The Casino Business, an Innovators Paradise

Adam Suliman, Vice President of Ancillary Gaming & Innovation, JACK Entertainment
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Adam Suliman, Vice President of Ancillary Gaming & Innovation, JACK Entertainment

Adam Suliman, Vice President of Ancillary Gaming & Innovation, JACK Entertainment

There are few industries that provide more opportunity for guest focused innovation than the gaming-hospitality industry. Each casino is made up of a wide variety of guest service business units such as, hotel, casino gaming, fine dining, fast/casual dining, valet and parking operations, not to mention the myriad of back office functions that are required to make the guest experience as seamless, safe and entertaining as possible. Candidly, it can be a little overwhelming when you are responsible for deciding how limited time and resources will be allocated. Then again, the fact that there are no shortages of opportunities is exactly what makes innovating in the gaming-hospitality industry so much fun.

Start with the guest, they are all that matter in this business.

Starting with the guest’s needs seems like an obvious statement but it is very easy to fall in love with a new technology or product and lose sight of why we spend time and money on innovation. We do it to make our guest’s journey with our product the very best it can be. I received some great advice more than a decade ago that taught me to always give the guest a voice and make sure you listen to them. Nine times out of ten, if you ask your guests where their experience was less than superb, they will tell you. More often than not, they will also give you some pretty good ideas on how to right the ship. If you don’t have sophisticated guest feedback processes, I suggest you invest some time and energy into standing one up but in the meantime, just go talk to your guests. Walk around your business and simply ask them how their visit is going. Ask if there is anything that got in their way of enjoying their experience. Trust me, they will give you all the information you need to focus your innovation team’s efforts.

The problems don’t have to be complicated to be meaningful.

There are few things in business as rewarding as that moment when you’re speaking with a guest about a negative experience and you think to yourself ‘that’s easy, we can fix that’. Our innovation team at JACK Entertainment found one of those moments a couple years ago when we were walking around, talking to guests about their experience at the property. We saw more than a handful of guests leaning against walls or just sitting on the floor with their phones plugged into wall outlets. It was clearly not a great experience for those with dead mobile devices and not a great outcome for the business because those guests are not purchasing and enjoying our products. It was a simple problem that we solved by developing Virtual Players Card by GT Connect and an accompanying mobile app platform which allows guests to charge their mobile device at every single gaming machine while they play. The solution is relatively simple, but designing and building the whole thing from the ground up was not simple at all.

If it is complicated, don’t retreat

Complicated can be good for your business as long as you fight through it and come out on the other side with a truly differentiated experience for the guest. In fact, complicated can be a strategy to make sure you stay ahead of your competitors. Just keep in mind, complicated products or experiences don’t do you any good if it doesn’t make the guest experience better. A good example of successfully layering solutions would be some features we deployed in our mobile app product. In the early days, we called it the Swiss Army Knife of casino mobile apps because it was solving multiple challenges our guests faced while at our properties. We layered relatively simple utilities, including a slot finder that helped guests locate their favourite game with much more complex utilities such as access to real time loyalty account information and a Virtual Player’s Card that can be used anywhere a physical player’s card can be used. The latter was not easy to accomplish but we saw the value in it being difficult to replicate which allowed us to create a sustainable competitive advantage. More importantly, we recognized the value for our guests who would no longer need to spend their time waiting in line for a plastic loyalty card before they started playing or enjoying the amenities at our properties.

End with the guest, they are all that matter in this business.

Once you’ve rolled out your new product or process go back to square one and talk to your guests. Beware, you’re probably going to get some cold, hard truth. At this moment, reflect back on the reasons you put so time and effort into innovating. You’re doing this for the guest. For passionate and motivated innovators this can be a challenging part of the innovation process but it is one of the most critical pieces of advice I can pass along. Listen to the feedback, truly understand your guest’s position, don’t attempt to defend your team’s efforts and most importantly, don’t give up. Just go back to the lab and get it right for the guest.

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