Want Great Casino Guest Service? Then Call in the Reinforcements!

I recently read a book about changing behaviors.  One important point in the book is that wanting to change is not enough to actually make it happen.

Many of us want to make a positive change in our lives – lose weight, stop smoking, have a better relationship with our family – but we don’t do it.  According to this book, the challenge does not revolve around the desire to change.

The problem is the reinforcement.  Let’s say you’ve adhered to a particular behavior for years.  You know it feels great to eat a bowl of ice cream after dinner.  You feel full, complete and satisfied and you like that.  But you also have the desire to lose weight.

To get beyond mere desire and actually break the behavior pattern of eating dessert after dinner, you need  an equal or stronger positive feeling.  With that powerful reinforcement, you just may change desire into action.  Do you get that same feeling from exercise?  Do you feel complete and satisfied?  Energized instead of sated?  How long will it take for exercise to become anchored in your behavior pattern so you think of working out before you think of ice cream after dinner?  Changing a habit is not easy.

So what does this have to do with guest service and employee training?

The answer is simple.  Training is the first step in creating a new habit and that new behavior pattern is providing outstanding guest service.  Once training creates the desire to provide great service, strong and positive reinforcement is the catalyst for changing desire into action.

Casino employees get pumped up about stellar guest service when training shows them what’s expected of them and how to do it.  But time can erode the aspiration to focus on guest service.  As the training slowly becomes a fading memory, employees may start slipping back into their old behaviors.  They don’t have the long-range vision that’s needed to make the goal of great guest service a reality.  But management does and it has the responsibility of providing the reinforcement that keeps employees on track.

During a recent training program, I was asked how to keep the process going and my answer was simple and straightforward:  take responsibility for it and lead.

After ALL employees learn their new guest service skills, it’s time to kick things up a notch.  All managers and supervisors, all of management from the top down, must be trained on how to manage exceptional guest service.  Most managers function under the dictator approach.  Do it or get fired.  That isn’t a great way to motivate or to encourage a positive guest experience.

At some level, we all know we get more with praise than we do with fear, but do we practice it?  Most people don’t know how to manage from a position of positives and rewards.  Many of us have had less-than-great managers and, unfortunately, we use them as role models.  I wish we had more good examples to follow.

Managing for great service is a learned mindset and it requires a commitment to using a carrot rather than a stick.  Find people doing things right!  Look for that person who is smiling at guests and recognize them for that immediately.  Find the employee that has a great attitude and praise them in public so they know it was noticed.  This approach isn’t limited to a particular department.  Find people in any department of the property doing things the right way and recognize them.  Even employees who have no direct guest contact have an impact on service by the way they perform their jobs and support staff members who do.

Reinforcement of great guest service is not limited to front-line managers.  It needs to be done at all levels of management so it becomes part of the culture.

But managers can’t work 24 hours a day and observe all employees nonstop.  Employees know that the manager is only on the floor during certain times.  They also know that when they see a manager, they better smile like they just won the lottery or they won’t be rewarded.

A third-party system for rewarding the new behaviors also is needed.  This is an essential element of that ongoing motivation that people need to perform new, positive behaviors instead of the old ones that probably seem much easier.  For example, it’s easy to stand at a dead table and look like an angry statue.  It takes a reward to change that old, non-productive habit into one that benefits the dealer, the guest and the casino.

People don’t change for the fun of it!  It takes effort and when they’re asked to make that effort, management must create positive situations along the way to make it more fun.  This will also make the effort seem easier.

Use mystery shoppers to get unbiased, useful observations of employees on the job.  What they see is the real thing, not faked performance because a manager is nearby.  These shoppers look for specific behaviors that were covered in the training.  They then rate employees based on management’s criteria.

From this shopping, people have additional opportunities to be rewarded for doing the right thing.  The reward doesn’t need to be huge but it should happen as close as possible to the time the behavior occurred.

Management involvement in guest service and third-party shopping – this is the reinforcement I mentioned earlier.  It tells employees that the new behaviors are recognized and appreciated.  It could also give them that great feeling inside that so many people are looking for.  Ice cream is no longer top of mind.  Guest service is.

If you want your property’s guest service to be second to none, it’s time to send in the reinforcements 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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