In 2022 there is perhaps no greater tool than technology to help casino operators enhance guest satisfaction. From cashless transactions to online gaming, a handful of executives discussed some of the most impactful initiatives at BITAC Casino Resorts, which took place last week at Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas.
During a panel discussion entitled “Doubling Down: Casino Hotels Look To Take Guest Satisfaction To Next Level,” the executives framed the discussion by detailing the decision making process around technology and how to determine the right time to implement it.
Mike Engel, corporate vp, hospitality innovation, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, underscored both the urgency and other considerations.
“The right time is now, but the capacity is the better question and realizing it’s understanding what your capacity is and how you want to utilize technology. For us as a company we’re actually doing a deep dive in that space. We have a whole project based upon guest experience and how the digital space hits not just the hotel, but the gaming floor space,” he said, also emphasizing the importance of putting the infrastructure in place.
Steve Neely, general manager, Rolling Hills Casino, acknowledges there are a lot of questions that need to be asked.
“I think the key is identifying what your true need is. There’s a lot of temptation. We know that we’ve got to make some changes with how the business is evolving, but a lot of times we chase the product instead of the solution. That’s when I ask our team how is it going to benefit us, what are we going to do with this? Will it save us money? Will it improve the guest experience and drive revenue? What is the end goal and when is it going to pay for itself? What’s it going to allow us to do that we don’t do currently? It’s real fun to chase the shiny object, but you can’t lose sight of what your end goal is,” he said.
Seth Schorr, CEO, Fifth Street Gaming, maintained he “shares a similar philosophy” while pointing out that sometimes taking a wait-and-see approach make more sense.
“I do think it takes a couple pathfinders and innovators in the industry to try and [test] technology for no reason, not necessarily to solve a goal. Right now there’s a huge conversation around block chain, but I would argue it doesn’t check a lot of the boxes. However, we won’t know what it’s solving until people put it into practical use and that’s how we discover things. I don’t know who wants to be that guinea pig, but guinea pigs are good,” he said.
Diana Imber, account representative, Birch Street Systems—a Las Vegas-based company which provides an automated procure-to-pay business solution—highlighted how its platform can help increase guest satisfaction.
“We’ve all gone through the pandemic, labor shortages, supply chain issues and now we’re facing inflation so it’s really difficult for that back-of-the-house turmoil not to flow forward into the guest experience. Almost everything that you purchase impacts the guest—shampoo, conditioner, soap, towels. Streamlining with our inventory and purchasing application software makes it easier so the guests don’t have to feel that impact,” she noted.
The panel unanimously agreed that cashless transactions have gained considerable momentum recently, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.
Schorr insisted “it’s not a matter of if, but when” with cashless. He further noted the company is in the process of implementing such a system at one of its properties.
“We live in a cashless society. I think it goes without saying that we live in a society that’s transitioning toward that. Why would our casinos be any different? In the casino business we’re such an innovative industry on some levels, but in other ways we’re just not, partially because of the fact that we’re a highly regulated industry. But thankfully COVID was a big accelerator when it comes to cashless. The next piece will be adoption,” he said.
“Cashless is the next big jump, the digital wallet is the way of the future and the ability for our guests to be able to do everything from their phone. We’re going from the bricks and mortar to that mobile device,” said Engel.
Neely reinforced the point.
“I think the customer behavior has changed through the pandemic, people are more willing to use technology for basic transactions. Think about checking into a hotel now, so many places you go the key is on your phone. People are getting more comfortable with it,” he noted.
Meanwhile, loyalty programs continue to evolve within the segment and are changing how casinos communicate with their customers.
According to Engel, “loyalty programs are a huge component of what we do.” He added, “casinos have done a good job with it, but there are other businesses that do a better job. I think one of things we understand is we may not be experts. Let’s look at what other people are doing that are more successful in that space and lean into that…
“Loyalty doesn’t just happen on the floor or in casino properties. It’s about creating that loyalty outside of the property and getting them engaged with us and keeping engaged with them. The loyalty club is at the heart of what we do. We’re paying guests for their information and what we do with that information makes us better,” said Engel.
Neely elaborated on that point.
“The casino of today has evolved compared to what it was 30 years ago. We now have outlets that are extremely profitable for us. We have customers that eat in our steakhouse three times a month and don’t play a slot machine. They’re as valuable to us as some of our players so allowing them to identify that behavior allows us to harness the information and market to them. Historically we’ve collected all this information in individual buckets and it was very difficult to pull it all together. Now there’s a tool where all those things come together. You can evaluate the total value of your customer and then turn around and identify what you can do,” he said.
“It’s everything. When we look at loyalty, one we’re creating a currency our guests can then use to buy goods and services. Secondly, it allows people to earn status and access, which is everything. Gamblers generally are egomaniacs that love to have special status and a loyalty club is the best way to do it,” concluded Schorr.