New Casino Success Measurement: The Guest Experience, Not Money

I was flying to a business meeting the other day and, to pass the time, I read an article in the in-flight magazine about the terms and phrases that particular airline uses to reflect the performance of the business.  They look at things like revenue, revenue per mile and revenue per customer per mile.  Typical bean-counter analysis to see how they’re doing.

As I read this, I thought about the executive management meetings I’ve attended in the gaming industry.  They sound a lot like that article.  They’re driven by the almighty dollar.  How many hands did a table or dealer do in an hour?  What is the hold rate?  And, of course, how is EBITA (earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation)?  And, for some of the publicly traded corporations, how is our stock doing at this moment?

This is all good information to have.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t paint an accurate picture.  For example, if all you know about Mexico is what you see in the travel brochures, you could have a rude awakening when you visit.  If all you look at is the casino’s dollars, you could also have a rude awakening.

Why don’t gaming properties look at more than just the bottom line?  Now don’t get me wrong.  As a business owner, I know the bottom line is critical.  But I also know that if the bottom line is the only way I measure our business’ success, we will not be around very long.

We are always looking for repeat business.  I would guess that on average 80 percent of our clients are repeats.  That means they worked with us once and then moved to a new casino and asked us to work with them again.  Or they were part of a management team that used us and, when they went to a new property and the issues of guest service were raised, they recommended our services.

This affects our profit-and-loss statement but that is not the only way we measure our success.

We also measure the satisfaction of our training participants.  We do it through after-training surveys as well as ongoing feedback.  We know that our long-term success is not about what we charge per person or keeping our costs down.  It’s about satisfied clients that are happy they worked with us.

The same is true at casinos but it’s rarely talked about or addressed.  It’s easy to see the bottom line on a moment-by-moment basis.  But it’s harder to know what your guests think of the experience they have.  It can be done and we’ve worked with a company out of Chicago that gives great information and data.  These are reports that you can digest and really get a feel for what your guests are experiencing.

So if it’s not all about the numbers, what should you measure?

The answer is simple but not easy:  the things that your target market – the guest – cares most about.  If they want fast play with little or no chatter, that’s what needs to be measured and employees should be rewarded for providing it.  By the way, that is not what most players want.  They’re looking for an interaction and an experience.  If all they wanted was fast play, the Internet would have had more impact on the industry.

Here are some of the things casino guests value.  They want to be treated with respect.  They want to be appreciated and feel valued.  Most people who come to a casino walk out with less money than they came in with, so how do you make them feel like they received good value for their entertainment dollar?  The answer is little things like a smile and a thank you.  Showing appreciation is one of the best ways to help your guests feel like they would like to come back.

But there’s more to be measured than guests and what they like.  Don’t forget about your employees and their behavior.

What about measuring smiles?  Can you measure how many times an employee smiles in an hour?  Would that make your guest feel more appreciated and valued?  If you had rewards for employees who exceeded the base line, would more of them think about smiling more often?

Then there’s the age-old problem of getting new managers, as well as some of the old timers, to stop punishing employees and use rewards and reinforcement to facilitate change.  If managers were compensated based on the amount of positive reinforcement they give out, would the casino be in a better place long term?  One of the most common complaints I hear from casino employees is that they are never told when they do a good job.  All of the rules are based on making mistakes and getting points or being written up.

If managers’ and supervisors’ bonuses were affected by the quality and quantity of the positive reinforcement they shared, it could change the way many employees feel about the casino they work for.  I have this goofy idea that guests will have a better experience if the casino’s employees are happier.

So maybe what’s needed is a new system of measurement that’s based on the guest’s gaming experience and employee satisfaction, which directly affects the guest’s experience.  Perhaps you can create a more customer friendly business model by focusing on the guest and not just on their money.

To read other articles by Martin Baird, go to

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.

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