What I’ve Learned as a Player at Harrah’s Properties, and why you Should Experience it as Well

It is not cheap to be a Diamond-level player in the Harrah’s Total Rewards program. And I can only imagine what I would have to annually spend to achieve the super elite Seven Stars status there. But for the last dozen years or so, I have moved up and down the various “tiers” of the Harrah’s player loyalty program, and have found it to be among the most valuable marketing educations that I could get and worth every penny of the investment that I have made at Harrah’s many gaming properties.

I encourage every casino marketing executive to join Harrah’s Total Rewards program, play there as much as you are comfortable in doing, and learn, as I have, how a “best of breed” casino company does it and how a real value-adding loyalty program works.

Let me clarify that your Harrah’s experience will vary by how much you spend and your learning will be maximized by moving up and down through the various tiers, as I have done over the years. I started as an entry-level “Gold Card” member, spent a few years each as a Platinum and Diamond-level member and recently fell back to a Gold member again (and yes I am feeling a sense of loss and reduction in my personal esteem).

Keys to success

Rather than bore you with details and procedural matters of my Harrah’s loyalty program odyssey, I thought it might be better to share what I consider to be the key strategic aspects of how Harrah’s executes its industry leading Total Rewards.

And here’s what I think I have learned in my decade of theoretical worth as a (mostly) desirable player in the Harrah’s world:

Harrah’s understands “aspiration.” The benefits between the various levels of the Harrah’s reward program are not only clearly defined, but also desirable, creating a real sense of wanting to advance from Platinum to Diamond level, for example.

Harrah’s maintains excellent communication with its Rewards club members. Not only is that communication constant and frequent, but it is also multi-faceted and may occur through direct mail, e-mail, live phone calls, Web site, or automated voice messaging with ‘RealCall’-like services.

Harrah’s knows visitation patterns. I never get a direct mail offer from a Harrah’s property I haven’t visited and I get more (and better) offers from the Harrah’s properties I visit most often and where I spend the most gambling dollars.

Harrah’s is straight with its players and tells them what they have to do to maintain a reward status or achieve the next level. And it strategically makes them offers to encourage them to get there.

For its better customers, Harrah’s is not afraid to make too many offers or too rich an offer from a sister property. It appears to understand when it makes sense to “go overboard” in targeting an offer when it has reliable information that a “buffet comp” player may in actuality be a “room comp” customer.

Harrah’s understands the power of using its senior executives in its direct mail to its premium customers. And whether that is manifested in a VIP party in Tunica to celebrate the return from pregnancy leave of a senior player development executive or using a regional president in the mid-south region as the “host” of a high end blackjack tournament, or an entire event of “executive mingling” (the Executive Invitational at the Rio and Harrah’s Las Vegas), Harrah’s “gets” that the best customer loyalty is a by-product of people, not offers.

Harrah’s understands that its best players hate waiting in lines of any kind (and that lines create stalled revenue streams). So you will always see various “express lanes” for Harrah’s Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars members at valet parking, hotel check-in, casino cashier lanes, restaurant entrances, showrooms and other places where “people snarls” can develop.

Harrah’s understands that customers in different markets and at different Harrah’s properties (Horseshoe vs. Harrah’s brand, for example) have different wants and needs. Thus, for various players at higher-end tiers, you may see differentiated offers that play into regional or local preferences for food, entertainment, type of benefits (cash vs. gifts, for example), or other customer preferences.

Harrah’s moves its Total Rewards members up and down through the various tiers clearly, accurately and gently (or encouragingly). It always communicates where a player stands in the “player pecking order,” what you have to do to stay on your tier or to “move up in class” and makes smart, strategic offers designed to keep or deepen that player loyalty.

Harrah’s is fierce in getting quick feedback from its best customers and translates that into customer service ratings upon which a powerful service culture and employee recognition component is driven. As a Diamond player, I don’t think I ever failed to receive a “survey” after a Harrah’s property visit of this “avid, experienced player.”

And while I could go on and on about the pearls of wisdom that this marketing consultant has gleaned from willingly being separated from his “discretionary gaming entertainment dollars” by the savvy and sophisticated Harrah’s marketing machine, I must stop and just say “thank you” to Gary Loveman and company. The Harrah’s learning has been almost as great as the fun I had in spending my “share of wallet” to get it.

And wise marketers should do the same, if you want great insight into a current “best of breed” company in our industry.