Can software deliver the soft touch?
Operators rely more than ever on the hints, guidelines and nuance provided by sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) software. Human beings make final decisions, but the data-driven analytical insight from top systems gives them a final-choice menu. From there, they use the information to pinpoint offers, separate players into tiers and reward proportionally.
CRM software helps operators retain players, manage preferences, track expenditures and measure the effectiveness of targeted marketing campaigns. Along the way, they glean a crystallized view of how often players visit, what games they prefer, how frequently they make deposits, and their average wins and losses.
The CRM Oasis
Cath Burns, executive vice president of customer experience & RMG for Aristocrat Gaming, considers CRM the backbone of the casino operations. Like an actual backbone, it must be robust and support the entire casino floor body.
With Aristocrat’s Oasis casino management system, operators have accurate accounting and player tracking data to better define their customer journey strategy, Burns says. This approach can be augmented by additional Oasis suite products to enhance marketing and bonusing, overall player engagement and interaction on the floor.
“As for changes, the biggest ones we’ve seen in the last couple of years are the digitization of the gaming floor, and the way guests interact with the property when they’re not on property, which sometimes is referred to as ‘off-premises engagement,’” Burns says. “These changes are allowing operators to expand their brand and provide new engagement for players in ways we’ve never experienced before.
“Guests can receive real-time updates, view balances, and connect with hosts to plan incremental engagements without having to step foot on property. This off-premises engagement is allowing operators to gain brand recognition that translates into deeper wallet share of their loyal guests.”
The needs and preferences for properties also have evolved. That means CRM products need to be sharper. “In the past, CRM was needed to provide data to run the actual day-to-day operations for the gaming floor,” Burns indicates. “Casino management systems were necessary to operate; however, they were not being utilized to incorporate enterprise management and provide a competitive edge.
“Contrast that with today, when operators tell us they need a true business partner for their overall enterprise operations. Operations are no longer limited to the gaming floor, and now incorporate all aspects of an operator’s strategic offering and vision.
“Oasis, and our full product suite, have become a way for operators to strategically differentiate themselves in ever-changing, ever competitive markets. Oasis’ CRM has become a cornerstone for operators’ bonusing, digitization strategy, customer engagement, data mining, reporting and overall business enterprise needs.”
Aristocrat has a couple of star performers in this realm, she asserts.
“In the online space, our hottest products are PlayerMax Mobile Concierge and B2B Social Casino,” Burns says. “These applications are leveraging the power of an operator’s brand to create a fully customized offering that will resonate with the operator’s customer base.
“We have a full support team for training and customization to launch the applications, as well as ongoing managed services and live operations. PlayerMax Mobile is a hosted application in AWS. B2B Social is also hosted on GCP. Once these apps are fully customized and ready to deploy, we work with the operator to create Apple and Google Play Store accounts to deploy the applications for their customer base consumption.”
Synchronized Data Machine
One size may not fit all, but perhaps one image will.
Cendyn, a prominent innovative cloud software and services provider for the hospitality and gaming industry, has thrived for nearly 20 years with its innovative eInsight CRM.
The principle emerged from lifting the industry out of the data silo trap, in which information stored by separate company departments essentially becomes burdensome. Siloed data created barriers to information sharing and denied leaders a holistic view of company data.
Cendyn ushered in its change, integrating data from channels as diverse as sales, customer satisfaction, property management and loyalty realms. The end result provides a customer snapshot, regardless of which channel the player originated from. This has become more significant as operators tabulate the performance of individual departments within their umbrella of operations.
Finding the right program for every customer provides an instant advantage. Its Single Guest View feature treats each guest profile like like a fingerprint. Customers leave behind a trail of favorites, likes, dislikes, hotel stay choices and destination offers. Cendyn’s tool keeps all this data in a master guest profile.
Profile data can be used to define and segment target audiences based on past stay history, preferences, loyalty status, guest lifetime value score and more.
The eInsight tools can propel operators to reach another level of customer involvement via eNgage. Operators can use front-line staff to treat every guest like a VIP. Sitting on top of the PMS, eNgage provides an operator’s call center, front desk or guest services agent with live, up-to-date information on the guest to ensure they’re communicating a uniquely personalized message at the right time.
Staff can send emails acknowledging a guest’s birthday, flowers to the room if it matches that occasion, or a specific gift offer at that time.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
Ted Keenan, vice president of product management at Light & Wonder, says the best CRM solutions incentivize players to make return visits. Those incentives are most easily understood by the player though comps and free-play awards.
“Casinos are unique from other industries in that they have a particularly intimate relationship with their players,” Keenan asserts. “In addition to the excitement of a live floor, entertainment, food, the thrill of a win, and various other experiences, casinos share a unique connection with their players that is built on trust.”
This all-important relationship between casino and valued player requires a significant amount of time to build, Keenan adds.
“An effective CRM strategy is therefore vital to long-term player development,” he says. “Casino CRM strategies have evolved over time from promotion-centric/campaign-centric strategies to player-centric strategies. Casinos have shifted CRM strategy from utilizing one promotion targeted to multiple players to utilizing multiple suitable promotions for a single player.”
Keenan says the industry must adjust to the rapid marketplace changes that took place over the past couple of years.
