Fortune Cookie Delivers Lesson About Outstanding Casino Service

“The memory of bad service lasts longer than the shock of high prices” – Fortune Cookie.


I kid you not.  This was the message in a fortune cookie I recently cracked open.  I love it!  This could be one of the wisest fortunes I have ever read.  I wish I had written it.  This is a gem of an idea that all casinos should take to heart.


Lousy service will last longer in a casino guest’s mind than the act of paying a little more for good service.  Think about yourself for a minute.  Do you remember the last time or place that you had less than great service?  I believe you do.  I live in
Boise, Idaho, where poor service doesn’t happen nearly as often as it did when I lived in the eastern U.S.  But it does still happen from time to time and it’s never far from my mind.


I can remember at a very detailed level two unfortunate service experiences I recently had in one week.  I can see the people providing the service, their facial expressions and their lack of caring.  These folks didn’t appreciate me as a customer.  They could have cared less about the business I was giving them.  They were doing time at a job.  It probably was similar to doing time in the “big house,” except they went home at night.


But if you asked me to tell you the last time I paid too much for something or was shocked by the high price, well, I couldn’t even guess.  Now this is not because I’m on the Forbes 400 Richest list or use $100 bills for bathroom wallpaper.  Far from it.  The simple reality is that I remember my service experiences much more than I remember the amount of money I spend.


Now let’s put all this in the context of today’s rotten economy.  One would assume that with the economy on the skids, people now care more about money than service.  After all, they have less money to spend, so they care more about it, right?  In other words, the good old days of job security and using one’s home equity line of credit like an ATM are gone and people are more critical about how much cash they have in their wallet.  I agree that people are more careful with their money these days, but that misses a critical point.   Home prices have plunged and people worry about their jobs, but I don’t think that drives them into the world of nothing but price-only shopping.  I know first-hand that it drives them to seek out valued experiences.


The day I wrote this column, I had a conversation with a young neighbor.  She commented that she and her husband have a small eating-out budget.  They try to make it a date night and hire a baby sitter so they can be adults for a few hours.  True, price is a consideration because apparently they don’t have much to spend.  But even though money is tight, they still want to get out.  I think if push came to shove, they would find the money for a great experience.  If this young couple could get a reasonably good steak and fair service for $20 each, don’t you think they would pay $25 per person for a smaller but better cut of meat and great service so they could have a more memorable total experience?  It’s highly likely they would.


The message I want you to take to your front-line employees is this:  now is the time to give every guest an exceptional experience.  Now is the time to give them even more value so they can’t wait to tell their family and friends about your casino.  It’s critical to make service the number one priority for each and every person at your casino.  In the good times not so long ago, many casinos talked at length about the importance of guest service, but that’s as far as it went.  Today, that talk must be put into action as people take a critical look at each dime they spend.  They are not only being critical about the price of something, they are being critical about the value they receive, about the experience it brings them.


For example,  I received an e-mail from an electronics store advertising a 37-inch high-definition LCD television for $499.  That seems like a super deal to me!  If one of your guests received the same ad, think about the entertainment value he would receive from the TV.  He could watch crystal-clear sports and movies, play games and even do some shopping.  And he could enjoy all that for years to come.  To me, that is a strong entertainment value.


That guest could bring the same $499 to your casino for a couple of visits.  He might win but probably wouldn’t.  He may see a show or have a great dinner, but a couple of hours later that would be old news, in most cases.  So why would a guest spend that money at your casino versus buying a new HD TV?  The only answer is because of the great entertainment value you provide through your service.


The fortune cookie talks about the lingering memory of bad service.  How long do you think the memory of good service lasts?  Research indicates that the memory of negatives lasts five to 12 times longer than the memory of positives, depending on who did the research.  This means you need to have a much higher level of great service if you want to be remembered.  For your casino to have long-term success, you can’t afford to give a guest a bad experience even once in these challenging times.


Finally, if you want to consistently give your guests a great experience, you must establish service standards for the property as a whole and for each department individually.  Do that and all employees will clearly know what is expected of them from a service perspective.  Standards are what you use to hold people accountable as well as to direct improvement for the next guest interaction.


This article originally appeared in Native American Casino


Martin R. Baird

Robinson & Associates, Inc.