Little Bets Can Pay Off In Big Way

A lot of betting goes on in casinos.  I think it’s time casinos empower employees to make some bets of their own.

The employee wagering I’m writing about is not what you’re thinking.  I’m suggesting that casinos let employees take some small chances on customer service innovation and then see what happens.

The Wall Street Journal recently published a book review of “Little Bets.”  Reviewer David A. Shaywitz describes the book authored by Peter Sims as “an enthusiastic, example-rich argument for innovating in a particular way – by deliberately experimenting and taking small exploratory steps in novel directions.  Some little bets will not pay off, of course, in which case little is lost; but others may pay off in big ways.”

“Little Bets” does not focus on the gaming industry.  But its approach could work at casinos that are reluctant to take the plunge into creating a customer service culture at their property.  Managers at these casinos know they should improve guest service to be more competitive but it all seems so complicated.  Giving employees the green light to experiment with service a little could be the catalyst for an even stronger push, maybe even a full-court press to ramp up service.  I say this because I am convinced that if casino staff members tinker with service a little, good things will eventually happen.  Then getting excited and really making a commitment to stellar service will lead to great things.

Don’t agonize over what Shaywitz says about innovation and novel direction.  Don’t let that scare you off.  Anything – and I mean absolutely anything – new you try at your casino to polish your service is, for your property, innovative and novel.  It doesn’t matter if other casinos around the country have tried these things.  What matters is that they are new for you.  In other words, you don’t have to do something unique.

“Little Bets” offers Pixar Studios as an example.  Pixar originally was a start-up that focused on making computers for viewing complex images, Shaywitz writes.  Then Pixar tried a series of small animated film projects (little bets) that were well received.  Animated shorts were nothing new in the entertainment industry, but the studio did them extremely well.  That success led to one of the greatest animated movies ever – “Toy Story.”  Pixar took a small risk and it paid off hugely.  “Toy Story” grossed $350 million worldwide, Shaywitz says.

Here’s another example from the book.  Shaywitz writes that small bets may simply be a way of using trial and error to see what people want.  I have no problem with that because casinos need to do everything they can to understand what their guests expect in the way of good service.  “Starbucks founder Howard Shultz began with a quaint vision of an Italian coffee house (baristas wearing bow ties, only whole milk used in drinks), but it rapidly evolved in response to customer preference.  Today, nonfat milk is used in almost half the lattes and cappuccinos that Starbucks serves.  As for the bow ties, they remained in Milan … The point is that good ideas rarely emerge fully formed.”

So what small bets could casino employees place?

What if one employee decided to arrive for work a little early to get prepared for his shift?  What if he studied the restaurant’s menu, familiarized himself with that day’s specials, boned up on new shows and promotions?  He just might do a bang-up job of knowledgably answering guests’ questions that day.  That’s good service.  If it works, spread the word.

What if employees took a business-centric approach to their work.  Instead of viewing guests as people who must be waited on hand and foot, they could see guests as potential referrals for the casino.  Provide good service and guests might tell their friends about the casino where they had so much fun.  Those are referrals.  That’s nice for the casino, but what’s in it for employees?  More guests mean more tips.

It may sound ridiculous, but the simple act of smiling is outstanding service.  Employees who smile at guests usually get smiles in return.  Before you know it, everyone is smiling and guests are having a great time.  What the heck, give it a try! 

Casino customers love it when an employee pays close attention to what they’re saying.  If a guest has a problem and realizes that the employees is truly paying attention as he explains the situation, that alone can make the guest feel better.  When the employee focuses on the issue at hand and comes up with a solution, stellar service has been provided.  Yes, the simple act of listening can lead to good things.

What have you got to lose by trying, in a small way, something new with your service?  Allow me to answer that question – nothing!

To read other articles by Martin Baird, go to

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.

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