Creating real value in hotel/casino experience
At the Casino Marketing & Technology Conference, which took place recently in Las Vegas, I moderated a panel with Mike Meczka of MM/R/C and Anthony Curtis of Huntington Press entitled “Where Has All the Value Gone? And How Do We Bring It Back?” Although we all had different perspectives on the issue, we all agreed that casinos, to their detriment, have been eroding player value now for a couple of decades.
One controversial reason for this erosion is that casinos focus too much on financial pressures—increasing costs of operation, lingering recessions, maturing markets, shrinking demand for the gaming product, etc., etc., etc. Or in other words: The cost of doing business is going up and we are forced to pass those costs on to the consumer.
I think most would agree that if we could restore value to the casino customer and their casino experience, it would have a positive business result. But the truth is, you rarely have “value-restoring” discussions in the gaming industry; and even when you do, they center on the dreaded concepts of discounting, free play, traffic-driving promotions and the like.
With these thoughts in mind, I offer you a few suggestions on building (or restoring) value for your customers:
Look for win-win value creation concepts. I believe the table game invention EZ Baccarat is a good example. The game has a lower house advantage for the player and eliminates tedious 5 percent commission transactions inherent in regular baccarat, which is good for the player, and the game plays faster, which is a benefit for the casino. I believe the same dynamic works in casinos that have no ATM transaction fees, and would work with the game of craps if we reduced the edge on some of the worst sucker bets in exchange for speeding up the game.
Be innovative and get partnering companies to help provide the value. I can’t remember at which hotel I first saw this, but I distinctly remember staying at a place where the in-room amenities were larger, nicer, of greater variety, and you were encouraged to take them with you. They were provided by household product companies wanting to market samples of their products directly to a good target audience of consumers. No doubt the hotel got the products for free or at a deep discount.
Improve access to your best customers. Casinos are pretty good at having VIP lines (valet, hotel, cage, etc.), but sometimes that special treatment isn’t so special or is special only for certain times. Giving VIPs better, quicker access is always valued.
Listen to your customers. I know you say you do, but my experience has been that casinos don’t have these listening posts, or only use them when there is a problem or a business downturn, or only listen to customer suggestions when it doesn’t cost any money. Truly listening and then acting, creates customer value.
Look at times of low demand and excess capacity, and use it as an opportunity to create value. Airlines do it all the time. Sure you can say that low fares will erode margins. I say that it will bring business that you wouldn’t have had.
Discernibly and measurably improve your customer service. Nothing improves the value of the casino/hotel experience more than great customer service with happy team members who have the real ability to make a difference on behalf of a customer. If your service is mediocre, make it good. If it is good, make it great. That’s creating real value.
Those little things you took away from guests when you cut every cost imaginable; give a couple of them back as a value gesture. I know you were spending $5,000 a year to have complimentary hard candies for guests at the players’ club booth, but I’ll bet your guests loved those hard candies! So right-size the cups in which you serve the on-floor coffee, bring back the larger complimentary water bottles, and actually reduce the ATM fees if you can’t get rid of them altogether.
So there you have them, a few thoughts on restoring value to your players/guests/customers. Ask themif they’d see any value in them.