What Business Is Your Casino In?

What kind of business are you in?  Did I hear you say the casino business?  Or did you say the job creation business, the entertainment business, the escapism business, the food-and-beverage business?

In the nearly 20 years I have been working with casinos across the United States, I have heard all of those answers to that simple question.  It’s almost as if a certain term or phrase comes into vogue and that’s what people say.

I’m all for creating jobs and opportunity, but let me ask you another question.  Is that why guests come to your casino?  Do your guests patronize your property because you create jobs?  I doubt it.

Entertainment is probably a better answer.  People do come to your casino to be entertained.  In his song “Piano Man,” Billy Joel wrote, “It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday and the manager gives me a smile, ‘cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been comin’ to see to forget about life for awhile.”  That is often true with casinos.  People come for distraction from the real world.

But there’s another way of looking at my question and it has to do with the difference between service and hospitality.  You may think you are in the service business and it’s true that you should always provide great service.  But from a big picture point of view, you are in the hospitality business. 

CNBC’s “Mad Money” recently had a guest who said that “service is doing what you say you will do.”  That is simple and to the point.  To me, this means the personnel at a restaurant are friendly, timely and appreciate my business.  But this person also went on to say that “hospitality is how good you make your customers feel.”  I think this distinction is huge.  Service means you delivered on what you promised, whether it’s written or implied.  In blackjack, for example, the promise is that the guest will be dealt cards and given a chance to win.  But hospitality goes way beyond the promise of cards to the feeling that the casino and its employees create.  You’ve got the atmosphere of the casino, employees doing the best job they can and players trying to have a good time.  Add it all up and what kind of feeling does that create for your guests?  If it’s a good feeling, you’ve got excellent hospitality.

My company deals mostly with the people side of the hospitality equation.  Sure, when we do a 360-degree evaluation of a casino, we look at the physical plant as well as the staff.  But for the most part, our focus is on people improvement.  We want every casino employee that we work with to understand that they have the ability and responsibility to help guests have a great feeling when they walk into and leave the casino.

Now one more point about service.  Many casino employees think that tossing cards or delivering drinks is service.  Well, it isn’t.  That is doing your job at its lowest possible level.  If I visit a casino and I ask for a drink and someone brings me that drink, I don’t feel all giddy and warm inside.  I don’t feel like running out and telling all my friends and family that they need to go to that casino. 

What will make me giddy is wonderful hospitality, and the commitment to establishing a hospitality standard must start at the top with senior executives.  Everyone at the casino needs to know that their job is to positively affect how each guest feels on each and every visit.  This isn’t easy because all too often management focuses on ways to write employees up or fire them.  Less thought is given to providing guests with an amazing feeling.

I know what some of you are thinking.  I can hear you grumbling.  How can I talk about improving service and how guests feel when you, as general managers and human resources executives, are spending most of your day deciding what cuts need to be made?  I understand.  I truly do.  These are not fun or easy times.

Think about this, though – now is the best possible time to improve your hospitality.  You can do training and help create a hospitality mentality.  Your front-line people will see the need for it because they want to earn more tips so they can survive.  For a change, perhaps everyone would be pulling in the same direction.

Commitment to hospitality is not easy to make, but true leaders will jump at the chance and they will do it now.  I was always told that the best time to do maintenance on tools is when you don’t need them.  In other words, you have the time.  The same is true with creating a hospitality culture at your casino.  I believe you have the time to do that today.   Doing it now also leads to a quicker turn-around for you and your people.  The companies that continue to invest and improve during tough economic times are the ones that come around the quickest when the recession is over.

What business are you in?  If it’s not hospitality and creating an amazing feeling for your guest, would your casino and your people be better served if it was?  Now is a great time to make the changes that are easy to put off.  Now is the time to move to the hospitality business.

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

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.

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