Q&A with Lilian Tomovich

Chief Experience Officer, MGM Resorts International

As gaming becomes more of an entertainment attraction, casino companies are focusing on the overall experience. At MGM Resorts, the company opted to install a “chief experience officer,” or CXO for short. Lilian Tomovich joined MGM from MasterCard International, where she ran consumer marketing in the U.S. Her experience in loyalty programs and brand management made her perfect for the job. She met with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at her offices in the Bellagio in January. To hear a full podcast of this interview, visit GGBNews.com.

Tell us about the title, chief experience officer. It’s a great title, but it’s a little nebulous. Give us an idea of what your responsibilities are.

I’ll give you the practical answer, and then I’ll tell you sort of the answer that I think makes most sense to me, personally. The practical answer is that we wanted to take a look at all of the functions within the organization that touch the customer from either a marketing perspective or an experience perspective, and consolidate them into one group so we would have a holistic view of the consumer and the guest that’s walking through our door.

And then, from my perspective, when you walk down the Las Vegas Strip there are lots of hotel rooms, casinos, restaurants and other attractions. In certain respects—although we all hate to admit it—our business could be seen as a commodity. And so, the only way to really differentiate yourself is through the experience that you can deliver to your guest.

So what does the responsibility of the chief experience officer entail?

There are six major functions. One is public relations, all of the consumer-facing PR initiatives that we engage in on a daily basis. Marketing technology is our guest technology group. We’re very focused on that—sponsorship, entertainment, partnership marketing. We also have our brand and advertising groups. Because of the large ecosystem we run here, with as many properties as we do, we have an in-house agency that helps us produce wonderful creative. And then we also have our guest insights and strategy group, which is very focused on understanding our guest experience. The want to know who the guest is walking through the door—their age, their demographic, what they’re looking for, what they’re not looking for—and how we can improve on all of those pieces. And of course, loyalty. I forgot loyalty, the most important one! Our MLife program!

MGM has been getting into rating non-gaming spend, and non-gaming experience. Is that a very difficult thing to do, technology-wise?

Yes. Absolutely. In the first six months here, one of my mandates was to take a look at how we can engender greater loyalty among non-gamers, through our MLife program. And looking at technology in the MLife platform and card is one way we can do it. So, that’s at the top of the radar screen for me, personally.

What do you see as the most important trends in guest amenities these days?

I’ll mention a couple things that I think are really interesting, and that differentiate us, versus our competition. One is an idea that I call “conscious consumerism.” Consumers are really thinking about how they live their life, what they put in their body, where they travel to, etc. At MGM we’ve launched Stay Well Rooms, which is currently offered at MGM Grand. They include a dozen healthy features, including things like vitamin C-infused showers, wake-up light therapy, filtered water. And we’re actually seeing such a demand for these rooms that we’ve just expanded.

The other is this idea of social spaces. Las Vegas and the way people spend their time here has really changed over the last decade. And you’ll see that in each of our properties we’re starting to develop what we call these sort of “social hubs” and gathering places, on the main casino floor. Two of my favorite are Franklin at the Delano, and Alibi at the Aria, these great sort of lounge spaces where people can sit, have business meetings, have a cocktail before dinner.

Beyond nightclubs, what are you doing to attract millennials?

We’re taking a look at our rooms, and how our room design meets the needs of the next generation of millennials. Obviously, they’re very technology-focused. Do we have outlets by the bed? They’re not very interested in sitting at a desk, the way the business traveler of 10 or 15 years ago with their laptop would do it. They much more like communal spaces; they can invite friends over for a few drinks before they go out. In the Vdara, for example, we’ve installed some high-top tables with outlets in the lobby. Every time I walk through there, you’ve got 20- and 30-year-olds with their laptops, their iPads, they’re doing some work, meeting friends, reviewing presentations.

What strategies do you have to take this guest experience to the next level?

Since I’m a marketer, I think I should give you a headline—the headline would be that what we’re really trying to do is plus the experience and minimize the buzz-kills. We are going to make the MLife program more relevant and engaging for our casino and non-casino guests—plussing that experience. We’re going to streamline the communications strategy and architecture around who we contact, when we contact and with what author. Because we’ve grown through acquisition of a variety of properties, we’ve had our contact strategies very siloed with each property. So now, we’re trying to bring in all of the communications under one group in corporate marketing.

Roger Gros
Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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