Reward programs are fascinating stuff, John dives into their history in the casino industry and take a look at 3 common mistakes that reward programs need to avoid
I think one of the biggest challenges that casinos face is how to run their rewards program so that everyone feels some level of perks and rewards. In this industry you can choose to innovate in this area, or to look at what competitors do. Being focused on rivals means you’re always one step behind, but means you’re far less likely to make a misstep. In the global casino industry that leader is Caesars Entertainment, which was formerly known as Harrah’s.
Before loyalty cards, each Harrah’s casino was a unique environment, and it was on staff to keep an eye on players to identify and reward the high rollers. Can you imagine the unnecessary workload on these staff to keep a running total in their head to decide if Bob Smith had qualified for some comps? How would you even prove that the person you’re comping had done anything? In addition to this, casinos owned by the one company were not linked or sharing data. If Bob Smith was a valued member in Harrah’s Shreveport but lived in Kansas he would never get a reward or invite for Harrah’s in Kansas City.
There were so many missed opportunities. The old way wasn’t working.
In the mid 90s Harrahs merged into Caesars and launched the Total Gold loyalty program, the first time that a casino joined up their thinking on how to ensure every bit of data across the business was being leveraged to generate visits. They were the first mover on this, and it gave them an advantage that they still have today.
Every casino has a card these days, but one can learn a lot by looking to the Caesars rewards program to see how to get your initial setup right, and then build on it. They are aware that innovation never stops and their program can always be improved. They started off with 3 cards in 1997, added a new level in 2004, and a further two levels in 2020.
Why would a company do this?
The most common flaws in all loyalty programs are as follows:
Your Rewards Don’t Deliver
It’s the #1 reason that anyone signs up to a loyalty program and starts handing over their private data. “What’s in it for me?”
At Coastline we work hard to make sure that there are guaranteed rewards at each level of the Vantage Club Card. You can qualify for something every day of the week, so there is always a reason to visit. Visiting earlier in the week may qualify you for bigger rewards and invites later in the week. Making sure you’re opted in on mobile, email or postal means you should have something popping in your inbox pretty regularly.
For some people on Caesars Total Rewards, the rewards could feel infrequent, confusing or hard to qualify for. By adding extra levels and segmenting their best players a bit further they could reward them more frequently. If Caesars hadn’t done this then someone else will come along and do it better. Same here at Coastline, anything we do we try to be the market leader in innovation and player satisfaction.
People want to know what they qualify for, and if they qualify for it they better get it. Rewards programs that don’t think about the customer experience are doomed in this regard. A member of Total Rewards or Vantage Club wants to be able to understand what their current level entitles them to, and what they need to do to get to the next level.
The most lauded reward programs have this one thing in common: they are simple to understand and easy to use.
At Coastline we are always thinking about the best way to present information, the simplest way to run a reward journey and the experience that a customer will go through. If you keep this at the heart of everything you do, you generate fewer complaints and queries – and you get happy players!
Nothing is Exclusive
This is where airlines and casinos stand apart from other rewards programs. Their members at the higher tiers need to be rewarded but whether they realise it or not they want to be seen to be rewarded.
If everyone is treated as though they are special, then nobody is special. You homogenize the levels of your rewards program and devalue it. Caesars felt that the population growth in their Diamond VIP tier needed to be split up a bit to ensure that all these members felt some varying perk of VIP given how many of them there were.
This is why we make sure that there is added value at the VIP tiers, that some VIP rewards of freeplay and VIP nights are an exclusive experience for those members and to do that, lower tiers of the program must miss out. Obviously this risks creating a negative experience for those members getting excluded, but if you manage expectations and communicate