Casinos Need A 360-Degree View

I’m not sure if you watch “What Not To Wear” on TLC, but the premise is very simple.  The program takes average people who think they have good looks and style and shows them why their choices may not be working.  Participants get a whole new perspective of themselves and learn how to get it right.

One of the tools they use on the show is a 360-degree mirror that allows people to see how they look from all angles.  It’s funny to watch their reaction as they get a good gander at themselves.

Here’s my point.  In a casino, you have a number of operational areas that you don’t or can’t see very well.  You use anecdotal information as real data and believe you know what is happening.  For example, people show up for your latest promotion, so your marketing must be working.  Employees tell the GM they had fun at the guest service training session, so it must have been successful.

It takes perspective to truly understand your casino and that information often comes from afar, meaning a third party that has no vested interest in your property.  It’s very difficult for most people to do their own post-mortem.  We see two critical areas of your casino that should be fully evaluated by fresh eyes.  The first is marketing and the second is your guest service improvement.

Steve Karoul, president and CEO of Euro-Asia Casino Consulting, is an expert in casino marketing and player development.  His company has developed a “Casino Marketing Tune Up.”  It’s a great program that brings Steve’s years of experience and perspective to your casino to look at what is working and what could be improved in your marketing.  Yes, I know you have an ad agency that you pay big bucks to every month, but do you really think they can do an unbiased analysis?

Marketing is a critical part of a casino’s long-term success.  If the marketing is off target or off message, it’s a huge waste of money, much as a poorly running car gobbles gas at an alarming rate.  Investing in a 360-degree evaluation of your marketing is money well spent.  It helps you see what you may be missing and provides recommendations on how to make your marketing better.  After all, looking in a mirror doesn’t give someone the information they need to dress better.  It’s helpful to know you have a style problem, but you also need advice on what to do about it.

We suggest you launch your evaluation process with marketing because that’s where business starts.  Marketing makes a promise to your guests and prospective guests.  It could be that they will win, be excited, have fun or even meet beautiful new friends.  The promise isn’t as critical to us as the actual delivery of it.  We think that if a casino is going to improve its guest experience, it should start by matching the promise to the reality of the casino floor.

I often laugh when I visit a casino for the first time.  Before I arrive, I browse their Web site or look at their ads in local magazines so I know what to expect.  Yeah right!  I have walked into some casinos and thought I was in the wrong place.  The marketing people took some creative license, if you know what I mean.

Now let’s shine the not-always-flattering light of perspective on guest service.

Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I think the training managers and trainers at most casinos are great people who give 110 percent each and every time they take employees under their wing.  The work they do often goes unnoticed and under-appreciated.  It’s not easy teaching people new and better ways of doing things, especially with employees who have been in their jobs for years and know they are doing it right because they “get good tips.”  (The operative word here is “get.”  I hear it all the time.  Casino employees must realize they “earn” tips from the service they provide.)

Here is a challenge we often see.  A casino develops a guest service training program and is very proud of it.  The property does more than invest a significant amount of time in the program.  It pours its heart into it.  The training is the best the casino has ever created.  This is a wonderful accomplishment that should not be taken lightly.  But that doesn’t mean the training couldn’t be better if experts with the right perspective reviewed the information and presentation. 

A guest service improvement assessment has three critical areas:  employee orientation, guest service training and the employee reward/incentive program. 

It all starts with what you tell your new hires.  Cornell University research shows that it costs $5,000 to replace the average hospitality worker.  That’s $5,000 PER employee!  This means orientation is critical.  Don’t just bludgeon your new staff members with the 10,000 ways they can get fired.  They need a realist job preview and a solid understanding of management expectations.

Next is the guest service training you provide.  I know most casinos are proud of their training.  But most of the people on “What Not To Wear” think they look dazzling in some atrocious outfits.  It often takes a critical eye to see what needs to be improved and, just like with marketing, provide ways to do it better.

The last part is your employee reward program.  All too often, this is an entitlement program that happens the same way year after year for no other reason than that is how you have always done it.  It should be reviewed.

Borrowing from Steve’s, tune-up theme,  I remember seeing television ads as a child that promoted a particular brand of motor oil.  The ads encouraged people to get an oil change.  The mechanic said you could pay him now or pay him later.  An investment of a few dollars today could save thousands of dollars in major repairs tomorrow.

Getting a 360-degree view of your marketing and guest service today could be much smarter than waiting until you are losing market share.

This article originally appeared in Native American Casino.

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.