by Dennis Conrad
Little Known Innovations
By Dennis Conrad
I have written often about many of the great innovations that have taken the gaming industry by storm in the last 15 to 20 years. Whether it’s because gaming is a relatively new industry, or because there are so many competing needs in various aspects of our industry, (operations vs. regulation, marketing vs. finance, etc), or maybe because gaming just attracts some innovative, risk-taking types—whatever the reason, our industry is seemingly blessed with non-stop, big time innovation and invention.
I mean, think about it. In a very short business history, the gaming industry has gone from having a very rudimentary system of qualifying customer-spending habits, to sophisticated player tracking systems and CRM technology. We’ve gone from having customers laboriously pump one coin at a time into our slot machines to a world of credit meters, virtual reels, Ticket In-Ticket Out, and bill validators. Our hotel operations are now likely to have yield management systems. Our security and surveillance areas routinely use digital technology and facial recognition software. Even our once staid table game departments might have automatic shufflers, “no peek” devices and imbedded chip technology.
Yes, the gaming industry has been, and continues to be, a hotbed of innovation and a model for continually finding new and better ways to run its basic business processes. In fact, we have been so good at innovation and development, I’m afraid we have not given some great, “little known” innovations in gaming their due.
In fact, I’m betting there have been literally thousands of such small time innovations that have made our employees’ jobs easier, our customers’ interactions with our organization more hassle-free or just more fun, and our casinos just a bit more efficient and therefore more profitable.
I write about these from memory, because like many I have no extensive list of these “two bit” innovations and probably missed noticing hundreds more, because of their simplicity or subtlety. But it is important to recognize those that I do recall, because taken collectively, their effect on our industry likely rivals that of any single earth-shattering gaming innovation of our time.
So here they are — some little known innovations that make a difference:
• The rounded Shower Curtain (Little Creek Hotel Casino, et al) – the concept was a simple one, if your hotel shower curtain is bowed out away from the tub (instead of parallel with the tub), your hotel guests, especially overweight ones, have more room and a better shower experience.
• The GM’s Business Card — When Coeur d’Alene Casino opened its new hotel, its CEO Dave Matheson just intuitively knew he wanted to have his business cards double as a free room offer for select guests—so he made the offer on the back of his cards. To this day, it is one of the few examples in our industry of “business cards that sell.”
• Executive Fun Force — In the early 1990’s, Harrah’s Las Vegas had a program where their senior managers spent 4 hours every month formally and positively impacting the experiences of their guests. They did things like serve champagne to guests waiting to check out at peak times, hand out chocolates in the slot areas, and hang out with the table game funmeisters in the Party Pit. How strange is that???
• Valet Parking Surprise — when Win-River Casino opened its brand new casino, it wanted to make a statement to its guests. At the new valet parking service, it washed every car’s windshield and left a note (with a piece of candy) so that guests retrieving their car would know that Win-River said thanks and “wanted them to see their way safely home.”
• Cash Back at The Slots — Circus-Circus Reno wanted to understand the effect of slot cash back at its business and to see if it really mattered to slot players. Well before the advent of downloadable credits and kiosks, Circus-Circus deputized some frontline employees to redeem points for cash right at the machine, saving guests paperwork, hassle and time on device.
• Art on Room Key — On its hotel room keys, the Mill depicted a work of art from a local (and talented) Native American artist. On the back of the room key, was mentioned that PRINTS WERE FOR SALE IN THE MILL’S GIFT SHOP. How innovative!
• CONTINUOUS INNOVATIONS — When it comes to a never ending CULTURE of innovation, no one beats Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino. Imagine security officers posted on the driveway entrance at Barona and whose sole function is to wave to arriving and departing guests. Imagine dealers being certified as “Gamesmasters” being taught cheating techniques (so they could catch cheaters) and legitimate “soft hustling” techniques so they could make more tips. Imagine a “Sneak Preview Area” where slot players could try the absolute newest slot games. Or a car-detailing service for VIP’s. Or having 5 times as many ATM’s as a normal casino, so guests don’t have to wait in line. In fact, Barona teaches us all so well that a customer focused cycle of small, continuous innovations can bring smiles to our guests’ faces and make it much easier to do business with us.
And that is the power of innovation, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
Date Posted: 01-Aug-2008
Dennis Conrad is the President and Chief Strategist of Raving Consulting Company, a full service marketing company specializing in assisting gaming organizations. He can be reached at 775-329-7864 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Raving’s web site at www.ravingconsulting.com.