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Konami has launched Konetic Mobile, a suite of exciting new solutions for both employees and patrons that enhance the player experience and drive new business to your casino… COO Steve Sutherland and R&D VP Tom Soukup talked to Casino International
There’s a lot of buzz in our industry about player retention and using mobile devices to increase player traffic and spend, while also improving the player experience when they visit the bricks-and-mortar casino. Konami’s applications – for both player and employee – tie in with their casino management system to bring benefits to everyone on the floor.
The Konami Casino Management System Player Interface is a mobile gateway, which allows casinos with KCMS to deploy their own branded Android, iPhone, Blackberry, and Mobile web apps. It also gives the casinos an opportunity to engage with their guests more strategically and more often, while offering players current offers and up-to-date information on their loyalty club status – anywhere, anytime. This kind of communication, directly into the player’s hand regardless of where they are, is incredibly valuable, and can be used with back-end player analysis to conduct marketing faster and more economically. Konami invested time and resources to develop the powerful interfaces with its KCMS database. It also built a mobile app which casinos can deploy for their employees in order to provide functionality that had previously required an immobile workstation right to the employees’ mobile devices. On the player side, in order to provide the most customization and fastest speed to market for KCMS customers, Konami partnered with mobile and social technology company Joingo to build and customize each casino’s player app. Steve and Tom explain…
CI: What value does Joingo bring to your KCMS suite?
Tom Soukup: What we have done is partner with Joingo because they specialize in providing patron applications on all smartphone platforms like Android, iPhone and Blackberry. With the proliferation of smartphones, you’re getting more and more information on your phone. Joingo has developed applications for those individual platforms, while we focused on providing the information necessary to make these platforms deliver the ultimate value. We created a portal or interface so information from KCMS could be queried in real-time by the patron. For example, let’s say they’re running a floor wide progressive from Konami. We have a product called LotABucks, that’s a floor wide bonusing app, and with our Konetic Mobile solutions, players can check the progressive levels from anywhere in the world. They can also see their player account and see how many comps they have, what their points are and make their decisions to come into the brick-and-mortar casino. It’s a way of extending the reach of the casino loyalty program, so the customer does not have to come into the casino to see their points, they can see their offers and decide if they want to come in.
Steve: In effect it’s a great way for the casino to engage their patrons remotely. It can either be self-directed, where the patron can go and look at certain things, but also the casino can directly communicate to the patron through that portal and put offers out there to try and re-engage them if they are dormant.
CI: There’s the opportunity for actual dialogue with the player with this kind of development… and the information the casino can gather about usage could also be very valuable.
TS: Exactly. It’s having that one-on-one touch point with that patron no matter where they are. At the same time, we did do an in-house development of a complete Konetic MobileTM Employee App on mobile devices, which was developed to enhance employee efficiencies and personalized customer service. The application is equivalent to having a KCMS workstation everywhere on the casino floor. For example, an employee can walk up to a patron and say, “Do you want me to cash that ticket for you?” And the employee can do it right then and there. Allowing the employees to use mobile offers another touch point, enabling them to interact with the customers – the customer is after all the most important part of the equation.
CI: What applications are there within your back office that your staff member can use to engage with a customer?
TS: It’s like having a mobile Konami Casino Management System [KCMS] workstation. The employee can do things like signing up a new patron, someone not carded, the employee is able to look at the coin-in on a device and sign that patron right up; cash tickets; give comps; handle disputes on the floor, and much more.
SS: On the other side it’s also a way to recognize and engage with higher-end players by sending notice to hosts that certain players are on the floor. These valued players can be greeted and hosts can see if they have any requirements. The employee application makes this very immediate and personable.
CI: You mentioned it makes it possible to identify and engage with a player on the floor that is of a high value to the casino but that may not yet be signed up to a player loyalty scheme. That makes such a system incredibly valuable to a casino…
TS: We do believe the employee application provides incredible value to a casino. Think about doing something like this five years ago – you’d have to make a custom application for a specific device, now with different mobile platforms it’s much, much easier. It’s like having a Windows Operating Systems you can write for and it works on many different devices. You don’t have to have one specific device, it’s much easier to provide this kind of facility with the technology that’s available today.
