For the past 34 years, T J Consulting’s Joan Alcorn has built a successful career as a business leading hospitality, casino & leisure marketing and Electronic gaming specialist.
She has successfully developed & initiated major customer loyalty, acquisition and retention programs, tournaments and sponsorships for many internationally recognised casino and leisure companies resulting in major revenue increments. In recent years Joan has also been advisory to numerous Gambling regulators in a variety of jurisdictions on topics such as Responsible Gambling, Compliance, Money Laundering and assisting regulators to stay abreast of industry changes and adapting their legislation so that the ethics of the industry stays intact.
What excites you about being part of a dynamic sector such as gaming?
Joan: The industry is constantly evolving and so is the player dynamics in the industry. What worked yesterday may not work again in a month or year from now and what works in this region will be frowned upon in another region. So it keeps you on your toes, you have to ensure that you keep your ear to the ground and your eye on the ball at all times. There is no place for stagnation or complacency in this industry.
You are well known as both a gambling and hospitality consultant in South Africa, what is one of the aspects of your consultancy that is unique from the others out there?
Joan: Yes, we are one of the few that covers both the areas as well as tourism, 15 years ago when our company T J Gaming Consultants was formed, the founders arrived from the 3 sets of disciplines Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism/Travel. Originally the plan was to keep the identities separate, however within a few months we realised that these 3, service, quality and customer care driven industries are so intertwined on so many levels that it would be easier to cross pollinate internally, to ensure that best practices uplift and enhance all areas of our consultancy, rather than try and separate the entities. During the years this has stood us in good stead, especially when it comes to Integrated Resort properties or when rejuvenating of stagnant businesses.
One of the topics you will be speaking on at the BiG Africa Summit this year is What are Junkets and How Do you Attract More Of Them?, can you give us any hints as to what you will be discussing?
Joan: Junkets as all of us know is basically gambling tourism, attracting big players from outside your area or areas that does not permit gambling. Years ago this was easy because exciting modern resort style casinos were few and far between. Plus the convenience of online gambling and reliable affordable internet was not available. Now the casinos have to compete not only with each other on who has the most to offer but also with exotic locations where a customer can have a great holiday but still gamble thanks to the internet. This means the customer can have the best of both worlds and therefore a bit more out of the box thinking have to be done to convince players that junket travel is good for them. Our company T J Gaming Consultants would gladly assist anyone to assess if your operation could attract junkets and how to plan and formulate this so that it is lucrative for your operation and the junket traveller and ensure return visits.
In your opinion, what core knowledge should all hospitality professionals know in order to provide the best service possible?
Joan: Understanding of the difference between good and great, mediocrity and excellence and always asking yourself if you truly believe, that you, would be excited to receive the kind of service you are offering. To me that is the core building block – “Will this excite me and have me come back for more?”
Whenever I speak to professionals in the land-based casino sector, they mention that there is a slow and steady decline in casino popularity in some parts of Africa and South Africa. What are the possible causes for this? And how can decision makers in the casino sector counteract this?
Joan: There are a number of factors for this and each location should ideally analize itself with brutal honesty, and it is during such times that companies such as ours T J Gaming Consultants offer valuable insight, because we look at the whole picture and tell you the honest truth, is may not always be what operators want to hear. Once we, T J Gaming Consultants analized situations, we suggest and provide a detailed roadmap of how to fix the problems, I can tell you that when people follow our advice they have had immensely positive results. But you asked me what factors; some of the more obvious issues that has an effect on operations are (and in no particular order)
Safety and Security – is your operation in such an area that makes late night travel unsafe for your customers
Understanding your client – Previously in the South African casinos clients knew staff and management and the casinos were run as if it was a place where you come to visit friends, now you can spend days on a casino floor gambling without one staff member in sight or if they are insight they have no idea who or what you are. Personal interaction does not exist on a casino floor anymore. Clients have become player tracking statistics, player tracking data only supply data that relates to your product and not what your customer would like more off or what would make them spend more time or money in your establishment.
Economy and value – The middle class – everyday Joe – has a leisure and entertainment budget that stretches only to a certain point and when he spends that budget he wants value for money and ample relaxation leisure time. In simple terms if I spent R 500 at a restaurant 2 people can have a good and leisurely meal and a drink or 2 depending on your tipple, and a total duration of 2 hours. R 500 rand between 2 people in a casino where drinks are double the price of drinks in a normal bar won’t last you an hour, patron feels he had zero value for his money. The same R500 in a small pub slots hall will provide a number of drinks and a fair time on some slots play in an environment normally close to the clients home where the client knows every other patron and this results in 3 hour leisure and relaxation. The patron feels they had fair value for their money
Service and acknowledgement – Give great service to everyone even the smallest spending patron, you do not know how big his network or influence is and how much business he can generate for you by being an ambassador of your service excellence, nor do you know when his circumstances may change and he can be your best patron, so if he was treated well when he was no one he would remain loyal when he is someone.
What do you look forward to by being a part of the 6 th Annual BiG Africa Supershow?
Joan: I love attending the Annual Big Africa Supershow you guys always have such exciting topics and there is so much to learn from the expert speakers, and the networking opportunities are fantastic.