By: Andrew Cosgrove - Slots Manager - Hard Rock Casino Punta Cana
Slot machines have come a long way since the introduction of the Liberty bell by Charles Fey in 1895 and both slots and the people that play them continue to evolve and at an increasingly fast-pace in an increasingly competitive business. Manufacturers fight for market share, CEO’s demand that revenue targets are met and share-holders expect ever increasing returns on their investment. On the other side of the coin the customers of today demand a much more personalized experience that is both emotionally engaging and high in value. If you fail to meet their expectations they will leave you at the drop of a hat and spread their discontent all over social media striking fear into those who betrayed their trust.
At this point it’s safe to say that it can be a challenge to meet both financial targets and customer expectations. Such constant pressure can make the task seem overwhelming to even the most seasoned veteran and senior management can easily get bogged down with the day to day running of an operation and lose focus of what really matters such as the vision and true identity of the brand. To fully understand how to sustain a successful operation the first thing I like to do is to reflect on the past and what not to do. There are a lot of slots myths out there that have had, and continue to have, a negative impact on the slot machine business of today and some of them will be familiar while others will just make you laugh:
- · Playing with a player’s card/loyalty card will reduce your chance of winning.
- · Pulling the handle gives a better chance of winning than pushing the button.
- · Slots pay out more during slow periods than they do during busy periods.
- · Casinos rig their slots
- · The length of time since the last jackpot matters
- · All Casinos launder money and promote crime
- · Keep the slot machines operational without investing in new ones and the customers will keep coming back
- · Giving the slot customer a free drink and a match play coupon is enough to insure customer retention
- · Increasing the slot machines hold % across the floor will have a positive impact on play
- · Treat your staff like emotional robots and they will continue to engage with the customers and exceed their expectations
- · We don’t need a slots manager we just need a slot tech.
So many superstitious and negative myths surrounding slot machines can place the odds strongly against their success before the word “gambling” has been mentioned. These very same myths can plant the seed of doubt in the minds of share-holders, inspire thoughts of doom in the CEO and have the executive staff focusing on their job security instead of inspiring greatness in their staff. So how do we make a slot operation successful and how do we turn immediate success into a sustainable and profitable business model? Below are some tested and proven strategies that will keep the CEO (and even your most demanding customers) smiling with confidence and focusing on the vision that will sustain future success.
- · Brand Identity - Knowing what your brand stands for and communicating an inspiring vision to your employees and customers is an essential first step to creating brand loyalty. Powerful brands such as Apple, Hard Rock and Nike clearly show what the power of a brand can do because they are great places to work, they attract the best talent in the business and have created both values and life style identities that their customers adopt as their own. You can have the best, most popular slot machines available that are set at a high payback percentage but that is not enough to create loyalty towards your brand
- · Know your market - From the concept and planning stage an operator must understand their market in order to protect the investment and maximize ROI for share-holders. Knowing your customers, your suppliers and your competitors is just as important as identifying your market size, where your customers live, how much they spend and how accessible your property is These key factors will help determine the size and scope of your operation.
- · What makes your brand different – Nobody wants to be the average Joe Bloggs or Jane Doe. We all want to stand out, be different and speak confidently with the knowledge that our opinions matter. The same applies for the Casino business and it’s essential to know what makes your company different and gives your brand a voice that your customers and employees will understand, promote and identify with.
- · Exceed your customer’s expectations - To consistently exceed customer expectations you need operational consistency which is divided into two parts. The first part is the technical side which includes hiring the correct amount of staff for each position, training them accordingly, supporting them and holding them accountable for results. In short these are skills you can teach. The second part of excellent customer service is not so obvious but equally as important as it is the emotional side that makes the experience unique for every customer. It’s about giving your employees permission to have fun and create authentic, memorable experiences that create emotional attachments with your customers and make them feel like part of your family.
- · Strong leadership - True leaders understand that a culture of leadership does not start with a written document. Your culture is the values that you live daily and a true leader must understand and communicate a vision that inspires others who share the same values. Leaders need to engage their executive staff and make sure they work together as a team with their respective departments and hold themselves and each other accountable for results
- · Engage, develop and reward your employees – A strong leader is only as good as his team so engaging, developing and retraining your most talented staff is equally as important as investing in new slots and a vital part of sustaining your operational success. If you can no longer hire the best in class and your top employees are constantly bailing out then you may have a serious problem. Constant engagement will improve employee productivity and their loyalty towards the brand.
- · Slots marketing - Part of knowing your market is your approach to promoting your slots. Are you in a locals market? Is your comp point ratio competitive? What are your free play reinvestments levels? Do your promotions really cater to your real or perceived customer base? These are all essential questions to ask but even more important is your ability to measure the success of a promotion and adjust accordingly without negatively impacting your players.
- · Change management and taking risks– Change is one of the few constants of life and a casino has to be able to manage change and generate valid ideas and strategies in order to remain competitive. Executives need to turn their teams into idea factories and reward those with the successful ones. Another important factor of change is taking risks as without them there would be no progress. Charles Fey would never have invented the Liberty Bell slot machine and the Free Play bonus wouldn’t have revolutionized the thrill of playing a slot machine. Taking calculate risks will inevitably mean sometimes you fail but a risk well taken will sustain your long term success.
- · Back to basics and the Fun factor - It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day demands of running a business and lose track of what’s important and what it is that really gives true value to your customers. Getting back to basics and simply having fun at your job will show your customers that you genuinely want them to have a good time. A smile, a thank you and a greeting are not only for customers, saying hi to your employees will go a long way to earning their loyalty. Being polite and having fun are nothing new but making them part of your culture will help you achieve sustainable success.
Human beings are social by nature and the slots player of today is more and more demanding. With some countries already past Casino saturation levels competition is at an all-time high so a match play coupon, a free drink and placing your loose slots at the entrance are no longer valid tactics that will ensure long term success. Having a strong brand identity, a great product, a team that is having fun and a Virtuoso leader are now the norm within the competitive business landscape so if your operation is missing out I suggest you take action now and achieve the success that your slots operation has been dreaming of.
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