Total Rewards program expands with inclusion of Planet Hollywood

If you didn’t notice anything unusual at Planet Hollywood recently, don’t feel bad: You weren’t supposed to. But behind the scenes, and occasionally in front of them, a massive operation transformed the property into the eighth Las Vegas casino under Harrah’s Entertainment’s Total Rewards umbrella.

Since its relaunch in 2007, Planet Hollywood has offered players its A-list club, which, like other casino loyalty programs, lets them earn points redeemable for meals, lodging and entertainment with each dollar wagered.

Harrah’s Total Rewards does the same thing on a national scale, letting players bank rewards credits from 35 properties across the United States and Canada. Even before the Planet Hollywood acquisition, Harrah’s has been planning its conversion to the Total Rewards system.

Conversion required more than installing an update patch on a few computers. Technicians had to remove all existing systems, including the core casino management system (which tracks and records play), the lodging management system (which lets the hotel take room reservations) and back-of-the-house systems that track everything from employee hours to ordering and receiving.

Throughout the property, technicians replaced or reformatted 1,500 computers and retrofit 1,200 slot machines.

“It’s extremely labor intensive,” says Harrah’s Entertainment Chief Technology Officer Katrina Lane, who shares responsibility for the conversion with John Baker, senior vice president of enterprise effectiveness. “They have to upgrade every device—slots, work stations, printers. But the end result is a data conversion that will migrate all player history, points and credits from A-List to Total Rewards.”

As a result of combining their Planet Hollywood and Harrah’s histories, 70 players reached Seven Stars status (Harrah’s highest tier) with perks such as priority service at participating restaurants and clubs, and access to private lounges.

Adding Planet Hollywood to the fold gives players a “fresh, hip Vegas property,” according to Bally’s/Paris Vice President of Casino Marketing Sean McBurney.

Work on the changeover started before Harrah’s officially acquired Planet Hollywood on Feb. 19, and was fast-tracked to a degree never seen. When Harrah’s added four Las Vegas properties to Total Rewards in 2006, it required six months of preparation before implementing changes. At Planet Hollywood, it took six weeks.

That preparation included 15,000 hours of multi-track training for the casino’s 2,400 employees, covering technical aspects of operating each of the systems and the company’s Total Rewards customer-service standards.

The latter already has paid dividends, McBurney says. Dealers’ tokes are now higher than they’ve ever been, as customers have responded to the casino’s new commitment to the Harrah’s Way.

The conversion team, led by Harrah’s Director of Information Technology Jason Beard, had more than 150 dedicated members drawn from Harrah’s properties across the country and outside vendors working out of a mezzanine command center that coordinated the 800 to 1,000 tasks, from installing hardware to turning on the new systems required once the conversion went “live” on March 27. They had spent much of the previous 14 weeks meticulously planning for the conversion, mapping out the process and planning for a variety of contingencies, from unexpected power failures to hiccups in the data migration that might complicate the process.

When all the work was done and the switch finally was flipped on April 1, existing Planet Hollywood customers could get new Total Rewards cards at temporary stations set up on the casino floor.

The only outward sign of all that work? The vacuum fluorescent display attached to every slot machine now reads “Welcome to Planet Hollywood. Please insert your Total Rewards card.” The changes, however, were significant. With their new card, players multiplied their Las Vegas options by seven, adding perks at Harrah’s other Strip properties; and Harrah’s gained a new chunk of customers—60 percent of legacy Planet Hollywood players had no history with the casino giant.

“We look forward to letting them know about all our options,” Lane says. “We’re using all of this technology to let our customers have more and better choices.”

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