t have 1, 000 properties or you don’t have the big 12 casinos on the strip, you may have a property in Florida or in Wisconsin. I’ve not gotten a call back sometimes,” he recalled.
Nickerson, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of cybersecurity and touted the cloud as a key factor. “I believe that if we had our data in the clouds, and we all kind of shared that common infrastructure, they can have these security experts to guard this data better than any one of us can on our own,” he said.
Nickerson acknowledged there’s been “progress” but added more can be done.
“These extremely embarassing and costly events are very bad publicity. The focus is growing on security, but not to the degree it should be across the board. It’s getting a lot of lip service, but people are reluctant to spend what is required to make it fool-proof,” he said.
Effectively leveraging big data is top of mind for any hotelier today and the executives spoke to that. “People talk about data, data, data, but what is it that you want to get out of that data? The majority of you want guest profiles. You want to know what the guest likes; what their preferences are; where they like to stay. So you have be very particular about knowing exactly what kind of data you want, and what format you get it in, because when you’re handed this data you’re at a loss,” according to Lowe.
Murphy added, “one of the things in the gaming and hospitality industry that we have missed for a while is upselling that guest before they ever get to the property. We’re always good about selling and marketing to them when they are not making reservations at our properties, but once they make reservations we need to get out in front of that and we’re trying that with the data we have.”