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Make Customer Loyalty the Customer’s Idea

Customer Loyalty
Posted on Jul 9, 2014 in Casino Marketing Comments

From the 1930s through the 1980s, Sperry & Hutchinson (S&H) distributed Green Stamps to customers at select grocers, drug stores, department stores, and gas stations to reward them for their purchases.    

Shoppers accumulated these stamps, pasted them into free collector’s books provided by S&H, and exchanged or “redeemed” their full stamp books for discounts on store items or catalog products.

If you think this sounds like what we refer to today as a “loyalty program” or “loyalty scheme”, that’s because it’s one of the earliest examples of one.

Green Stamps peaked in the 60s. At one point S&H were issuing more than three times as many stamps as the United States Post Office, but retailers eventually came to the realization they could present customer loyalty discounts themselves with their own branding. Think of how simple life must have been during the Green Stamp heyday the next time you’re at a checkout, fumbling around your keychain, as you try to find that particular store’s loyalty card for your discount or fuel perks. 

With gambling now legalized throughout much of the United States, competition amongst casinos is intense. As a result, more and more casinos are trying to entice people through their doors with similar promotions, loyalty programs, and elite membership statuses. But what is the effectiveness of these methods?

Profitable Casinos Need Loyal Returning Patrons

The idea behind any casino promotion or loyalty program is to get more people through the doors and seated at the slot machines, tables, or inside the poker room. However, it’s important for casinos to not lose sight of the fact that it’s more about the quality of the experience than the number of people entering the complex.

For instance, some casinos located near crowded nightspots or sports venues will often run promotions where a high number of attendees win free slot machine credits. These credits have a 12 to 24-hour expiration window and are designed to lure people to the casino that weren’t necessarily planning to gamble that evening. 

The result can be hit or miss depending on how many “winners” there are. It’s not uncommon to see a mass exodus of people leaving a crowded event, entering the casino to claim their credits, only to wait in long lines to sign up for their free club card and wait at overcrowded slot machines.

Both formal and informal research suggests that gamblers, and people in general, hate lines. Yet when promotions generate big lines, management tends to bypass the patron’s frustrations and point to the popularity and “draw” of the promotion.

Repeatedly creating lines for promotions and redemptions erodes trust. These offers are no longer trusted to deliver a pleasurable and fun experience. Not only can they create a negative first impression for those visiting the casino for the very first time, but they’re also a nuisance to regulars and existing loyalty program or elite club members.

Casinos should aspire to reward their most faithful patrons with enough enticements to keep them in the game and coming back for more. This is especially true in this era where casino revenues are becoming subdivided as a result of increased competition. But there is more to an effective casino loyalty program than simply offering credits each time someone visits and plays.

Brand Advocacy Begins With Customer Experience

Any company that has fostered brand loyalty through the years accomplishes this because they understand the wants and needs of their customer base better than any competitor. The result of this customer-centric approach is loyalists becoming advocates, even evangelists, of your brand.

Two prime examples of this are Harley Davidson and Apple. Advocates of either brand won’t even consider any alternative. Casino operators can learn a lot from the brand trust these companies have established through the quality of their offerings and their commitment to customer experiences. 

To the dismay of many casino managers or marketing directors, a loyalty program alone won’t be enough to drive return visits. Not if other important factors of the customer experience are overlooked. Here are a few things that must be considered:

  • Quality Service/Friendliness of Staff – Service, friendliness, and being shown respect are especially important to loyal high value players. Train staff to remember familiar faces, get to know these players, and prioritize helpful service. From valet parking attendees to beverage servers on the gaming floor, every employee plays a pivotal role in customer experience. Even signage or things like wheelchair accessibility can be factored into a casino’s quality of service.
  • Cleanliness – Loyal or elite club members are spending more time in the establishment and expect well-maintained casino gaming area. Carpeted areas should be regularly vacuumed and shampooed. Flooring should be swept, waxed, buffed and maintain a glossy shine.
  • Variety of Games and Entertainment – No matter how many times a loyal or elite club member visits a casino, they shouldn’t be bored. Casinos offering a variety of slot machines and table games, not to mention entertainment, tend to pull the most repeat visits.
  • Accuracy of Club Points/Ease of Redeeming - Merely having a loyalty or elite club program in place won’t be enough if club points aren’t accurately maintained or redeeming earned points is a complex or complicated ordeal. 

If they’re customer-centric, loyalty and elite club memberships work. Roughly 52% of loyalty club members and 66% of elite club members return to the casino compared to 38% of non-members. 

Extra attention to service, personalization, and promotions without gimmicks and hard to follow “rules” directly influence the satisfaction of casino patrons. Combined, this improves the likelihood of them returning often and recommending the casino to others.

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