Everyone who’s been around a casino has heard the pledge from an angry gambler after a losing session: “I’m never coming back here!”
Keeping that intent from becoming fact requires a delicate balance of personal touch and hard data, members of a panel on player development said during a Global Gaming Expo education session at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Sands Expo is part of the massive Venetian and Palazzo complex. All casino facilities are based on the need to keep gamblers coming back.
“Let’s face facts, these places were not built on winners,” said Janet Hawk, a partner in Raving Consulting who specializes in player development and marketing. “So, it’s all about the experience and how we use our technology and our data to guide us in the right direction.
“Nothing beats face-to-face relationship building.”
Hawk spoke at a panel discussion on “Player Development Strategies to Increase Repeat Business from Customers Who Win or Lose.” Also on the panel were Casey Cohen, interim chief marketing officer for Hippodrome Casino in London, and Asaf Cohen (no relation to Casey), vice president of revenue for Optimove, which uses analytics and artificial intelligence to help casino companies and other businesses understand their customers and personalize offers to them. Deana Scott, CEO of Raving, moderated.
Asaf Cohen, whose company contracts with several online gaming operators, gave a mathematical definition of winners and losers. He uses a payout ratio, which reflects how much a player wins divided by the amount bet or spent. When the ratio is less than 33 percent, the player had a bad experience; over 75 percent, a good experience; and in between, a fair experience. The ratio is only one way to measure happiness in a casino, but “it’s a fundamental basis for defining losers and winners,” he said.
Hawk told a story of how she almost inadvertently turned a gambler’s bad experience into a good one. One valuable customer ended nearly every visit with an angry vow never to return, even though he kept showing up and frequently lost. After his umpteenth threat, she told him she wished she had a penny for every time she’d heard him say that, because she could retire and never have to listen to him say it again. He caught her humor, and now says goodbye with, “Janet, I’m leaving and I’m never coming back; I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“It was an unexpected way of getting him out of that ‘I feel like a loser’ attitude to where he’s laughing now,” Hawk said
Casey Cohen said a blend of the “quantifiably geeky” approach of compiling data about customers’ preferences with the human touch Hawk used is a “nirvana” for player development.
“Let’s not kid ourselves,” he said. “We are an industry that doesn’t want to just dive into all of this (analytic data). I would like to see us get better at recording preferences and passions, so we can understand what resonates with (individual gamblers).”
Because online casinos have no face-to-face contact with players, unlike brick-and-mortar operations, Asaf Cohen said Internet operators are testing various rewards for qualified groups of players. In one case, players could choose between doubling up one win or receiving cash back on losses. He said players on a winning streak preferred cash back as a safety net, while players who were losing tended to choose doubling up after a win, as a way getting back to even.
He suggested that casinos rethink the standard approach of not rewarding winning players. Optimove data show that of the top 5 percent of winning players one month, 30 percent will be among the casinos’ top revenue generators only three months later.
“Keep them close. Treat them well. They’re your longtime customers,” he advised.
The key to any reward is to know what matters to the recipient.
“If you know your player, you can deliver surprise and delight at exactly the right time, so it leverages the right person. You can’t do it for everybody. You can try to get better at it if you have amazing technology,” Casey Cohen said.
Hawk said knowledge about key players’ preferences should be available beyond their hosts.
“It’s about the experience, not necessarily winning or losing,” she said. “For winners, you want to help them continue to ride that wave. With losers, even if they have that losing moment, you don’t want them to feel like a loser. Having that information in a system with preferences is the key to seamless guest service from beginning to end.”