Do You Practice a “One Call and Answer All” Philosophy When Taking Reservations?

By Deana Scott, Raving CEO

When used correctly, communication technology has made access to information faster and easier than ever. However, when used solely as a labor saving measure or implemented without a clear objective and tested, it can hurt your bottom line and lose customers.

Think about your automated phone and reservations systems.  Have you ever found yourself in an endless loop because there isn't an option that addresses your specific question? Or, the website says, "Call for more information" and the person who answers the phone knows nothing about it. Or, one of my personal favorites, you call in for information and are transferred to the wrong department or, even better, disconnected while being transferred to the appropriate person. Can I just speak to someone, anyone, who can answer my question?

These situations have happened to all of us. In fact, it was a recent experience that reminded me that getting this system right can prevent revenue loss.

Time was running out to book a reservation for my 28th wedding anniversary weekend. I offered to make the reservation, but I kept putting it off. You would think I would be excited to secure this adventure. So why was I reluctant? I had been through this process before and I knew it was going to take time. I needed a block of uninterrupted time to make my reservation for the hotel, restaurant, and spa. I started the process online and realized there wasn't enough information to complete my reservation. How can I book a room if I don't know if there is time available for our spa treatment? Hold the phone! It appeared I was dreading my experience with this property before I even arrived.

I decided to turn my reluctance to call into an experiment and made the call. Here is how it went:

Me: "Hello, I would like to book a hotel room, spa, and reservation to your specialty restaurant."

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How to Broaden Your Players Connection to Sports Betting

By Jerry Epstein, Raving Partner and CEO, Engaged Nation

Thanks to SCOTUS, sports betting is legal and scorching hot. Here’s how you can prepare your casino even before it is legal in your jurisdiction.

Unless you’ve been under the proverbial rock or in the Himalayas on an epic quest for enlightenment from a spiritual guru the last three months, I’m doing my best Captain Obvious impersonation when I say that sports gambling is the hottest thing to hit the casino market in recent memory.  This is true even for casinos located in state’s that haven’t approved it yet.  The folks at G2E are predicting that this year’s event will be their biggest year ever in attendance thanks to – you guessed it – sports gambling.  In fact, the demand to see the keynote speech by ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt is so high, they are looking at a larger room and other ways to make sure they can accommodate it. To date, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island have already legalized sports betting and many more states are in a full court press to get there.  Montana and Oregon were grandfathered into the previous ruling, but they aren’t aggressively pursuing it at this time.

The windfall to casinos from sports betting could be enormous.  In a recent survey, almost 50 percent of people 18 years and older in the United States have placed a bet on a sports event at least once in their life.  Additionally, it is suggested that 1 out of every 5 Americans or over 65 million people are currently active illegal, social or casual sports bettors. The American Gaming Association has also estimated that there is a $150 billion illegal sports betting market in the United States.  So, when you factor that in with the nearly 60 million people who participate in Fantasy Sports, that’s a ton of money and players waiting to be grabbed thanks to the SCOTUS ruling.

“That’s great, Captain Obvious … but our state doesn’t have legalized gambling yet.  What are we supposed to do in the meantime?”

What we are seeing is that aggressive gaming companies are examining the products they can offer now that can help broaden their player’s connection and experience with sports gambling and, most importantly, begin to build a meaningful database. They are looking to bridge the gap to legalization with innovative products, designed to mimic traditional sports betting, while also complying with the newer fantasy sports laws.

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Why Wi-Fi is the Back Bone of Your Business

By Bill Harrison, Raving Partner, IT Services and SVP Sales & Marketing, Savantis Solutions, LLC

We have all likely read the articles and marketing brochures about customer engagement, including:

  • solutions describing pushing notifications to onsite guests and casino customers,
  • having active displays updated dynamically with restaurant offers,
  • capturing guest information when they book at your property using an Online Travel Agent (OTA) like Expedia, and
  • converting those guests to loyalty programs.

There are many other use cases and a growing number of point solutions available from network equipment providers and start-up software companies.

We also all live in an industry and an ecosystem of “stove-piped” business systems that don’t “talk” to each other, or Tribal government systems which are focused on nonprofit/fund accounting systems that don’t work well with a for-profit casino and resort property. We have purchased marketing systems, data analytics platforms and email campaign software with the hope of panacea. We all have underestimated the support required or the technical knowledge needed to use these software solutions.

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Taking the Heat This Labor Day

By Chris Faria, Raving VP of Marketing

For many of you folks in the casino industry, Labor Day isn’t a day off, as you’re entertaining and servicing guests at your casinos today.  Whether you have the day off or not, most of us are lucky not to be out in the heat. Let’s give a shout out to those folks that make our worlds go round, by laboring for us outside laying asphalt, picking produce, fighting fires. Hopefully they’re relaxing in your casino today – you’ll recognize them by their sunburned faces, their beat up hands, and the grease underneath their fingernails that just won’t come off.

