Casino Mystery Shoppers & Gaming Properties Make 5 Costly Mistakes

Casinos use mystery shoppers for a variety of reasons but the mistakes made by these shoppers, and the properties themselves, can be costly to the point of driving customers away.

Casino marketing departments often use mystery shoppers to gain insight into how guests feel about the property’s customer service.  Casino human resources teams use mystery shoppers as part of an incentive program.  Casinos use shoppers for all kinds of reasons, but the mistakes the shoppers and the properties make are often the same.  There are five of these mistakes.

Not Getting Paid.  It’s not difficult to find complaints on the Internet from mystery shoppers who did the work but were not paid.  Any casino should question the validity of the data generated by a shopper who doesn’t get paid for the work performed.  Just how good a job will shoppers do evaluating customer service if they aren’t paid?  Why would a casino even use unpaid shoppers?

Many casino shopping companies only provide shoppers with money for gambling and food.  Those shoppers are only having their expenses covered and the company thinks it is doing them a favor.  What kind of work would a mechanic do if he was paid for parts but not for his labor?

No Casino Experience.  Some gaming properties use shoppers who have little or no casino experience.  Unfortunately, there are mystery shopping companies that place advertisements near a casino, offering to give people money to gamble.  The casino could end up with shoppers who don’t know the difference between a full house and a straight.  Those are not the people a casino should rely upon to provide data for future customer service and property management plans.

No Service Standards.  To provide maximum value to the casino, shoppers must have  specific service standards that they can apply to the reality of the casino floor.  Without instructions on what to observe, they are forced to share their opinions.  For example, when a casino has a so-called standard for ‘big friendly smiles,’ the shopping results are subjective.  That makes service almost impossible to measure and very difficult to improve.  Casinos must have S.M.A.R.T. standards – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound.

Using Data the Wrong Way.  Shopping data is best used in conjunction with a system for observation and improvement.  The mistake some casinos make is that they use the shopping results as an excuse to punish employees.  That creates anxiety, not improvement.  Management should use the data as an indicator and then observe for themselves to see if there’s a troubling pattern that needs correction with training or better supervision.

Pride Gets In the Way.  There are times when casino executives let their pride get in the way of improvement.  When managers insert their egos into the mix, they try to invalidate the data to make themselves feel better.  Mystery shopping results are not right or wrong.  Shops are not conducted to make people or a department look good or bad.  They simply involve observation.

To read other articles by Martin Baird, go to

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.


Lydia Baird


Tom Ellis

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