With CRM systems, casino operators may be better off spending time and money on strategy and planning instead of the latest technological bells and whistlesWhen it comes to customer relationship management, or CRM, it seems everyone has a different opinion about what it actually is. Some view it as a technology solution in which certain systems or software can aid customer service. Others view it as a way of thinking. Hotel managers see CRM in a different light from casino managers. Hospitality clerks see it differently from information technology personnel.
One issue seems clear: CRM has a high risk of failure if not properly planned and carried out.
"The reason we are in so much trouble with CRM today is that too many people have grabbed the wrong part of the CRM anatomy," Sudhir H. Kale, a professor with Australia's Bond University and a self-proclaimed CRM expert told attendees at a Global Gaming Expo session on the topic. "Everyone has a different idea of what CRM means."
Goal orientedKale notes true CRM programs address the way each individual within a business thinks, and that very direct goals for improving customer service and customer retention should be set.
Brian Charette, executive director of resort systems for Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, agrees.
"The biggest key to getting what you want out of CRM is getting everyone on board with it," he says. "You need to make sure that all people, all departments, are working together."
Kale says that in most cases of CRM, operators spend 80 percent to 90 percent of their allocated budgets on technology, viewing it as a quick fix to turning around customer service. Instead, he says the bulk of the money should be spent on training, developing goals and on the customers themselves. Only roughly 10 percent should be allocated to the technology hardware and software itself.
Javier Saenz, senior vice president of San Diego-based Mariposa Software, a company that develops CRM-related systems for casinos, says that often
customers looking for CRM solutions have no specific goals in mind.
"We hear a lot about the failure of CRM. One of the reasons we fail is because we don't have goals; we just put it in and expect it to work. The order should be people, process, then technology. It's not just about having the latest software."
Tough choicesOnce goals are established, then it's up to the operator to choose the CRM system that best meets these criteria. The choice can be daunting. Saenz says there are two main types of CRM: transactional and analytical. Transactional is the point-to-point process, connecting the casino floor with the call center, getting the people up to speed, making sure the processes work right. Analytical is the reporting of data collected, data warehousing, predictive modeling and visualizations.
The problem is that there are a plethora of software producers that claim to provide solutions for both these needs. These include a number of affordable off-the-shelf programs to help manage the CRM process. Among them: Seibel, Microsoft CRM and ePiphany. Then there are niche-
market CRM technology solutions. Companies such as Mariposa fall into that category, offering an array of CRM services designed for a specific industry or niche.
Mixing and matching vendors to create unique CRM and data warehouse systems is an option several casino companies have explored recently. But those relationships have to be managed, experts warn, especially to avoid finger pointing if something goes wrong.
Indeed, given the high cost of a CRM system, it's vitally important to make sure all involved are on the same strategic page. For an average-size property (2,200 or so machines, 750 hotel rooms and 500,000 players in a database), Saenz says the cost range to set up an effective CRM system is $250,000 to $1 million (with a start-up period of three to six months).
But that's just the technology expense. Making CRM work after it's in place requires constant training and retraining of employees, staff and management.
"There's nothing worse than spending the money and time on a CRM system and having it ultimately sit on the shelf collecting dust," Saenz says. CJ