It’s been a helluva’ summer, especially out here in the West. This past August in California and Nevada there have been over 20 active fires wind distance from Reno. We’ve lost over 10 firefighters according to FEMA; there’s no recording agency for laborers or other workers that died from the heat or smoke.

In Reno, we finally saw blue skies after weeks of smoke so thick we couldn’t see the Sierra Nevada Mountains surrounding us.  You could've mistaken our view for the flat plains of the Midwest, and as soon as you'd go outside, you’re hit with the smell of smoke. The view is not important, you know what this means:  families have lost loved ones, their homes, and for local economies, it’s been devastating. And let’s not forget the health of our workers.

Here in Reno as in other parts of the country, our construction workers have been out in over 100 degree temperatures with air quality ratings in the UNHEALTHY range. My husband is one of them. You think you’ve got OSHA to protect you? Nah, the job must go on. Wear masks? Not happening.

So, hey, we all have choices, right? My husband chose not to go to college and enter into a trade.

Someone’s got to do it, right?

Labor is what makes the world go round … but who wants to do it?  Not high school students. In a recent survey, “A scant 6 percent of high school students hope to have a future career in the skilled trades – defined as plumbers, carpenters, electricians, heating, ventilation or air conditioning installers, or repair people.”

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Living Large with a Giant Competitor – Five Ways Smaller Properties Can Own Markets

By Tom Osiecki, Raving Partner, Advanced Operations and Marketing

Goliath blocks the sun.

You stand staring into the sun shining from behind golden mirrored hotel windows.

The buildings stretch out forever. Casino building, multiple hotels, golf courses, spas, tennis courts, restaurant complex, entertainment center, pools … even a wedding chapel.

You’re the VP of Marketing for a smaller competitor.

You think ... how are you going to compete against Goliath? Throw a rock?

Almost every market has its Goliath property. And yours is the competition.

Small to mid-sized properties compete in every possible setting.  Your competition could be newer, closer to the market, or a gigantic, amenity-rich, resort destination. While the size of a Goliath property varies by market, the problem is the same.

How can small to mid-sized casinos compete against Goliath casinos that have bigger budgets, bigger staffs and bigger amenities?

In casino competitive strategy, there’s always a market you can make your own.

  1. Know What You Are … Know What to Become

The defining step in competitive strategy is to know your property. You should know the key market differentiators that set your casino apart and create a competitive advantage.

First step, understand your brand using surveys, guest/team member interactions, focus groups, competitive analysis, social media research, and your own observations. Once you understand your brand, you can select the deliverables and key elements that offer an advantage over the Goliath property.

There are millions of strategic variations that can make your property competitive against Goliath. Here are some of the most pertinent strategic niches:

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Have We Lost Touch with the Human Side of Our Business?

By Daniel Wood, Strategic Raving Partner, Phone-Based Solutions at Engagex

Hosts and player development teams are an essential part of any property’s success, but how much of their time is actually spent having human-to-human interactions with guests?

At this July’s Host Development Conference, fellow Raving Partner, Janet Hawk, said, “It’s not about how many calls you make or how many appointments you set or how many hours you work in a week,  it’s about how many player trips you drove. How you get there is up to you.”

Is your PD strategy about driving more trips or about making a certain amount of calls? They’re not the same.

I recently visited with a host team that spent the majority of their time in an office facilitating reports, coordinating hotel rooms, and answering inbound calls. They were not out on the casino floor doing what they do best. Everyone on the team had a schedule that they typically followed each day, and they confessed that they did not have the time to break away and get out to see guests as often as they would like.

This team wasn’t much different from others that I’ve met with over the years. The thing I’ve noticed about most player development teams is that they’ve become distracted by mundane tasks – self- inflicted or imposed by a manager – and have lost focus with what player development is all about: building lasting relationships with their guests. These relationships are built with human-to-human interactions and through conversation and interface.

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Five Observations from Five States in Five Months

By Janet Hawk, Raving Partner, Player Development and Marketing

On the road again! I just can’t wait to get on the road again! The life I love is teaching service (and PD tips) to my friends, and I can’t wait to get on the road again!

I do love what I do! Everything I’ve learned in my 33 years of being in the gaming business was done the hard way … on the job and through lots of mistakes. So, if I can help someone do their job better, make their life easier or hit their goals, then I am a happy woman.

