S.M.A.R.T Service Standards Help Casinos Improve Gaming Experience

Casinos that want to make it through these challenging economic times need to be smart.  More precisely, they need to have customer service standards that are S.M.A.R.T.

Stellar customer service is the linchpin of casino success now when times are tough and in the future when the economy finds its legs again.  The foundation of good service is the establishment of service standards.  In other words, management must put in writing exactly what kind of service employees are expected to provide and what that service looks like as staff members interact with guests.

But there’s one more thing that’s needed.  As I said, those standards must be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound).  Let’s take a look at each of those components.

Specific.  I’m often amazed at the lack of specificity casinos have when it comes to service.  Employees need to know the specific behaviors they are expected to demonstrate during service delivery.  How can they provide great service if management doesn’t tell them exactly what that means?  Telling employees they should be nice to guests isn’t specific enough.  Employees should know they are expected to smile, say hello, greet repeat customers by name, etc.  Telling employees they should be helpful also doesn’t cut it.  They need to understand that they are expected to be observant to the point that they can anticipate guests’ needs before they ask for something.

Measurable.  Service delivery must be continually managed and that is darned near impossible if it can’t be measured.  Thus, standards and behaviors that can be measured are critical.  This helps employees stay on track and experience the exhilaration of achievement.  Ultimately, it helps the casino stay on the path to success. 

But casinos often go off the rails when it comes to measurable service standards.  I ask you, what is the difference between an “excellent” and a “good” smile?  Is there supposed to be a difference if the smile occurs in the restaurant or at a black jack table where a player has just lost $20,000?  Is the quality of the smile a cosmetic thing based on better dentists?  Could sincerity be part of moving the smile to the level of “excellent”?  Trust me, it is not unusual for a casino to have a service standard of providing “excellent smiles.”

But if the standard is simply stated that employees should smile at guests, that can be easily measured.  And if it can be measured, it can be managed.  And if it can be managed, it can be improved when the standard is not met.  (Don’t forget to praise when the standard is met.)  That’s actionable measurement.

Attainable and Realistic.  When setting service standards, do not create situations in which employees are required to do the impossible.  I’m a positive and optimistic person.  The glass is always almost full in my eyes.  But I do not smile 100 percent of the time.  Nobody does or should be expected to.  There are times when I’m thinking or actively listening and processing information and I don’t smile.  I’m concentrating.  Should employees constantly look like mannequins with painted-on grins to meet the standard of  “always” smiling?  I don’t think so.

The key here is to establish standards that are neither out of reach nor below standard performance.  Employees will not commit to standards they know they can’t achieve.  But realistic standards will encourage them to find ways to make them happen.  When employees review service standards and believe they can implement them, wonderful things happen.  Service sparkles and the customers’ gaming experience improves. 

Time-bound.  Correct implementation of standards must be reinforced and the timing of that reinforcement is crucial.  As managers go about their jobs, they should watch employee-customer interaction.  When they see employees demonstrating the desired service behavior, they should offer praise as quickly as possible.  The positive impact of praise is lost if it comes a day or a week later.  The employee just doesn’t get as strong a feeling of accomplishment.  This is Behavior Modification 101.  People really do respond to a pat on the back or a verbal “attaboy.”  In fact, research shows that employees crave positive attention more than they do money. 

Saying you are customer service focused is not enough in gaming these days, with stiff competition and the soft economy chipping away at revenues.  Casinos must know that their service is excellent.  S.M.A.R.T. service standards eliminate the guesswork and align the casino for success.

To read other articles by Martin Baird, go to www.casinocustomerservice.com./post.htm

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.

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