Home Where is the Money? Part 13 of 36: The Smart Casino Communication and the Tennis Analogy

Where is the Money? Part 13 of 36: The Smart Casino Communication and the Tennis Analogy

Authors’ Note: In this article, we explore how, when providing real-time service, we need to be able to enable our service teams to play the communication game to the benefit of both the customer and the casino.

Service on the gaming floor is an invisible force that drives both value and customer satisfaction. Today, games are more sophisticated, bonus structures are more intricate, and service is more multifaceted than ever before. Plus, customers can now open multichannel communication directly with the property.

We believe this communication can be likened to a game of tennis, with sending an email or text message like serving the ball. What is critical in this communication game of tennis is the volley, where parties knock the proverbial ball back and forth.

In this game of communication tennis, there are three absolutely critical parts to a match:
1. Two players: Both players in a game of tennis are hitting the ball; both are engaged and both are playing actively. Applied in the real world, this means that the customer and the staff are both engaged in a constant communication.

2. Information: The game of tennis requires a ball, and in our tennis analogy, the ball contains information. As we serve a ball, we want to make sure it is loaded with good information, and as we return a ball, we want to make sure we are responding with new information in a complete and correct way.

3. Real time: In the game of tennis, if you do not return the ball, you’ll lose the game. You cannot simply pick it up, hit it later and expect it to count. Tennis happens in real time, as should communication with customers.

This communication as tennis analogy presents a real-time information-exchange game between the staff and the customers, and although we’re calling it a game, it is absolutely critical to the business.

Social Media and the Smart Casino
In a previous article on social media, we stated:

There is little doubt that every business that involves people needs to think about how social media is impacting their business. As described in our February 2015 article for this series, the social media numbers are staggering. Almost two-thirds of all Americans login to Facebook every day. This unstoppable force is changing the fabric of society and is altering how we live, work and play. Those in denial of this growth need to take a deep breath and look at the numbers again: Two-thirds of 320 million Americans login to Facebook every day, as estimated in 2015.1 Those two-thirds are often using Facebook as their window into the world. What is even more remarkable is that the social forces at play are invisible to those outside the network.2

With this in mind, let’s imagine a “smart casino.” In this casino, each interaction the customer has with the business is facilitated by an information-enabled application (but often delivered by a human). Let’s call this a “smart application.”

Now, to be smart, the application needs to see all the real-time data streams. To illustrate this, let’s consider three examples:
• Dinner Comps If the application that is used to offer dinner comps does not understand restaurant yield, it cannot understand the true cost and the likely customer experience resulting from offering a same-day dinner to a player.

• Luck If the player chooses to use a player’s card, we will be able to see how lucky they have been. How we interact with a customer can then be tempered by their current luck.

• Friends A gaming experience with friends is very different than a solo visit. Again, access to this knowledge can temper our interactions.

If the app can see real-time data streams from across the business, then it can be a smart app, helping us achieve smart communication. A smart app also can communicate directly with the customer and join the game of communication tennis, too.
(See below for details on how to best give a smart app access to the real-time data.)

Gaming Systems & Smart Apps in Application
Gaming systems are highly regulated, complex, real-time and high-availability engines that provide the tools that are used to run the casino. While these systems are an essential input to the data streams required for the smart app, there are numerous additional data streams that need to be tied together to deliver the smart app. One of the key challenges with regulated gaming systems is that they are inherently slow to change, as changes require regulatory approval. This slowness to change makes gaming systems a poor choice for the area of the consolidation of data streams. We authors would argue instead that the data streams need to feed into another layer of operational applications, and it is this new layer that would be used to build the smart apps that enable the smart casinos.

Two-way Communication
The tennis analogy implies that the casino and the customer need two-way communication, and we have already shown that this communication needs to be both loaded with data and relevant to both parties. We will now show why communication needs to be in real time and interactive as well.

A gaming business is a constant stream of real-time data, including tickets, hotel, point-of-sale, player tracking, jackpot events and machine tilts. This constant stream of events feeds a complex array of systems required to run a gaming operation. Some of these systems are highly regulated, some are outside of regulations. Furthermore, most operations are 24/7, and downtime is extremely expensive and hard to schedule.

Ten years ago these systems were the end of the story, but today they are just the beginning, as many players carry smartphones capable of communicating a huge amount of information and of talking to the world at large.3 One of us authors once heard of a casino that was notified of a system failure by monitoring Facebook. In short, smartphones have enabled us to play the communication game in real-time with our customers. Imagine a jackpot hand pays on a machine that is in communication with the player. The machine could tell the player how far away the casino staff is, letting excitement and anticipation grow as the player tracks their arrival. This illustrative example shows how the casino can move away from simply reacting to the events on the machine by instead engaging in a constant volley. Imagine how much happier a player would be seeing clearly that the property staff is on its way and that we know that they need help.

Personification of the Smart Casino
It is useful to think about the smart casino with all of its team members, marketing and systems, and how it interacts with the player, as being very personal. In thinking like this, we can personify the entire customer experience. Consider the following examples of personification of the smart casino experience that allow us to tune the personality of the customer experience to meet the needs of the customer.

Both Rhonda and James need to be well-informed about their customers, and both Rhonda and James possess styles of service and communication that are applied to drive the customer experience. Both Rhonda and James also require access to detailed data streams to be effective in meeting their goals.

Now, let’s take this simplified personification a step further and extend it to the mini casino,4 tuning to match the service levels of each area of the floor.

