There isn’t a business in the world that couldn’t do a better job of keeping customers happy, of understanding what customers do and don’t like about its products and services. There is always room for improvement.
I believe most casinos want to do a better job in this area, too. So why do they cling to old ways to gather customer feedback in an increasingly complex and competitive world? Why do they rely so heavily on that dinosaur of feedback methods, the comment card? After decades of using it, why do casinos think this relic will help them compete and grow?
Casinos are addicted to comment cards. Oh how I wish I could get them into rehab. If they would just kick the habit and embrace emerging real-time feedback technologies, I’m convinced they could generate valuable, actionable data that will help them better understand their customers and improve their business practices.
This column is dedicated to helping casinos understand why comment cards are so old school they harm more than they help.
Let’s start with the customer, the person expected to actually fill out these things. The key to getting feedback from customers is to make it as easy as possible for them. Comment cards are not easy. In fact, there is a perception among casino guests that the cards require an annoying amount of work.
First, the customer must find a pen or pencil. Then they have to hand write their remarks. When was the last time you wrote a letter to a friend? When was the last time you dashed off a written note to a colleague at work? People are accustomed to emailing or texting, not writing things out by hand. Thus, writing comments by hand is a laborious task.
Next, the customer must find a comment card box to drop the card into. Your guests are used to communicating by clicking a send key on a smartphone or computer. Wandering around looking for a box is so inconvenient it may not be worth the effort. If the customer takes the card home, he must mail it at his own expense.
Then there’s the lack of closure customers feel from filling out cards. Does anyone with the casino even look at the cards? If comment cards are read, what’s done with the information? Does the data work its way up the chain of command or does it collect dust somewhere?
Don’t get me wrong. The information on some cards can be useful if it brings legitimate problems to the casino’s attention. Problems can be fixed. But the customer who complained has already had a poor experience and gone home. It’s too late for service recovery with that customer and thus the lack of closure. One can argue that this customer will be pleased to see the problem eliminated the next time he visits the casino, but what if he has soured on that particular property and now plays somewhere else? According to research by Harris Interactive, 86 percent of consumers will stop doing business with a company because of a bad experience, up from 59 percent four years ago.
There’s yet another problem with customers. If guests must provide contact information on the card, the casino will garner fewer responses. If guests are allowed to remain anonymous, the casino has no way to reach out to them.
For all the above reasons, comment cards must be viewed as a barrier to feedback, the one thing casinos simply must have to move forward and avoid stagnating as a commercial enterprise.
Now let’s take a look at the downside from the casino’s side of the equation.
Some guests do fill out comment cards. Who are these folks? I’ve read that only 30 percent of people fill them out and they generally are lovers or haters. They think your casino is either the most wonderful place on the planet or the worst. I would not want to run my business getting direction only from those two groups. If the statistics are correct, you are ignoring at least 70 percent of your guests. And I would argue that this silent majority is likely to provide the most straightforward, useful information.
If your casino uses comment cards, you must have money to burn. Comment cards are expensive to print and if you mail them to guests, you’re paying for postage. Don’t want to offend customers by expecting them to buy stamps to mail them back? Then you foot the bill for that postage, too. If you take the cards seriously and actually tabulate the data, someone has to be paid to do that. With the economy still in the doldrums, casinos are watching their expenses with an eagle eye. They shouldn’t spend precious resources on something that doesn’t pay off.
Look at this from a practical point of view. Does anyone at your casino have time to diligently read hundreds of comment cards, quantify them, spot trends, work up reports and present the data? Staffing is lean at casinos, so I think I know the answer to my question.
But I’ll play devil’s advocate. Guests fill out cards and drop them off. The cards are read and the data is crunched. The information makes its way to the right executives. I say – so what? It can take weeks for this process to play itself out. By then, the people who filled out the cards have forgotten about it and perhaps forgotten about you. If they filled out a card because of a problem, the opportunity for service recovery is long gone, along with your customer.
I cannot overemphasize how important it is to get customer feedback quickly. Even if the feedback is positive, the casino should want to thank the customer right away and perhaps offer a perk as a way of saying thanks for being such a valued guest. If the guest is impressed with your property, impress him in return right then and there. If there is a problem, I guarantee the guest will be bowled over if the issue is resolved immediately. That kind of service recovery generates good will with a long shelf life.
Timely customer feedback and quick service recovery are critical to the success of every casino on earth. This is a common need within the industry because people’s lives move too quickly for gaming to operate any other way.
I will go so far as to say that casinos need customer feedback in real time while guests are still on the property. And they can have instant feedback because the technology exists today to provide it.
It’s time to put comment cards where they belong – in a museum.
To read other articles by Martin Baird, go to www.casinocustomerservice.com/post.htm
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