“The world went virtual overnight, and like most industries, casinos could no longer be proactive and were forced to react by adjusting their CRM and player re-investment strategies,” he says. “The industry has since seen an increase in adoption of technology across all demographics and will see much more digital collaboration in the CRM space compared to the past.”
Keenan indicates that casino operators want a complete view of the player. One view of the customer across all channels of game play and resort spend is thus a valuable tool.
“L&W offers a suite of CRM solutions for casino operators,” says Keenan. “At the core of any CRM solution is the player tracking system or casino club. The first step in a CRM solution is identifying the player. Next, Business Intelligence provides advance analytic tools for understanding player behavior and segmenting players.
“Campaign Manager and EBS enable casino operators to act by awarding offers, bonus games, and participation in promotions. Finally, L&W Host empowers a casino employee with a full contact management system for the best personal interaction with players.”
Harnessing the power of data is driving the change in the gaming industry, he says. The company software uses data for improving player engagement and operational efficiency as well as providing insight on games, players, and decisions.
The Magic of CRM
Andrew Cardno, co-founder and chief technology officer of Quick Custom Intelligence, believes the casino industry has reached a crossroads between information and people to implement it.
“The most significant change in the last couple of years is that experienced player development (PD) team members are becoming increasingly challenged to hire and train,” he asserts. “Many of these teams are already short-staffed, requiring team members to fill multiple roles often.
“The old CRM tools that are generic and inadequate at providing, let alone analyzing, complex data are part of the cause of the recruiting problem. The critical item in this issue is staff retention and enablement. Without the help of an industry-built CRM tool to enable PD team members to make actionable decisions through the ability to track the constantly changing natures of player spend, it is difficult to retain both new and experienced hires.”
According to Cardno, with many inexperienced team members being hired into the industry, casinos need a CRM system that can monitor and predict success, not just for players but for the player development team.
QCI Host is the company’s hottest product in this space, he indicates. “We have been deploying an average of 100 hosts per month for one year,” he says. “The tool is incredibly fast and responsive, and we can deliver it effectively. Combining real-time with historical data, QCI Host was designed to fit a casino’s needs to accurately analyze the complex nature of player data and their spending behavior over multiple stays, restaurant visits, countless promotional events, hotel nights, or special events.”
Cardno also touts QCI Platform, which provides fully automated management of the data warehouse and data lake. “This enables us to apply cloud- managed technology to a vast number of deployments,” he says. “This open platform is fully integrated with chat agents and phone systems to enable an AI-based chat response mechanism and auto-dial response. In addition, we offer the ability to integrate with campaign management tooling to allow CRM users to be an automated part of the offer delivery process.”
Nothing, of course, can replace the smile, the handshake and the one-on-one relationship given by face-to-face contact. This, in the end, may be the difference-maker for some properties.
But they all need software to be in the game first.
The CRM Advantage
IGT has identified four must-have customer experience components that brands need to keep in mind.
One is social listening. Setting up a listening process through robust social listening tools can help brands adapt to customer needs and when their preferences change.
Another is omnichanneling. This includes integrating online channels so that once users sign up on one platform, they don’t have to go through the procedure again on the others. This integration makes customers view a brand positively.
A third is personalization. By implementing advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning, they are able to study their users and recommend services that suit them.
And the fourth is CRM.
Data such as choice of communication channel, new or existing user, and devices used can be handed to one team; content likes, product interests and user behavior can be handed to another. With the right CRM tools, teams can spend quality time on studying customer data and work towards improving the customer experience.
Ryan Reddy, senior vice president of product marketing and payments for IGT, touts an assortment of them.
“At its core, CRM is about attracting and retaining players, which is why CRM programs are so critical for our customers’ success,” Reddy says. “At its most fundamental level, IGT Advantage (casino management system) gives users access to important data that will ultimately help them segment and develop players.”
The IGT Advantage Patron Management application is at the heart of many casinos’ CRM efforts, as it offers a robust set of data, tools and currencies with which to reward and incentivize player behavior, he adds.
“Revealing that data in meaningful ways via Advantage Analytics helps provide our customers the support they need to make important player reinvestment decisions in real time—or by leveraging historic data,” he asserts.
“Having a 360-degree view of player behavior is critical to any CRM program. Whether it’s player-facing IGT systems applications such as Bonusing and Resort Wallet, or back-of-the house apps such as Mobile Jackpot, Host, Responder, etc., IGT develops its solutions to ensure a seamless player experience across the enterprise that aligns with CRM initiatives.”
Reddy says that with casino systems, innovation tends to be incremental and not disruptive. The company’s customers are embracing the option for cloud-based IGT Advantage deployments, cashless gaming technologies Resort Wallet and IGTPay, content-rich bonuses and mobile technologies that empower gaming floor staff to work efficiently and deliver quality guest interactions, he says.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all view on CRM, IGT is tightly connected to the needs of its customers. Reddy says many of them are creating and deploying highly customized loyalty programs, bonuses, incentive plans and tier programs.
“This is part of the reason why IGT Advantage is the preferred casino management solution for so many operators around the world,” he says. “Due to its modular design, our customers can truly personalize their deployments to meet their customer needs, achieve their business objectives and run bespoke CRM programs with highly individualized offers.
“IGT is working with our customers to identify the most important business opportunities in this area and apply related R&D investments in the most strategic manner possible.”