We have worked with a customer on a beta site for our employee app and we had a huge amount of feedback from the test site. So we do believe we have the strongest possible product that does indeed provide an incredible value to casinos.
CI: Can you quantify the value of these products? Is that possible?
SS: We may be too early to share quantifiable numbers, but I think from an employee standpoint, using our test casino, from their perspective they have always been about efficiency and improving the customer experience. For example, before KCMS was installed at their site, their players club was significantly backed up and blocked the main entrance to the casino for patrons to manually redeem their Free Play. With KCMS we took a very manual process where patrons had to go to the player’s club to cash in coupons of five dollars or ten dollars of free play, and pushed it to the machine which improved the earnings of the casino. Similarly, I think we’ll have some quantifiable components related to the employee mobile app further down the road but there are definitely tangible efficiencies, customer service quality aspects that will improve and the ability to immediately engage with a patron.
On the Player Interface side, if it is properly implemented there may be an opportunity to drive increased visits to the casinos.
We ran a test case on the Internet side with another company, where we were driving incremental visits by engaging with the patron over the Internet. Smartphones offer a similar thing, so we believe there is significant value in this.
CI: Perhaps in 18 months a casino will be able to analyse player visits and see that value, that a player only visited three times in the previous year but now has your app and has been eight times already that year…
TS: Right, it’s waiting that time and doing that analysis; did you drive more trips, did you drive more time on device, share of wallet; some of the employee apps are gauged at driving more share of wallet, so the patron isn’t leaving the game, so casino staff can deliver service to the patron in real-time right there at the slot machine. The Player Interface gives players the flexibility to see they have a five dollar free play coupon that expires tomorrow, so that may inspire an incremental visit or a longer stay if they are on property already.
CI: Does the Konetic Mobile Player Interface encompass any kind of server-based gaming ideal, where the player can pick up and play the game they left in the bricks-and-mortar casino earlier that night? Or are there other ways it can be used to drive traffic in to the actual casino?
TS: One of the goals of this project is, whether it’s an iPhone, Blackberry or web page, is to reward a player that’s playing free games; they might be playing their favorite slot game but not wagering money, just doing it for fun. Can we use that to help bring them back to the actual casino? Perhaps. That kind of bounce-forward Bonus incentive is a way to drive the outside play for fun to the bricks-and-mortar.
CI: There’s a lot of interesting work going on in CMS software in terms of player retention; you have a lot of in-house expertise, but you partnered with Joingo for this product. Why is that?
TS: From a development standpoint, Joingo is basically a Cloud app so they had created all the tracking, reporting and all that intelligence you would have on a mobile device. We could have absolutely developed everything in-house but we chose to partner with Joingo in order to bring these powerful tools to market much faster.
SS: We spent extensive time developing this gateway or interface to provide people access to the KCMS database in almost any location that’s convenient for the player and/or employee. We also recognized that our customers might have strategic alliances with other mobile development companies. Konami will always need to have a preferred vendor we can propose and that is moving in a similar innovative direction, but as we deal with our major customers, they may have existing relationships themselves that they can continue to develop. We spent a lot of time on the Player Interface, so the operator community gets more independence and flexibility with companies they already have relationships with.
TS: Right. And the same Player Interface can be used for the casino’s branded web site; it will grab the information the same way a cell phone would.
CI: What’s the future of this technology, do you think?
SS: Today our business is very locked in to machines having bill acceptors, ticket printers, hoppers; these devices will lend themselves to more of a cashless environment where you don’t need a ticket printer, a validator etcetera. There are cashless environments around the world, which are very efficient, but it does require great toolsets in dealing with the patron at the floor level. If the patron runs out of money in the machine they’re playing, for example, and there’s no bill acceptor, someone has to be readily available to sort that issue out. Some casinos have solved that with wireless technology, but using a smartphone can be more self-serving and very quick. There’s a huge benefit to driving these devices to the floor, both at the employee and patron level based on what the regulatory environment will allow us to do.