Change Happens!

As fall looms on the horizon, a few thoughts keep going through my head.  The first is that, good grief, the year can’t be three-fourths over already.  I thought it was just getting started!

When I get beyond how fast the years fly by, I then start thinking about change.  The passing of time brings change and we seem to be in the fast lane these days in that regard.  Indeed, I believe we are in a time of change.  Great change.

This is no amazing discovery on my part.  Everyone knows the economy has been crushed.  The recession’s negative impact on the casino industry has been like a punch to the gut.  Who hasn’t noticed that?  We are all aware of what has happened to local economies and gaming.  I understand that, and it’s no fun at all.  As a matter of fact, it’s very painful.  It’s hard to see friends forced to make tough decisions about reducing staff and cutting hours.

The headline for this column is “Change Happens.”  Usually, the first word in that phrase starts with an “s” and some people would say that these are s-word times we live in.  I say it’s time to get beyond all that because change is always happening. It’s how life works.  Change simply happens.  As usual, we must adapt by understanding that a time of change is also a time of opportunity to do things better.  The great news is that you and your team get to define what “better” is.  That could mean smaller with amazing guest service or huge with entertainment choices for children and seniors and every group in between.  Better could mean finding new talent that can deliver on the vision or brand promise you have for your casino.

Adapting and finding better ways requires being proactive.  As change happens, are you in front of the curve or behind it?  When I was a child, every home had a telephone line and a telephone (known today as land-line service).  Each household paid the phone company monthly for the privilege of having this modern miracle.  Today, many of my friends only have cell phones or use Internet-based telephone service.  Land lines may not die out as quickly as the dinosaurs, but they are headed for the same oblivion.  Don’t ask me the name of my local telephone company.  I have no idea because I don’t use them.  All of this is a big change and a lot of phone companies didn’t see it coming.

Many people in the non-tribal side of the industry did not foresee the power of tribal gaming.  They said it would never be more than a nuisance to them.  Now they know the power tribal gaming has and most are very respectful of it.  Tribes brought change to the industry, and some people were behind the curve. 

Now that change is roiling gaming again, it’s time to be proactive and ponder not only those changes but the ones yet to come.  Changes that are 5, 10, 15 or 20 years over the horizon.  That will help you establish a better way.  What changes do you need to prepare for now?  How can you use the current economic crisis as a catalyst for change and improvement?  How can you make things better for your employees?  How can you make things better for your guests?

First, it’s critical to do real research of your current level of guest service.  I’m not trying to sell you on using my company, but to get a good picture of where your service is today, it’s critical that you use a third party that is non-biased and has real casino experience.  This exercise won’t cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but it could easily help you save that much.  People are always amazed at what we see and hear when we are on their property.  These simple yet powerful observations are so important when it comes to moving forward and making necessary changes. 

I’m also a huge proponent of service standards.  Over the last few years, policies and procedures have become an extremely popular tool.  Usually, they focus on the regulation and management of the casino.  But what about service?  Service standards are designed to help employees know exactly what is expected of them when they interact with guests.  That point of contact is extremely important to the success of your business.

For example, think about how you are greeted at different businesses during your average day.  Are any of these greetings actually appealing?  Is any one of them the right one for you?  I live in Boise, and the greetings at the Starbucks I patronize are very consistent and friendly.  This doesn’t happen by accident.  Starbucks has specific standards for greetings.  They put these standards in writing and work them into employee training.

If you have greeters who shudder at the idea of smiling, making eye contact and welcoming your guests, they need to know that this is not an acceptable attitude.  If they understand the standard for greeting guests and fail it, you can find them a new role at your casino.  Switching to a different job could be better for these people in the long run.  I can’t imagine how hard it is to come to work each day knowing I will be asked to do things that I either can’t or won’t do.  Such a change is certainly better for the casino and its guests.

I wrote this column after returning from a gaming conference in Phoenix.  Change was everywhere at that gathering.  Some of it is good and some concerns me.  But as I talked with casino GMs, I was heartened to hear that they were embracing the changes they need to make so they will be ready for the future.

So please remember this … change happens.  Will you use today’s changes and anticipate the new ones to grow and make things better for your guests?  Change is inevitable but growth is a choice.

This article originally appeared in Native American Casino.

To read other articles by Martin Baird, go to

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.

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