Game on: encourage your patrons to stay a while

State of Play talks to Riccardo Callegari of Tabcorp Gaming Solutions about how to make a gaming floor comfortable for patrons and retain a regular customer base.

Gaming venues, for many, are an enjoyable and well-trodden stomping ground. Not all gaming floors are created equal; however, it can be the behind-the-scenes innovations that turn an occasional customer into a regular patron.

The gaming industry is a competitive one, and to succeed amid a multitude of similar destinations, a venue must seek to stand out from among the sea of gaming lounges. To do so, it’s all about creating an experience for the customer – a memorable, comfortable, luxurious and enjoyable time that forges the venue’s reputation and ensures their loyalty.

Riccardo Callegari is the Senior Product Analyst for Tabcorp Gaming Solutions, and he understands the importance of a venue’s aesthetic and hospitality. His experience working in the gaming industry is lengthy and varied and has given him profound insights into the way the industry best thrives.

“I learned more and more about backend gaming, the way electronic gaming machines (EGMs) play, analysing floor performances, the volatility of products, jackpot contributions and machine placement, and how all these things can contribute to the overall enjoyment of a patron’s visit. That knowledge is all highly relevant to my love of analytics,” he says.

Callegari highlights many ways owners can increase the comfort and hospitality of their venues: through exceptional customer service, promotions and loyalty programs, and by employing paging systems and charging ports.

“There are a lot of options a venue can implement to increase patron comfort and satisfaction,” he says. “They can range from minor to significant, and it all depends on how far a venue would like to go. For instance, a simple thing like welcoming a patron by name and offering them a drink goes a long way in building rapport.

“In terms of design, there must be comfortable seating, appropriate lighting and clear signage.”

Installing paging systems allows for direct communication between venue staff and patrons, and goes a long way in enhancing a customer’s experience. Whether for machine service or attendance, a paging system can help maintain smooth service and, if done correctly, may be a great initiative. “It really shows the next level of customer service, offering a ‘VIP’ style [of service] at your local venue,” says Callegari.

“Offering some complimentary food and non-alcoholic drinks strategically throughout the day can also be a great initiative – it gives the patrons a sense of value for money when choosing to spend their time in your venue,” he advises. A paging system is appealing to patrons as it’s an added feature of customer service. “It’s also beneficial to a venue as it maximises patron utilisation on a gaming machine, as they can call a staff member over for service rather than walking the room to find someone for assistance,” says Callegari.

Various venues around the country are also providing mobile phone charging ports within their EGMs. Similar to the convenience of paging systems in EGMs, phone charging should be considered a necessity for guests. The capability to recharge their phone or tablet batteries encourages patrons to extend their visitation.

“Phone chargers are a great customer friendly idea,” Callegari says. “In fact, some manufacturers are building charging solutions into cabinetry and fixtures for this exact reason.”

Loyalty programs and promotions are also excellent tools to utilise, for not only do they foster loyalty, but also help a venue better understand their customers. For example, they can provide information about how often customers enter a venue, how long they stay, what they like to eat and drink during their visit, as well as their choice of games.

“This allows you to create a more tailored customer experience, which again goes a long way in building rapport and extending visitation.”

Loyalty programs also allow venues to promote the new EGM cabinets or games in accordance with their preference as well as communicate compelling offers to keep them engaged.

These initiatives to encourage customers to enjoy and extend their visits are important and worthwhile strategies; however, they need to be maintained regardless of the time of day or duration of implementation.

Callegari says: “If a patron feels comfortable, welcomed and rewarded inside your venue, then they are more likely to return . It can’t change depending on the time of day or who’s on shift, and the majority of this will come down to having the right staff. Especially in the gaming room, you are selling an experience. I’ve always said that you can train someone to pour a beer, but you can’t train someone to have a great personality.”

As with any venture, there are challenges and learning curves to encounter and overcome.

“By providing complimentary products and services, along with exclusive offers and promotions, you will always get some customers who will only come into your venue for these ‘freebies’ and will not contribute to your venue,” Callegari adds. “Sometimes this means being more strategic and targeted with the channels and/or mechanics to overcome this.”

Riccardo Callegari is the Senior Product Analyst for Tabcorp Gaming Solutions.

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