Mini Casino Marketing
In our past investigation of mini casinos, we discussed how the primary mechanism for slot analysis has transitioned from understanding the game to, in today’s world of highly configurable games, something much more complex. Today, “understanding a gaming floor is like trying to solve a 20-dimensional Rubik’s Cube. No matter how you twist the cube, there are always hidden dimensions that are the hidden drivers in analyzing the data.”5

This 20-dimensional cube can be quite daunting to marketers and slot operators alike. The mini casino strategy is a solution here, as it “allows the marketing department and slots department to speak the same language. Deploying a mini casino is often as simple as identifying areas of the gaming floor that have similar customer groups and similar products and giving them a name.”4

In our most recent article6, we explored the concept of mini casinos focused on price (as defined by theoretical win per hour). In this exploration, we posited that customer service could be improved for those customers paying a higher price. In a world of finite resources to meet variable customer demand, this concept is quite natural and indeed has been practiced to some degree in the vast majority of casinos that maintain high-limit rooms. In the next section, we will explore how slot service can be improved for all customers in a smart casino, but in particular, how the prioritization of this service can include concepts discussed above.

First, however, we would like to note on this point that we have considered feedback we have received from our most recent article disputing a straw man argument that hold percentage doesn’t matter. In fact, we authors agree that, at the game level, hold percentage potentially matters a great deal. It fact, it is one of the key components of theo win per hour, along with the two equally important variables of average bet and game speed. Furthermore, an exploration of our article titled “Hold, A Sacred Cow”7 shows how this importance varies with the number of games being considered.

Communication Makes the Smart Casino
Slot service is a critical part of interacting with customers. Consider the example of a hand-pay jackpot. The service time to reach the customer is critical. The customer has just experienced a positive, lucky event, and the smart casino needs to learn how to respond to that in a rapid way. Let’s think about Rhonda, the smart casino reacting to a customer (Andrew) winning a jackpot.

1. Rhonda first communicates directly with Andrew, congratulating him on his jackpot. If Andrew has a host, then the host is notified and encouraged to immediately communicate with Andrew.
2. Andrew is offered a Facebook link to share his lucky event with the numbers scrubbed.
3. Security is notified of the location of the jackpot and that Andrew won this jackpot. A nearby security officer is asked to keep an eye out.
4. The casino staff required to pay the hand-pays are dispatched, and the efficiency of this dispatch leads to reduced wait times for Andrew.
5. Andrew is notified that casino staff is on the way, the name of the team member and the estimated arrival time.
6. Rhonda recognizes Andrew’s preference for the steak house, and Andrew is offered a special table at his favorite restaurant to celebrate the win.

Now, clearly, Rhonda the smart casino has changed Andrew’s experience. Some of her actions are unknown to Andrew (such as security’s watchful eye), but others involve immediate communication. Finally, the restaurant offering is specific to Andrew’s preferences. Rhonda has changed the customer experience, turning a good experience (winning a jackpot) into a truly special memory.

And it does not stop there. Each of the actions that Rhonda undertakes generates data streams. These data streams become management metrics that help to train new staff, measure existing staff and further refine the smart applications that drive the smart casino.

Service, Communication and Revenue
Let’s now explore the ways that improved service and communication can lead directly to improved revenues. In this simplified example, we examine four types of customers and look at the influence of reduced wait times for jackpots and improved direct marketing as a result of the increased data flow into the smart casino.

Now let’s take a look at how the smart casino can make these four very different gaming experiences the best they can be for these four very different players.

Eddie is operating in the fast lane, and time is precious for him. Immediate communication engages him and, quite simply, makes him want to play longer. Furthermore, Eddie saves three minutes from the improved service of the smart casino. With those three minutes, he has extra time to gamble. In fact, since Eddie only has one hour per visit to play, three minutes represents a 5 percent lift in gaming.

Jenny doesn’t play any more or less due to slot service, because she always just plays her $100. However, her experience improves with reduced wait times and two-way communication, and Jenny is provided marketing offers that immediately reinforce the positive feeling of winning a jackpot. This experience leads to increased retention of this important loyal and consistent gambler.

Robert’s date is really impressed by the targeted marketing offer Robert receives when the jackpot hits. The smart casino notes that Robert was playing at the bar and measured a high velocity of play from Robert (he was max betting $5 video poker and hit a minor jackpot). Therefore, the casino staff that paid the hand-pay jackpot offers Robert and his date a free bottle of wine. Robert remembers this trip well and is sure to take his next date to the same casino. Thus, from this casual gambler an extra trip is gained.

The smart casino recognizes that an entire bank of games came into action at the same time and is being played at roughly the same speed and average bet. When Kim hits a jackpot, the dispatcher is informed that the bank may be played by a group of friends, and the casino staff issuing the hand-pay asks if the girls are all playing together. They cheer when informed that dinner is on the house for the entire group. Their next girls’ night out is celebrated at the exact same casino and in fact at the exact same slot bank. As above, from this group of friends an extra trip is gained.

Communication Makes the Casino
Our tennis analogy provides a great structure for thinking about how the smart casino needs to constantly communicate with her customers. This smart casino can give the customer a feeling that she has a personality, and she can both understand the importance of two-way dialogues and ensure that the team is all consistent in all of its dialogues. Of course, underpinning this communication is data that enables these dialogues with the customer to be informed and correct. Without this real-time data the smart casino is just not possible.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States
2 http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/march-2015/where%E2%8…
3 Reference: http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/newswire/andrew-cardno-shares-…
4 http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/december-2010/gaming-…
5 http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/may-2009/turning-mark…
6 http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/june-2015/where-money…
7 http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/april-2011/gaming-flo…

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