As casinos throughout the country slash spending in the wake of the COVID shutdown, many renovations, upgrades, and other capital expense projects are on hold.
But not all.
Several resort properties are investing in new communication systems that increase efficiency for their mobile workforce and staffers working from home, said Chris Siragusa, senior vice president for Allied Communications, a business communications company based in West Haven, Conn. In addition, the systems can help improve customer outreach and get people back in the door, he said.
Allied, among the largest providers of unified communications and call-center systems in the gaming and hospitality industry, boasts installations at more than a third of Las Vegas Strip properties and nearly half the casinos in Atlantic City.
The cost of a new communications system for a mid-size to large-scale casino-hotel can top $1 million, while upgrades can “easily” be more than $500,000, Siragusa said.
While some companies find that outlay too much in today’s climate, one option is to pay a monthly fee instead.
“Our ability to front all of the capital expense ourselves to build a dedicated system for an individual customer and to deploy that system at the customer’s property, charging them only a monthly payment and negating all of this upfront CapEX, has been more than well received by the market.” Siragusa said.
The fee is based on the number of devices and licenses covered, allowing easy comparisons between the monthly costs and a large lump-sum purchase.
Allied’s guest-room phones include USB ports and cables for charging. They also come with a phone-replacement guarantee that covers all circumstances, including guest negligence.
“Our customers never have to worry about buying another guestroom phone,” Siragusa said. “They never have to worry about even managing their PBX anymore. There’ve been opportunities where customers have actually reduced employee headcount, because when we put our solution in, we’re fully managing it for that customer.”
The room phones open a world of possibilities to enhance guests’ stays, beyond the convenience of guests using their cell phones to unlock their rooms.
“We go the next step,” Siragusa said. “We can now control the lights, control the TV, room-service ordering, request towels — basically everything you would call the front desk for.” Unlike hotels that put a tablet in the room to handle such tasks, the Allied setup eliminates a touch point and puts guests in control. They can scan a unique QR code on their room phone and access all those capabilities through their cell phone.
“Right now, they’re not looking forward to touching a bunch of hotel-provided devices,” he said. “This helps keep them navigating the property amenities through their own mobile device.” The casino could also send promotions to the phone.
“There are a lot of different directions you can take with this,” he said.
Another option is an automated player-development system that makes calls to players, tracks results, and brings up customers’ history when they call back, “giving the guest a more personalized experience.”
A casino-hotel PBX system typically lasts 16 to 20 years. Most Allied contracts cover five years and include locked-in pricing for adding services during the term.
“It’s not like local and long distance, where the prices are fluctuating every couple of years and you can switch carriers fairly easily,” Siragusa said. “This is a system that’s embedded into the property and can take months to install.”
The company started offering these systems about five years ago, so the first contracts are nearing their expiration dates. He said a 3,000-room Las Vegas Strip property recently renewed its contract for another five years.
Allied also offers two options for servicing the new systems: specialized training for the hotel’s existing phone technicians or providing dedicated on-site Allied techs at properties in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
“A tremendous amount of work gets done on a daily basis — room phone troubles, setting up conference rooms, setting up and helping with conventions, setting up the Zoom rooms,” Siragusa said. “It runs the whole gamut, so these people become an extension of the IT department.”