The bonus of being a road warrior training in PD, is meeting so many people with the same passion, being the change I want to see in the world, and spreading a little more kindness and love in a world that so desperately needs it. Sometimes I help PD team members just by putting into words what they already know, or finding a new perspective that helps them understand. And other times, I am teaching a brand new culture or new techniques. It’s truly never boring!

The most common observation I’ve noticed is that we aren’t really all that different and neither are the issues. Over the past five months, I’ve been all over the country. Here are five observations from the road:

1. A language barrier is no excuse to not provide good guest service.

I was working with a tribal casino a few months ago where English is a second language for a large percentage of the team members. We implemented a new guest service program and one of the superstars was a busboy who could speak very little English. He was one of the most popular team members at the property. People requested his section at the restaurant, many not realizing he wasn’t even a server! He knew how to make people feel welcome and to let them know they mattered without speaking a word! Simple eye contact and a smile will go a long way.

2. Make your guests AND fellow teammates feel like they are important!

I’ve said it 100 times, people have three basic needs: to be seen, to be heard, and to matter. When you accomplish this, you will find increased loyalty (more revenue from guests and less turnover from team members, both effect the bottom line!), and an overall improved work environment. If you treat the back of the house (teammates) differently than those in the front of the house (guests), there is something fundamentally wrong with you.

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Re-Imagining Database Marketing: Shift Your Thinking to Loyalty 360

By Nicole Barker, Senior Raving Partner, Database & Loyalty Marketing

Pick up a pen.
Place it in your opposite hand.
Draw a circle.
Write your name.

How does that feel?

Do the muscles in your fingers tense? Do you apply more pressure to exert more control? Relax your grip. Release your concentration a bit. Think of the end goal of the circle and how your name should look on the page. Try again.

In this exercise, you are not only training your hand; you are training your mind to make a shift. With apologies to my teachers, I used to do this extensively in class. I'd write my notes using the alternate hand. Practice these shifts enough, and you will feel your brain switching sides. Practice this more, and you will learn to relax as you shift to something new. Exerting more control does not allow for better penmanship.

Becoming adept at placing the end goal in your mind and letting the process flow to improvement doesn't make a meeting go more quickly. Again, apologies to my colleagues for seemingly being inattentive during a meeting. This exercise will ultimately train your mind and sensibilities to shift more easily from one method of approaching problems to another.

As marketers, we need to shift our approach to better connect with our customers. Loyalty 360 demands we reinvest in our relationships using data differently. No longer are customers content with a linear relationship of carrots and sticks.

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You Had Me at “Autocomplete”

By Mark Astone, Strategic Raving Partner, Branding, Advertising and Media Services and CEO, Catalyst Marketing Company

Many of our past Flash articles have focused on the importance of a strong digital advertising presence. Why is Catalyst such a big proponent of digital? Simple … because it works. From SEM to display to IP targeting, we’ve helped our clients find success online, resulting in stronger revenues for their properties.

So, what’s next? Is there a new evolution in online advertising that can give you a leg up on your competitors? There is — and we found it!

As you know, initiating a search on Google or Bing immediately presents you with pages of results to rifle through. This hierarchy of listings is established by SEM and organic algorithms. But what if you could get in front of people searching for a casino BEFORE they get to the results page? Thanks to Autocomplete, you can.

Autocomplete is a search engine feature that shows suggestions as you type your query. That means when someone searches for a casino in your market, e.g. “Oklahoma casinos,” your property could be Google’s first suggestion! Now that’s technology that moves the needle!

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What Your Hosts Are Telling Us

By Chris Faria, Raving VP of Marketing

Last week,  we conducted our annual Host Development Conference at Caesars Palace, which preceded the Casino Marketing & Technology Conference. If you’re not familiar with the program, we develop it every year for the team at BNP Media/Casino Journal; it’s been an industry mainstay for since 2005 with learning appropriate for newbies to experienced hosts. The essence of the program: train your PD team to be an elite sales force, not a guest service fulfillment department.

We set the stage for the entire program, using pre-collected survey data from registered conference attendees. This ensured that what’s top of mind and relevant for attendees was addressed and weaved throughout the program.

A profile of the respondents

  • The largest percentage of attendees/survey respondents were in their current positions for less than five years.
  • These attendees represented commercial, tribal, and cruise line programs from U.S., Canada and overseas who were just starting a host program or expanding/revamping their current player development programs.
  • The majority of titles were those associated with the Player Development department including entry, mid and senior-level positions such as Executive Host, VIP Manager, Players Club Manager and Directors.

What did player development specialists tell us?

The two questions that gave us the most revealing information about what our PD folks are facing:

When asked what the top three issues that are facing their properties, the answers were:

  1. Lack of qualified staff
  2. Lack of amenities (tied with #1)
  3. Competition

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