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 casino comment card? After decades of using it, why do casinos think this relic will help them compete and grow? Comment cards are dead!
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 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. What they need is our Simply Share+ customer feedback platform. Simply Share+ gives guests the opportunity to instantly share feedback about their gaming experience while they are still on the property and gives casinos more control over negative reviews customers tend to post at social media sites. CNBC recently reported that real-time customer feedback can reduce negative online restaurant reviews by 40 percent and we are convinced that it can work for casinos, too.
But let’s get back to that relic, the comment card. This rest of 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 six 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 not fully recovered, 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.
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As casino consultants, we are always looking for new ways to better serve our customers. That’s why we have released a new 30-second video that shows how casino marketing executives can take control of online reviews at sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor so they can avoid the destructive consequences of getting “scroogled.”
Casino marketing departments are being stressed like never before. They are being forced to do more with less because of the crushing pressure of competition. More than 20 years ago when we started consulting with casinos, “build it and they will come” still worked. Now, ever-increasing competition means higher media costs, skyrocketing marketing clutter and a battle for every guest.
This pressure requires that casino marketing departments make the most of every opportunity. Casinos are getting “scroogled” and some don’t even know it yet. We just released a short video to explain how casinos are being adversely affected by Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor.
Yelp and Yahoo have partnered to make so-called reviews part of Yahoo search results and there are two critical and related points that every casino executive needs to know.
First, 46 percent of people admit to using review sites to vent frustrations. This means they really are not reviews. They are high-profile complaints. Second, until a casino takes control of these reviews, it will be left chasing ghosts and trolls. Successful executives will quickly take back control of the review process.
The video highlights five ways our Simply Share+ service returns control to the casino. Simply Share+ uses proprietary technology to collect real-time casino customer feedback. We route the negative feedback to the casino so it can provide immediate service recovery. We accelerate customer advocacy by welcoming guests with positive experiences to share them on social review sites.
Hoping that guests will share both the good and bad doesn’t work. People, by nature, prefer to talk about negative experiences. The tragedy is that the negative reviews people post about a casino are affecting the casino’s bottom line. Negative reviews cost the casino new guests and drive the property’s website down in Google and Yahoo search results.
Research found that people trust reviews more than ads. For a casino with a tight marketing budget, each destructive review means it will need to spend more of the budget to overcome the angry posts.
The new video covers what is happening with reviews and search and how that affects casinos.
Google doesn’t run ads or send emails laying out how it uses reviews as part of its new search algorithms. Google made serious changes in late 2013 that could have a lasting impact on how casinos need to market going forward.
Think for a moment. If a potential casino guest sees your billboard and uses voice recognition to say ‘casino near here’ into his smartphone, Google will show the reviews for your casino. If your competitor has more positive reviews, they may come up first even if these competitors are located further away. I was in Sun Valley, Idaho, this summer and was standing between two restaurants. I asked my phone for a “restaurant.” It pointed me to three restaurants and they were a couple of blocks away because they had more positive reviews.
Some casino executives are also unaware that it’s not enough to just have a couple of positive reviews. Research also found that people need to see eight to 12 reviews to trust them. Casinos need to have a significant quantity of positive reviews. They also need to be recent. It never looks good to see a five-star review that is nine to 12 months old.
Our video makes it easy and fast for casino executives to learn how to take control of casino reviews and avoid getting “scroogled.”
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USA Today reported over the weekend that Yahoo and Yelp will work together to improve search results by incorporating Yelp’s consumer business reviews into Yahoo search results. As casino consultants for more than 20 years, we at Robinson & Associates, Inc., believe this will significantly impact casino customer service training.
Now that Yahoo is working with Yelp when it comes to search results, it will make casino customer service training more important than ever. Potential casino guests will see Yelp’s so-called reviews when they do a Yahoo search. So if the casino is not providing amazing casino customer service, it will clearly and painfully show in these reviews.
Following are key tips about Internet search, online reviews, Yahoo and Google.
Google Initiated the Reviews Trend in Search Results
Google already uses reviews as part of its new search algorithms. All a person has to do is enter the word “casino” and a city name in Google and they will see the list of local casinos as well as reviews about them and their star ratings. Google has been doing this for a while now. With Yahoo joining in, casino online reviews will become more influential than ever. For casinos, that means these reviews are becoming increasingly important.
A Large Percentage of Reviews Are Negative
Research shows that 46 percent of people use reviews sites like Yelp to share negative feedback. This means that major search engines like Google and Yahoo will be sharing those negative reviews with more people and more often. For years, I’ve said that Yelp is not a review site, but instead a place for people to rant and complain. If they have a problem with a casino that they want solved, the best place to go is back to the casino in real time. Posting on Yelp to get attention or sympathy doesn’t solve anything.
Quality Service is the Key to Counteracting Bad Reviews
Casinos need to provide better service now that review sites are connected at the hip with search engines. It’s natural that these casinos will need to provide better casino customer service training and development if they want to generate a better guest experience and more positive reviews. It’s human nature that people like sharing the bad more than the good, so great service will be required.
Real-Time Customer Feedback Is the Key to Quality Service
Casinos have real-time customer feedback platforms at their disposal now. Right now, the technology exists for casinos to make it easier for guests to share their thoughts with them rather than with online review sites. But not enough properties are using it yet. Some casinos are still using comment cards. More and more guests now have smartphones and are comfortable using them to share on Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google+. This is a strategic change in the customer-feedback loop that casinos must embrace going forward. Casinos must give customers the option of real-time feedback.
Casinos Must Embrace These Changes Quickly
Casinos that are slow to embrace the new relationship between search and reviews will be left behind in more ways than one. When a guest uses Google or Yahoo to find a casino and sees low scores from reviews, that will affect the guest’s buying decision. Search engines also will use those negative results to drive down a casino’s search rankings, again negatively affecting the casino.
One last point: If casinos aren’t careful, they will get Scroogled!
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