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CRM Evolves from Synergy
by Sudhir Kale, Ph.D

CRM Evolves from Synergy

By Sudhir Kale, Ph.D.


This year, as the years before, I spoke at the University of Nevada (Reno) Executive Development Program for Senior Gaming Staff in Lake Tahoe. Unlike previous years, I stayed at the Harveys Resort for eight full nights.

Harrahs has done a wonderful job over the last two years of strengthening and reinforcing the relationship building skills and behaviours of their frontline personnel at Harveys as well as Harrahs. For example, when I asked a security guard named Bradley directions to the Carriage House (coffee shop), he actually walked over with me to the coffee shop entrance around 300-400 yards away, engaging me in a friendly chat along the way. He also happened to be by the entrance of the coffee shop after I had finished my breakfast and inquired whether everything was okay with regard to my dining experience. In all my visits to casinos the world over, seldom have I seen such behaviours on the part of security guards. All the CRM technology in the world would not have had the impact that Bradleys conduct did as far the total guest experience was concerned! Of course, the warm-fuzzy feelings were soon to be tainted, but Im getting ahead of myself.

The proactive relationship building behaviours displayed by Bradley were also seen routinely manifested at the blackjack and baccarat tables at both Harveys and Harrahs throughout my stay. Obviously, the incentives and metrics Harrahs uses to enhance customer service at the frontline level are working. Dealers at Harrahs regardless of age, nationality, sex, and time of day, were pleasant and personable. I spanned tables with different minimums and the experience was uniformly delightful.

I would have liked to have stayed in this greatly satisfied mode had it not been for the last day at check-out. I requested that my bill be settled with the comp points I had earned over the last eight days. Want to guess what my total comp accumulation was over eight days and around thirty hours of blackjack? Seventy dollars!

Clearly, Harrahs (and Harveys) floor people did not take their rating task seriously. For someone with an average bet over $25 and with thirty hours of play, the comps should have been higher, by a factor of five or six, the way I estimate it. Looking back, I did notice that the supervisors were not interested in a patrons average bet at all. Consequently, each persons average bet must have been equated with the table minimum. Now here is an example of a company that has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in its CRM system, but one that cannot motivate its supervisory staff to rate players accurately. While slots players may not have to experience underrated play, I am sure most table games players at Harrahs Lake Tahoe properties often feel short-changed.

This short anecdote illustrates the need for synergy and synchronization in any CRM implementation. Based on my experience, Harrahs performs the frontline training and incentive design functions exceptionally well. Also, the hardware and software capabilities of its CRM system are undeniably the best in the casino industry. Clearly, the weak links emerge from a lack of checks and balances to ensure that supervisors rate players fairly. If the information that is input within the system is inaccurate, no amount of sophisticated hardware and software will prevent the customer experience from being unsatisfactory. Unfortunately, as happened in my case, players will have this unpleasant experience only toward the end of their visit, thus leaving a lasting bad taste.

I have been saying for many years that when it comes to successful CRM implementation, technology is the easy part. Orienting the whole organization toward a customer-centric philosophy and instilling a culture, an organization structure, and processes that promote relationship building are the difficult parts. This is where most companies falter; including (hopefully, only occasionally) CRM stalwarts like Harrahs. Successful CRM requires consistent synergy across a companys orientation, the way it structures and configures its processes, and the information it collects. Orchestrating this successfully necessitates continuous monitoring of staff behaviours and indefatigable attention to the quality of player information a casino collects.

Most top managers are far too involved in day-to-day operations to maintain such vigil. Mystery shopping exercises provide a disjointed and inevitably incomplete picture of floor operations. Any company serious about its ongoing CRM program is best advised to hire a CRM expert on a retainership basis. Even if the expert uncovers one deficiency a year, or provides one worthwhile suggestion, the endeavour is worth the cost!

Date Posted: 14-Nov-2005

Sudhir Kale, Ph.D., is founder of GamePlan Consultants (www.gameplanconsultants.net), a company that comprehensively trains and consults on the marketing aspects of gaming. He has written around fifty articles on casino management, and his work has been published in the most respectable scholarly journals. Sudhir also teaches marketing within the Faculty of Business at Bond University. You can write to him at skale@gameplanconsultants.net.

 
 
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