Casino Bets on Phone Calls to Clean E-Mail List

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Sky City Casino Hotel, an Indian gaming concern in Grants, NM, faced a serious issue: Its database of unsuccessfully delivered e-mails was growing, almost matching the national average churn rate of 35 percent.

The casino turned to Dewey Hub, a provider of interactive voice messaging applications, to help with its e-mail data hygiene. Dewey Hub created a prerecorded, targeted outbound interactive message.

"The objective was to contact and collect updated e-mail addresses from this important customer segment during the actual phone call, something we've done numerous times for a major national political campaign over the last 15 months," said Jim Feeney, Boston-based director of sales and marketing at Dewey Hub.

Like most casinos, Sky City regularly e-mails its loyalty club members to inform them of events, promotions and offers. Sky City's program is called the Player's Club. A few months ago, the casino noticed that the bounce-back list in its database had reached nearly 4,000 invalid e-mail addresses. This list comprised current customers who had been accepted in the Player's Club, which is a key part of its customer database.

Club members tend to be more loyal and visit more often, lured by direct mail discounts on hotel rates, food and beverage, and concert tickets.

"The original problem came to a head when we found that over 50 percent of the e-mails in our database came back via a hard bounce," said Bill Daily, marketing manager at Sky City. "Part of the problem is that the casino is in a rural part of New Mexico, and household Internet penetration is still relatively behind the national average. So for those customers who are expressing an interest in receiving e-mail, it's very important that we have an accurate address. The other reason e-mail is important is because it is the primary method we use to communicate with our [customer base of] truckers."

Dewey Hub (www.deweyhub.com) called 3,909 households and delivered messages to 79.4 percent of that list. Of the messages delivered, 55.1 percent were to individuals and the rest to answering machines. Of the 1,709 humans reached, 30 percent, or 513, responded to the survey. The survey's prompts were simple: "Press 1 to record your e-mail address," "Press 2 to try again since this is not a good time" or "Press 7 to opt out."

Of the 513 households who responded to the survey, 31.4 percent, or 161, recorded their e-mail address. That accounted for almost 10 percent of those reached live. Dewey Hub said 73.3 percent of them either offered their e-mail address or granted permission to contact them at a later date.

The calls were spread over two days. The entire process, including the transcribed list of actual new e-mail addresses, took less than four days.

In a side benefit, Dewey Hub gave Sky City a list of 440 "phone number no longer in service" status numbers. So not only did Sky City reduce the number of bounced-back e-mail addresses, it also managed to have a cleaner database. Sky City learned that it needed to incorporate such e-mail data cleansing during its regular NCOA cleanings.

"Getting the correct e-mail addresses from Dewey Hub was almost a side benefit," Mr. Daily said. "Once we learned that 440 of the attempted households had phones and e-mails no longer in service, we made the assumption that all their contact information had changed. We were then able to purge these people out of the database. This is an annual savings of $18,000 from undelivered mail."

Sky City is on Interstate 40 between Grants and Albuquerque, NM. Forty percent of the customers in its database are commercial driver's license holders. This means that same proportion of business comes from truckers. The rest comes from the community in and around Grants.

However, the competitive landscape is changing. While Sky City was one of the first casinos in New Mexico, two rivals now operate between Sky City's location and Albuquerque, and a Navajo casino near the New Mexico border in Sanders, AZ, opens this fall.

"Since the organic growth rate of the population around the casino is less than 2 percent annually, we anticipate most new customers will have to come from the trucker segment," Mr. Daily said. "To that extent, having accurate e-mail addresses for truckers is key to growing the business."

Sky City certainly panders to truckers. For example, based on the rated play, a trucker can get $5 to $10 every 24 hours just for stopping at the casino. Twice a year, the casino has a "need not be present to win" drawing for a Kenworth Big Rig truck valued at $120,000.

"We use both mail and e-mail to send commercial driver's license holders extra tickets for this drawing," Daily said. n

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