When I began my career in information technology, we were always instructed to let the business drive the technology, rather than allowing technology to drive the business. That was the philosophy in the 1980s and 1990s, but when the 2000s hit, it changed. As technology progressed, it began driving the business. It evolved into a tool that allowed us to do things we could not have even possibly imagined before that time. Advancements such as loyalty clubs and convenient access to hotel bookings via the internet and mobile phones transformed the face of the hospitality industry. It has been exciting to watch this inversion and having worked through these technological advancements, I can appreciate how far we have come. It’s important to embrace new technologies to drive your business forward.

How has your journey been as an industry leader?

I began working in the hospitality and gaming industries for over 38 years. During that time, the most interesting thing I have experienced is the advancement of technology and how it is used to drive revenues and be more efficient. 

What are some of the technological advancements driving the industry?

We now have the tools to allow more opportunities that attract and retain guests. We can send them a text message while they are on property – instantaneous communication – that helps make their stay more enjoyable and convenient. Guests can text with questions, comments or concerns, which is often a better alternative than dialing the front desk from the in-room phone. Our guests are on the move, gaming and enjoying the amenities we offer, so by offering convenient communication tools, they are more apt to have a memorable and comfortable experience.

What we look at is how to improve the customer life cycle. We access how we can best communicate and serve our potential and current customers throughout their entire experience with Agua Caliente Casinos. We are constantly reviewing this cycle from start to finish, such as how we’re providing the right technology that allows them to book their stay without waiting in lines or waiting on hold, how they can receive information whether it’s the website, social media or an application, how they can communicate with us while on property, how our technology can help them book reservations at a restaurant, the spa, or at another on-site amenity, and finally we’re always assessing the best way to deliver communications when a guest checks out and even post-stay with surveys and information on future promotions. We are constantly reviewing this customer life cycle to ensure we are providing the best customer experience and staying ahead of industry standards.

What are some of the hurdles that most organizations face when it comes to providing that top-notch customer experience or increasing the number of visitors? 

The biggest hurdle most organizations are facing today is matching the right technology to their business. At Agua Caliente Casinos, we often discuss how we can use technology to allow our guests to be more engaged with our three properties. This could come in the form of an application or online platform. Although the availability of canned software is vast, choosing the right solution for our demographics is the biggest challenge. Not all platforms offer the experience we desire for our business goals. As a result, we either customize existing products or develop solutions from scratch when we can’t find the right solution.

How can organizations identify the right kind of solution or service providers when it comes to enhancing the customer experience? 

The first step to identifying the right solution is by finding a company with both the right technology as well as business goals and ethics that align with yours. Having worked as a consultant, I’ve been on both sides. The best thing is to cut through all of the sales tactics that come with discovering new solutions to figure out what that company’s vision for their product is. Ask yourself, do you have a relationship with anyone within the firm that could help make this work, and work efficiently? With the amount of effort it takes to onboard new vendors and get your team adapted to new tools, you want to make sure it’s worth the effort and will benefit your business. Since technology evolves so quickly, the onboarding and training process needs to be as concise as possible. By the time the solution is implemented, you may need to start thinking about modifications and updates that align with new customer demand and evolving technology.

To enhance customer experience, we are investing our resources in developing technology that would enable us to better understand our customers and their habits. Learning their behaviors is what will allow us to attract and retain customers by marketing to them appropriately and effectively. Our ultimate objective is to get our customers on the gaming floor, but at the end of the day, this goal isn’t as important to us as ensuring the guest visits us again. In addition to the gaming floor, there are plenty of other venues we’d like for them to spend their entertainment dollars on, such as our selection of diverse restaurants, our Forbes Four-Star hotel, our Forbes Five-Star spa, and our award-winning entertainment. The diversification of options ensures there is something for everyone to enjoy, even if they aren’t casino players. We want to market to all.

Is there a particular project or initiative that you have been a part of or supervised in the recent past that would have impacted the organization? 

One project we are currently working on is thoroughly assessing customer data to help better understand their habits and match it to find new customers. Using the existing technology at our fingertips, we are able to gain intelligence about non-traditional customers. We use this information for our marketing efforts and to increase trips, spend and length of stay.

What would be the one piece of advice that you would like to impart to your peers or anybody who is actually looking to venture into the arena?

I believe perseverance is the key to success. Many people who begin working in the hospitality or casino industries do not give it enough time to fully match skills with needs. It’s a difficult profession, as it’s saturated with competitors and often requires after hours or holiday work. It takes hard work and perseverance to get the experience needed to advance. Most executives like myself started with an entry level position, and it’s experience like this that provides you with the knowledge and business understanding to lead. Not everyone has this drive or patience, but having a sense of determination will help create the fortitude to be successful in this industry.

How do you see the industry evolve in the coming years in terms of any transformation or disruption that might take place within the industry? 

Before our world was swept with COVID-19, I believed I had the foresight about how our industry would transform. Now, I do not believe we can always accurately predict the direction of hospitality or gaming in the future. However, as leaders in the industry, we must try our best. One take-away from the COVID-19 crisis is understanding that any business, regardless of the industry, needs to be prepared for anything. No one could have imagined we would go through something like this, and no one was prepared for it. Although we cannot predict the future, we can be flexible and build experienced teams for the next crisis we face.