Guests already come to the picturesque Little River Casino Resort in northern Michigan to enjoy a nice stay, but now their experience promises to be even more satisfying as the property deploys a new Acres 4.0 product aimed at delivering a heightened level of hospitality customer service.
Manistee, Mich.-based Little River Casino Resort already uses Acres 4.0’s Kai to deliver a more satisfying customer experience on its casino floor. Kai, using a combination of mobile technology and artificial intelligence, is designed to provide solutions to issues that get in the way of customer satisfaction in order to improve the player experience. It does this several ways, including detecting problems on gaming machines and dispatching employees to fix them, and offering smart, player incentives via mobile phone.
“Kai on the gaming floor has helped them [casino employees] to be a lot more proactive in getting customers taken care of a lot quicker,” said Charmaine Stone, director of hotel operations for the 292-room casino resort owned by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. “The communication between team members has expanded quite significantly as well.”
Now Acres 4.0 is helping Little River improve the hotel side of the experience through its new Kai Hotel product making its debut this summer at the casino resort.
The seeds of the Little River project were sown as Stone and Little River’s previous general manager Wendell Long started talking with Acres 4.0 founder John Acres about issues on the hospitality side of the business, Stone said.
“We started talking about how it would be so phenomenal to have something like that in the hotel because what happens with our supervisors is that when they are stuck in an office, they’re not out on the floor with the team members or the guests, and so a lot of those face-to-face interactions are missing, but if they have a tool where they could be out on the floor and they’re still able to do their work, that would increase the hospitality level of our property,” Stone said. “Any time we’re able to connect with our guests and have our team members out on the floor but still able to do their jobs is absolutely a plus.”
Acres 4.0 already planned to expand Kai beyond the casino floor, and so the opportunity to help Little River made perfect sense, said Will Adamson, vice president of marketing for Las Vegas-based Acres 4.0.
At press time, Little River and Acres 4.0 were testing Kai Hotel with a small number of hospitality employees, with plans for full deployment in August. “The great thing about involving some of the team members now is that they will be able to tell their coworkers that this is a great thing,” Stone said, “and the more buy-in that you get from the entire property, the more successful the project is going to be.”
After spending time earlier this year with Stone, her IT director and employees in many different hotel departments, Acres 4.0 employees Will Adamson and Dan Wey found one universal issue. “The thing that we learned from talking with everyone was that communication is their Achilles heel,” said Adamson.
Connecting employees via Kai Hotel’s mobile-centric approach will help address the problems standing in the way of providing more optimal service, said Wey, Kai Hotel project manager.
For instance, hotel supervisors often find themselves in a predicament, Wey said. “If you’re with your data, you’re away from your customer, and if you’re with your customer, you don’t have your data, so there’s a disconnect there that we want to bridge,” he said.
That one aspect alone will go a long way toward enhancing the experience on the hospitality front, Stone said. “Having that availability to be able to do your work while you’re interfacing with a guest is just going to be so much more helpful for them to not feel like they’re tied behind a desk constantly or tied to an office, for that matter,” she said.
Having that added visibility to interact with guests is crucial, Stone said. “That is so important nowadays when there’s so much competition out there. We need to make sure that we’re being as hospitable as possible and that we’re on the floor thanking guests for coming and asking if there’s anything that they need help with.”
It’ll also be empowering to hospitality staff to be able to make a difference in the customer experience, Stone added. “I think that that’s going to give a lot more feeling of ownership to the employees.”
Kai Hotel is designed to streamline operational efficiency to best serve a hotel’s specific needs, Adamson said.
“With Kai, there’s this idea of taking tasks and being able to automate them in a way where there is accountability,” he said.
Every person has a device and is either on a call or not on a call actively, and a manager at a glance can see where everybody is, he said. It’s not a matter of supervisors keeping their thumbs on top of employees, but giving them better information to understand work constraints, he said. In housekeeping, for instance, not all rooms are the same—some may have two queen beds or other amenities that require more time to clean. In addition, cleaning the room of a family of four staying for a week will likely take more time than the room of a single overnight business traveler.
One way Kai Hotel can improve operations or address a special need is to prioritize the severity of a room to be cleaned and dispatch that accordingly, he said.
“Let’s say there’s a a high roller that just rolled up to the desk. He’s four hours early, and his king-size bedroom is not ready. His special set up, all the special needs he wants [a refrigerator, a microwave, etc.] is not complete,” he said.
With Kai Hotel, Little River can create a speed call that says that the VIP’s room, Room 500, needs to be set up immediately.
“They can create that call and allow Kai to assign it to the right person based upon who’s assigned to what zones of the hotel,” Adamson said. Not only that, he said, but Kai is smart enough to know that while Room 500 should go to Dan because he’s working on that floor, Dan is already in the midst of another call so Kai will find the next available person to take the call immediately.
With Kai Hotel, hotel operators also can define their own terms, he said. “They might say if we have a VIP room that needs cleaning, that is a higher priority than anything else. If you’re on another call, it doesn’t matter. If you’re the closest person to that room, then you’re going to get that call,” Adamson said.
Kai Hotel also is changing the way hotel maintenance calls are addressed at Little River. Under the current manual process, a housekeeper who notices something that needs fixing, such as a broken lamp, would fill out a form—a glorified sticky note—and post it on the hotel room door.
“That visual indicator is what the maintenance guy is looking for when he’s combing the halls to find problems,” but there’s not an efficient way to determine that the issue was handled, Adamson said. “So much of their time is spent doing manual follow up communication between staff.”
With Kai Hotel, the housekeeper or manager can communicate the issue via text, and it will remain in the system until a maintenance person completes it.
Acres 4.0 offers a configuration website that allows properties to set up their own calls, priority levels, property zones, player tiers and more.
In addition, Kai Hotel offers a built-in chat feature similar to WhatsApp, a radio feature and a notes feature. The notes feature acts like a shared notepad for an entire department, and to-do lists can be used to create passive tasks to be accomplished, Adamson explained. “You could have a to-do list that everybody shares and goes on and grabs a to-do. Kai then takes it off the list once complete.”
Adamson noted Acres 4.0 plans to expand Kai even more. “The focus was always to come out the other side with a universal solution for the whole casino resort,” he said.
Kai Hotel also will help improve communication and the guest experience across the property, Stone predicted.
“Let’s say I get a complaint about the gaming floor, I will now not have to run to my office, hurry up and figure out who I’m supposed to connect to and send an email and hope that they get it right away or hop on a radio and then we have all this radio chatter,” she said. “It’ll be so easy just to send a text message to anybody on the gaming floor and say, ‘I’ve got this guest in this slot area and they need help. Could you please send a slot rep?’ Or vice versa—if a guest is complaining about a hotel problem [to a slot person], they’re able to connect to one of our supervisors right away so that one of our guests does not have to leave the property feeling as though they weren’t take care of. We want them to be more than satisfied when they walk out the door.”
Kai Hotel also will enable hotel staff to personalize the guest experience, because staff can use Kai to know the name of a guest in a given room, Stone said.
“That is so very important too for the front-line employees to absolutely know who they’re dealing with at all times,” Stone said. “To know their name right away will help them to connect with that guest a lot more so that they feel like you know them personally rather than they’re just another guest.”