A Global Communication Challenge
by Martin R Baird

I’ve written before about the fact that casino guests are communicating via social networking about the casinos they love and hate. But a recent article in Newsweek has shed a whole new light on this situation and it has to do with a world on fire with electronic communications.

Casinos need to pay attention because their reputation, their relationships with customers and their bottom line are at stake. If you worry about what guests may be tweeting about your casino, well, hold onto your hat. There’s a lot more going on out there than you realize.

Niall Ferguson wrote in Newsweek about how reactionary our world has become because “the human race is interconnected as never before.” He blamed the Internet, pointed to recent economic and political instability and wondered where else people will exhibit “contrarian behavior” as they communicate instantly and frequently with others. I wonder what the impact will be on gaming as all this chatter spreads like wildfire.

Ferguson wrote about the sheer volume of electronic human interaction these days. He started with Moore’s Law, which “says that computing power will double every two years, implying a roughly 30-fold increase in 10 years. This exponential trend has now continued for more than half a century and is expected by the techies to continue until at least 2015 or 2020.”

His article had other stunning statistics. For example, the first e-mail was sent in 1965, the same year Gordon E. Moore proposed his law. In 2006, people sent 50 billion emails, Ferguson wrote, noting that 300 billion emails were transmitted in 2010. Yikes! “The Internet was born in 1982,” Ferguson said. “As recently as 1993, only 1 percent of two-way telecommunications went through it. By 2000, it was 51 percent. Now it’s 97 percent.” Ferguson quoted Russian venture capitalist Yuri Milner when he wrote in his article that “data equivalent to the total volume of information created from the beginning of human civilization until 2003 can now be generated in the space of just two days.” Good grief!

I don’t know about you, but my head is spinning. People are caught up in a communications frenzy and they’re talking about anything and everything. They often have a reaction to what they hear. I guarantee some of this communication has to do with casinos.

Here’s a hypothetical that’s all too real. Joe goes to XYZ Casino and – (a) he has a good time (b) he has a bad time (c) he doesn’t win, but he sure enjoys the outstanding guest service (d) he doesn’t win and things are just made worse by the lousy service (e) he loved the buffet or (d) the buffet was terrible. As soon as Joe gets home, he emails, tweets or posts a Facebook status update to friends about his experience at XYZ. Maybe he does all three. One has to wonder if the experience was good or bad because his friends are likely to forward his email or retweet his tweet to others. Those “others” do the same thing. On and on it goes. This is why electronic communications is exploding.

Oops, I forgot. Joe doesn’t have to wait until he gets home. He has a smartphone. He can tell the world about his experience at the casino AS IT IS HAPPENING. While he sips his poorly prepared cocktail and shakes his head at the dirty floor, Joe checks in at Foursquare so he can write a review that is less than glowing. One of his friends, who just happens to be on the way to meet him at XYZ, sees the Foursquare post and sends Joe a text message suggesting that they meet up at ABC Casino instead. Joe leaves and his friend makes a course correction. Another guest at XYZ also sees Joe’s Foursquare comment and starts to have second thoughts about where she spends her entertainment dollars.

I bring all this to your attention because knowing whether your guests are having a good or bad gaming experience is more critical than ever. The Internet has raised the bar into the stratosphere simply because guests have multiple avenues for letting thousands – even millions – of people know whether they like your casino and why. I can’t imagine what those capabilities will be five years from now. I assume the majority of online comments are negative because it’s a fact that people complain more than they praise.

You simply must have credible feedback from your guests. Forget about customer surveys and comment cards. Throw those things in the trash. Most guests won’t take the time to fill out a survey, especially the ones I’ve seen some casinos hand out or email. Comment cards are just a snapshot in time. Joe could say on Saturday that he had a great time and say on Wednesday that he had a lousy time. So is he a happy guest or not? His comment cards probably didn’t say much about why his gaming experience was good or unsatisfactory.

Casinos need to know what guests want. You need a turnkey system that tells you specifically what guests like and don’t like about your property. If some guests play at your casino again and again, you need to know why so you can do more of what they like and create more repeat players. You also need to know why other guests stop coming. You never know, it could be easy to fix what turns them off.

In the meantime, billions of electronic messages are zipping around the world. People are talking about you. Your challenge is to make your casino’s gaming experience so incredibly wonderful that people can’t resist going online and saying good things about you. Do that and you will reap the rewards. You will also be prepared for communication breakthroughs of the future that will raise the customer feedback bar even higher.

Date Posted: 07-Jan-2012

Martin R. Baird is chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a Boise, Idaho-based consulting firm to the global gaming industry that is dedicated to helping casinos improve their guest service so they can compete and generate future growth and profitability. Robinson & Associates is the world leader in casino guest experience measurement and improvement. For more information, visit the company’s Web sites at www.casinocustomerservice.com and www.advocatedevelopmentsystem.com or contact the company at 208-991-2037. Robinson & Associates is an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association.

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