Can Casinos Go Too Far With Their Customer Service Surveys?

I was recently a guest at a casino hotel in the United States.  My stay was at best okay and, in reality, lacking in many ways.

I think describing direct experiences – good or bad – that I have at casinos is a great way to pass along lessons to learn.  So here is what happened during and after my stay at this particular property.

Strike one!  Things got off to a bad start the moment I walked into the hotel.  I waited for more than 30 minutes to check in at the front desk.  Later, people trying to reach me from my office had to call four times before they got through to my room.  One day, my room was not serviced.  None of these things should have happened, but if you don’t think they seem all that bad, please call me so we can talk.  I won’t dwell on my other experiences at the casino because the worst is yet to come and that’s the real reason for this article.

A couple of days after I returned home, I received the obligatory e-mail asking for my opinion.  I’m a huge proponent of listening to your guests and asking them what it will take to make them an advocate for your casino.  They wanted me to fill out a survey, and I flinched at the thought.  I haven’t seen a casino survey yet that I liked, but I assumed this property wanted to improve and that learning about my experiences could help.  So I clicked on the link and I was at the survey’s welcome page.

The welcome page stated that the casino valued my opinion.  It also said the survey would take 15 minutes.  Suddenly, there was a serious problem and I hadn’t even started.  Setting aside 15 minutes for an online survey is like waiting 30 minutes to check in at the hotel.  That amount of time is way too long for the average person.  I seriously question whether most people would get any further than the welcome page.  This casino is telling very busy people that they are important and then it expects them to set aside a fair chunk of their valuable time.

But I love research, so I decided to take one for the team and moved on to the questions.  The questions started out with a traditionally broad look at my stay.  What services did I use?  How did I rate them?  Why did I give them that rating?  These questions were much too detailed for the average guest.  I couldn’t help but wonder who, other than me, would put up with this.  Frankly, if the casino really needed all this information, it should have asked to do a telephone interview.

This wasn’t the only thing I was thinking about.  I wondered who at the casino would ever see my comments.  Who would take the time to read all this data?  Who would go to the effort of taking action based on the information I provided?  I know the answer to these questions.  No one will ever do anything with this information, other than to say they survey guests.

Anyway, back to the questions I went.  Now I noticed a new problem.  The questions were transitioning away from learning about my experience.  Now they were edging into the realm of marketing.  This casino wanted to know how I arrived at the property, whether my airline flight had a connection and how I booked my room.

I know a lot about marketing and I know why the casino wants this information.  The marketing department wants to justify its efforts and show how smart it is.  I have a cousin who is an electrical wizard.  Once when I asked him a question about soldering, he sarcastically said, “We always say the bigger the job the better the job.”  That must be what the people at this casino were thinking.  If they made the survey really long, it would mean job security and that they were doing a better job.  I think it was just a big job.

Thus strike two.  If you want to know about my experience as a guest, stop once you have that data.  Just because you have asked permission to learn about my experience doesn’t mean you have the right to ask me about other unrelated matters.  

Now I come to a truly well-deserved strike three.  One question in the survey asked about my sexual preference!  This casino wanted to know if I was (1) gay, (2) lesbian, (3) didn’t know or (4) other.  If I’m gay, what does that have to do with becoming frustrated over standing in line for more than half an hour to check in at the hotel?  Perhaps if I don’t know my sexual preference, I will overlook the day my room wasn’t cleaned and tell my friends they should stay at this property.  Again, I understand marketing and segmentation and the idea of knowing how different people make decisions about your property, but really.  I mean REALLY!

I asked in the headline for this article if casinos can go too far in their surveys.  Obviously they can.  But please don’t get me wrong.  My primary challenge is not the question about sexuality.  It’s the idea that a casino would waste a guest’s valuable time with all these questions that don’t even provide worthwhile data for making better decisions.  Worse yet, it’s highly unlikely the data will be put to use anyway.  A survey of this length produces so much information, no one will want to slog through it to see what it all means.

Research published by Harvard shows that it only takes five questions to obtain a very accurate picture of who a customer is and what’s important to them.  Beyond that, you are wasting time, energy and money.

To read other articles by Martin Baird, go to

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.

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