7 Keys to Improving Casino Guest Service, Part 1

I can’t walk into a casino without encountering a stream of management questions related to guest service.

How do we improve our guest service?  How do we make our guest service training work?  How can we build a long-term customer service solution?  We can’t outspend the competition, so how do we outservice them?

Casino executives who ask these questions are on to something.  They know that no matter what else is going on in the world, their guests always want one thing:  a great casino experience.  Guests want an experience that is so wonderful and memorable that it keeps them coming back even if they have less money in their pockets when they leave.

Guess what?  Good customer service and the outstanding guest experience that comes from that also have an effect on your bottom line.  Guests who enjoy themselves will come back and play again.

Having said that, I want to pass along seven keys to improving customer service that I’ve learned from years of helping the gaming industry.  These seven keys will set you on the right path to creating a customer service culture at your property and reaping the rewards.

Key #1:  Change is Difficult

For some reason, people in the gaming industry lose sight of the fact that change is difficult.  When I ask executives about getting players to try new games, they tell me how hard that is to do.  They give examples of how slowly players get around to doing something new. 

Players and employees are the same when it comes to change.  Human beings do not quickly accept change unless they experience a major event or have some other good reason to change.  Therefore, when you’re trying to develop a guest service culture among your employees, you’ll find it won’t happen quickly or easily. 

Some casinos think they can “change” their people by marching them through a three-hour orientation or training session.  Wrong!  Change takes a high level of repetition and it needs to be of interest to those on the receiving end.  You must identify what will motivate your people to perform the desired behaviors you’re looking for.  Yes, a very small percentage of your staff members will change just because you ask them to.  The challenge is getting a critical mass of employees to see that this change, this guest service culture, is in their best interest.  If it’s not important to them, most will not invest the effort needed to change.

Developing a guest service culture is an evolutionary process.

Key # 2:  It Starts With Hiring, But That Is Not Enough

All casinos work hard to hire the very best candidates to fill job openings at their property.  Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning.  Hiring the very best is a great place to start, but it simply isn’t enough.  If hiring the “right” person was all it took, there would not be a multibillion-dollar training industry.  A company invests in training because it needs and wants more out of its people.

All of us face budget crunches on an ongoing basis, but what is your budget’s alternative to training?  If you’re like most properties, you don’t have a choice.  You find and hire the best of the best and they still need improvement.

Just for fun, take a day and look at the amount of time and energy you spend hiring people.  Now look at what it would take to turn your employees into truly great guest service ambassadors.  It’s much better to invest in training than it is to throw money out the window hiring people and then firing them for not providing the level of guest service that will allow you to compete.

Key #3:  All Training Is Not Created Equal

Isn’t it odd that people will spend $30,000 for a specific automobile because they recognize the quality of the brand but when it comes to investing in the growth of their employees through training, they shop it based on price alone?

Don’t get me wrong.  I have no problem with going to a discount store and buying paper towels and napkins.  That, to me, is good business sense.  But I would not buy something as critical to my overall success as the guest experience and purchase it on price alone.

Automobiles are not created equal and the same goes for training.  I’ve attended training sessions that did not use the principles of accelerated learning and within 10 minutes I was looking for the escape hatch.  I couldn’t stand it.  It was boring and slow and those were the good points.

Learning 101 dictates that people learn when they say it and do it.  Unless you’re trying to teach your employees how to sleep, the training needs to have more interest.  People retain new information the least when all they do is listen to a lecture.

You need to invest in training that makes the experience fun, that encourages participation.  The trainers also need to know the industry.  They should understand that most gaming employees only make money when they offer their guests a great experience.  I’ve heard hundreds of stories about casino employees getting tokes from people who were losing money.  Employees know that they will not always be compensated for their efforts.  But they know they will win over time if they put in a consistent effort.  Good training gives them the skills they need to make that effort.

After all, this is the entertainment business and if your employees are not part of the entertainment, your guests will make the choice to spend their dollars elsewhere.

You should also hire a company that specializes in customer service training for the gaming industry.  Some casinos say they have one of their other vendors provide guest service training.  That’s shocking because these are the same people who would never consider opening a window with a brick. 

Companies that don’t specialize in customer service training can help you reach an outcome.  It may not be the exact outcome you desire but they will help you to a point.  The problem is they don’t always leave things in the best condition.  A brick will open a window.  The cleanup may not make it worthwhile, but the window will now be open.

So why would you trust your guest service needs to a company that doesn’t specialize in guest service consulting for the gaming industry?  If you need to improve guest service, don’t grab the closest tool or hire the most available company.  Invest a little time auditioning to make sure you find the best solution for your guest service needs.

Coming up next:  keys four through seven (The Fun Factor, It’s An Investment, You Need to Start With An Accurate Perspective and People Are Not Born With the Guest Service Gene).
To read other articles by Martin Baird, go to www.casinocustomerservice.com/post.htm

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.

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